Manga: Knights Of Sidonia

That white is gonna stain.
The latest, ongoing manga by Tsutomu Nihei, creator of Blame and Biomega.

Set on the gigantic Generation Ship Sidonia, the last remnants of humanity are engaged in a seemingly Hopeless War against the monstrous Gauna. Nagate Tanikaze has lived in isolation in the bowels of the Sidonia his whole life, with only his recently deceased grandfather and Guardian pilot simulator for company. Facing starvation, Nagate journeys to the surface in an attempt to steal from a food processing plant, before being injured and captured by local authorities. Upon discovering his "grandfather's" storied past as a previously important Guardian pilot, the government puts Nagate on the fast track for elite Guardian pilot training.

What follows are Nagate's attempts to fit in with civilized society, his growing relationships with his fellow students, and his growth as a pilot in the face of the horrifying threat of the Gauna.

An anime adaptation premiered on April 10, 2014. It is being produced by Polygon Pictures, the 3DCG studio behind Transformers Prime and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, as its 30th anniversary work. Notably, it was licensed and dubbed by Netflix as one of their "original" shows.

Not to be confused with Knights of Cydonia by Muse.

Be warned that this page contains unmarked spoilers.

This Manga contains the following tropes:

  • Ace Custom:
    • The Type 17 counts as this for Tanikaze and Hiroki. While rougher to handle than the Type 18 for most pilots, it's also what the simulator Tanikaze trained on was calibrated for, which means he can make it dance.
    • Izana gets a later a specialized Type 19 that enables her to act as Sidonia's AWACS IN SPACE!
  • Anyone Can Die: Entire casts of characters are regularly killed by the Gauna, and it's not uncommon to see squads get completely wiped out by a single threat.
    • That doesn't even go into how such things as emergency maneuvers can and will override Sidonian gravity, leading to anyone not secured well enough smashing into whatever's in the way at up to five G (gravties, in other words, five times Earth's gravity) acceleration.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • The Earth was cut in half, and humanity's desperate flight to the stars is almost Class 3. Sidonia may be the last refuge of Humanity, because contact with the other ships has been gone for almost 800 years.
    • Sidonia itself lost more than 90% of its population in the relatively recent past. The vast majority of the ship's current population are descended from artificial genetic templates or are clones of the survivors, including the protagonist.
  • The Ark: Sidonia and the other Seed Ships.
  • Artistic License Biology: Humans who could photosynthesize would definitely still need to eat more than once a week. As Randall Munroe points out in What If?, photosynthesis doesn't produce all that much energy. There's a reason plants don't move around much, let alone have complex nervous systems.
    • Following up on the genetic engineering, "Tiresian" humans, the neutral humans that develop gender after meeting the one the Tiresian finds suitable, would be quite an extreme genetic modification. While certain animals slowly swap gender to maintain a reproductive equity and humans given intensive hormone therapy from infancy can develop the other gender's characteristics, gender neutrality is not exactly easy to attain, much less maintain. The photosynthesis in the setting isn't plant photosynthesis at all—they aren't green. The clues are scattered throughout the episodes, but Sidonian photosynthesis doesn't so much feed the body as enable reprocessing of fluids and foods already ingested, in the manner of bovine multiple stomachs. This is why, in a culture that expects the pilots to stink as a matter of necessity, Takikaze smells distinctly worse after a deployment as he consumes, perspires, urinates, and defecates rather more than "modern" Sidonians. (Hence the cadets poking fun at him while trying to help by supplying him with collected supplies of deodorant, followed by later filling his locker with rice as he eats a lot and the stress of the war was wrecking his digestion.)
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Being the dense rube that he is, Takikaze asks the following of Izana while they are in the male changing room "Hey Izana, what type of catheter do you use?" Izana understandably loses it and utterly pulverizes him. Izana during this time had already changed into a biological female and was hiding this.
  • The Assimilator: The Gauna are capable of assimilating humans and replicating their appearances and memories. Their first attempts at this resulted in grotesque Humanoid Abominations, but with Shizuka Hoshijiro and Shou Honoka the replication process becomes exponentially efficient.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Nihei really likes his talking bears.
    • Also his claustrophobic cities and Used Future locales.
  • Battle Harem: Like it or not, the best female pilots and commanders are always attracted to Nagate.
  • The Battlestar: The Mizuki (type 1) and the Sidonia (type 2).
  • BFG: The magnetic linear accelerator rifles that fire the Gauna-piercing bullets.
    • The Heavy-Mass cannon would be considered one, even if tiny compared to the Sidonia ship, it still fires projectiles the size of a building dwarfing a group of Guardians.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Oddly in a setting where this trope could be in effect (medical technology has reached a point where limbs can be regrown), people do end up being disfigured and having odd bits stuck on, such as Izana and her inhuman-looking bionic limbs (her grandma admits that while they could regrow her limbs it would take a long time so it'd be better to go bionic) or Lala being stuck in a bear's body when she was once a very pretty young woman.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Remaining First Platoon troops do it for Nagate and Izana in chapter 25.
    • Nagate and Tsumugi do it for Izana in volume 9.
  • Black Box: The Kabizashi blades are the only thing that can kill the Gauna, but no one knows how they work or how to make new ones at first.
    • At least until they start pumping out artificial versions of the material the Kabizashis are made form, which leads to the creation of ranged weapons. The Gauna death tolls begin predictably skyrocketing.
    • No one has any idea how the Gauna's copies of Sidona's weapons work. This gets lampshaded with Tsugumi, as no one can figure out how she flies, not even herself. Kanata, a younger chimera, is used to create a Gravitational Beam Emitter, a seemingly impossible weapon.
  • Body Horror: The fate of those who are captured by the Gauna.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Tanikaze initially pilots the Type 17, which was on display as a monument. Due to diligent maintenance, the older model still manages to hold its own.
  • Clones Are People Too:
    • The Honoka sisters. Each of them has their own name (Honoka En, Honoka Hou, etc), and seem to be treated as individuals.
    • This is also an important part of Tanikaze's backstory. He was originally grown in a vat as a replacement body for the aging war hero Hiroki Saito, but Saito wanted to die a natural death and believed that his clone should be allowed to live his own life and so he absconded with the baby clone and raised him in seclusion as his own.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Tanikaze was a little freaked out the first time he met Lala. She thought that this was because of her claw-like Artifical Arm. He was more concerned with the fact that a talking bear had just walked up behind him. Though it is possible that Lala was doing this on purpose to keep Tanikaze from freaking out.
  • Comic-Book Time: A meeting between Eiko Yamano's younger brother and Norio reveals that several years have passed since her death at the beginning of the series, though none of the other characters have visibly aged.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The anime skips the Garde vs. Garde-type Gauna dogfight in the manga and jumps right to when the Gauna try to ram an asteroid into the Sidonia, which didn't happen until after Kunato was taken over by Ochiai in the manga.
  • Cool Starship:
    • The Sidonia, of course.
    • The later introduced Mizuki. Yuhata has a Nerdgasm when she describes the completed warship and its armament.
  • Creator Provincialism: Many countries built their own ships but the Japanese ship, Sidonia, is the only one we see as the rest have either been eaten by Gaunas or gone off in different directions and are too far away to communicate with.
    Nihei: Sidonia has a lot of "Japanese scenes". If I drew foreign culture it would look wrong from the eyes of foreign people, like Ninja depicted by American people.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: There is a significant proportion of Sidonia's population that comes to believe that the Gauna are specifically targeting the ship because of the Kabizashi spears. They are dismissed as insane, up until they realize the Hoshijiro clone is always looking in the direction of the Kabizashi...
    • Later subverted. Even though the Gauna do seem to be drawn to the Kabizashi, that didn't stop them from attacking a ship of demilitarized colonists.
  • Cyborg Helmsman: Teruru becomes the helmsman of the new Sidonian warship, Mizuki. Beforehand, Izana acts as helmsman of an old Sidonian cargo ship.
  • Deus ex Machina: A nicely done one happens in the very distant past of the Sidonia. An exploration team from the Sidonia are investigating a giant alien artifact so huge it dwarfs the Sidonia. Once inside they are attacked by a Gauna. Since there is nothing that can harm a Gauna, the team can only flee in horror. Eventually they get cornered into a room full of flying grains of some kind, that even the team acknowledges as bizarre. The team is pondering this when suddenly the Gauna appears and it looks like the only thing the team can do is die horribly. Just as it's about to strike, it gets caught up in the path of some of these grains. The grains cut through the Gauna and one of them bonds with the Gauna's core causing it to be destroyed. The team is amazed by this and gather some samples of the grains for study. Since they were involved in the first instance of humans being victorious over a Gauna, they are declared heroes and awarded by having research into immortality being fast-tracked and are made the first recipients of the anti-agathic drugs. This sets the stage for events centuries into the future.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: It's implied that Kobayashi seduced Nagate while at the hot springs, though not outright stated.
  • Difficult but Awesome: The Tsugumori Type 17. As the direct predecessor of the Type 18, its controls are more difficult and it lacks a lot of the features which make the Type 18 a simple machine to pilot. However, in the hands of an experienced pilot like Tanikaze Or his grandfather, the Tsugumori racked up more Gauna kills than any other single unit in the series.
    • More importantly the Type 17 had a feature that the Type l8 dumped: Anti-Higgs particle coating. The Type 18 was made by a different company that thought the coating was an unnecessary feature, since the Gauna didn't have particle beam weaponry at the time. So Tanikaze's Type 17 survived damage that would reduce a Type 18 into atoms, once the Gauna started generating Higgs cannons and Tanikaze's highly aggressive piloting style often meant he was too close to be able to evade.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Sidonia is armed with missiles capable of blowing up entire planets, from a dwarf planet to a gas giant.
  • Earth That Was: Earth was lost to the Gauna a long time ago, in what may or may not have been the events of Nihei's earlier manga Abara.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Gauna are massive, fetus-like creatures with the ability to assimilate humans and technology with their Combat Tentacles. Some Gauna creations resemble things that are assimilated, including a Guardian and its pilot.
  • Endangered Species: The Sidonia's inhabitants are probably the last humans remaining in the galaxy.
  • Flawed Prototype: The Type 19 prototype that Tanikaze was force to use was incomplete and not tested yet. As such it lacked thrusters in its jet form and had to stay in robot mode to fly. Worse yet, the prototype didn't have a head cannon built in, something that is a standard feature on all the Gardes. So when the prototype had his arms pinned, the command post kept yelling at him to fire his Higgs cannon only to realize that he didn't have one in his head.
  • For Massive Damage: The only weak point on the Gauna is their core, or "True Body", which when sufficiently damaged cause them to explode. Most engagements boil down to the Guardians desperately trying to chip through the Gauna's nigh invulnerable regenerating armor to reach the weakpoint.
  • Four Is Death: All pilots of the Elite Four die in their first real battle against a Gauna. Kunato's four-man squad does not fare much better.
  • Gainaxing: The anime features relatively realistic breast physics, in particular for scenes in null gravity.
  • Generation Ship: The eponymous ship. There were others, but contact with them was lost.
  • Genre Shift: While Sidonia never stops being about a grim war, as it goes on it takes on several Harem Comedy elements added to its Slice of Life moments.
  • Healing Factor: The Gauna have a rather ridiculous one, making fights with them a race against the clock to get to the weak point before they regenerate.
  • Hermaphrodite: Due to some events in the setting's backstory, a third gender was created. Like some species of fish and amphibians, they eventually metamorphose into one sex or the other in order to breed.
  • Homage: The camerawork in a lot of the space battle scenes is pretty blatantly done in the style of Battlestar Galactica
  • Honor Before Reason: Kunato never gets over Tanikaze getting the first chance to pilot the Type 17, nor for Tanikaze getting a Gauna kill before he does. This drives Kunato to screw with Tanikaze in a number of ways, most notably sabotaging Tanikaze in a fight with a Hive-Type Gauna, which results in a number of his squadmates being killed unnecessarily and indirectly enabling the creation of the Benisuzume.
  • Hope Spot: The asteroid Gauna's propulsion core needs to be disabled before it can be destroyed, to prevent evasive manouvres. Ninety percent of it is destroyed... only for the Crimson Hawkmoth Gauna to break off from the main body and slaughter the squad taking care of it, and the propulsion system quickly regenerates.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Gauna, when they are trying to imitate humans, but they take less humanoid forms in many encounters.
  • Humongous Mecha: The Guardians are Sidonia's first line of defense against the Gauna.
  • Humans Are Smelly: Much is made of how Tanikaze smells bad and it's assumed that it's because he eats so often compared to the new brand of humanity that only eats once a week. However there is no mention about the Captain and other immortals stinking it up, and they are all even more standard old human than Tanikaze. Also at the end of one chapter, Tsutomu Nihei has a note that he has all the pilots stink like mad and have to hit the showers after a mission. The pilots not only sweat like crazy, they also piss inside of their suits and each suit has a biological lining composed of engineered bacteria that process the sweat and urine but generate a foul odour as a side-effect.
    • The immortals that don't wear flight suits have significantly less cause to sweat. Nihei does have the cadets sending Tanikaze added supplies (usually just stuffing them into his locker), so the poor kid probably just has the same issues as any other pilot, just more so. Also, he likely did not bathe nearly as often when he was living as an Underdweller.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most chapters take a possessive form in their naming, usually as "(Someone)'s (Something)": for instance, "Tanikaze Nagate's Choice".
  • Immortality: The captain and other members of the crew deemed essential to Sidonia's mission are kept alive indefinitely with biotechnology but because of limited resources the rest of the population is allowed to age and die at a normal rate. The truth about the Immortal Ship Committee is kept from them to keep them from getting jealous.
  • Inertial Dampening: The Sidonia has only a limited degree of it. When they have to make sudden evasive maneuvers, massive internal damage results and people die, even though they used an Emergency Broadcast to warn people.
  • Lensman Arms Race: The Gauna continually adapt and evolve after every battle, constantly growing more sophisticated and even managing to replicate Guardian technology and tactics. Sidonia meanwhile is constantly developing new technologies and weapons in order to stay ahead of the Gauna.
    • Much is made of the issue of communication with gauna, but the aforementioned adaptation shows the possible motive for the eldritch beings out of space falling upon and shattering the Earth in the first place. The gauna combine material and act as hive entities, implying communion and learning through shared genetic memory. It should be noted that the growing sophistication and technological equivalence comes as Sidonians are absorbed by gauna, organic Higgs-boson cannon and the Benisuzume being fairly blatant examples.
  • Man in White: Most of the Guardian pilots have white flight suits. Considering their survival rate...
  • Marshmallow Hell: Sasaki unintentionally does this to one of the shorter mechanics in celebration of Nagate's success in using a prototype railgun to save the civilian colony ship.
  • Meaningful Name: Gauna is an ancient Japanese word for a hermit crab. Kabi means the germ of a rice grain.
  • Mile-Long Ship: The eponymous ship is 28 km long.
  • Military Coup: The supervising immortal ship committee is murdered by the Ochiai clone at Kobayashi's command after its members decided to impeach her.
  • Minovsky Physics: Higgs/Hyggs particles play this role in the story.
  • Mirror Match: The Guardians versus Benisuzume, a replica of a Guardian eaten by the Gauna.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: A solid 4, at least for the humans' daily hardware.
  • The Mothership: The Gauna Mass-Union ships.
  • Mythology Gag: Nihei recycles some elements of his previous works in Sidonia, either as references or actual existing elements, such as Toha Heavy Industries, MSCF, and the Gravitational Beam Emitter, among other things.
  • Neuro-Vault: Ochiai created one (named his 'auxiliary brain'), containing most of Sidonia's accumulated knowledge, which could only be accessed by using his brain. He then destroyed most of the original information to assure his safety (since killing him would destroy any way to access it).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If Kunato hadn't been so obsessed with his vendetta against Tanikaze, it's likely that Toshijiro would not have been integrated by the Gauna, which would also mean the Benisuzume wouldn't exist either. An unusual example in that Kunato knew he was breaking it; he just wanted to pin the blame on Tanikaze.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Each of the pilots' suits have a strategically placed 'Biological Ureteral Catheter' which is both uncomfortable and embarassing for the young pilots.
  • Older Than They Look: All immortals except Nagate.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Sidonia's immortal ship committee.
  • The Outside World: Played with. For Nagate, who was raised in the innermost parts of Sidonia, The Outside World is Society. However, since Sidonia is a spaceship, it can be considered itself the inner world for all of its inhabitants, with space and the Gauna threat being The Outside World. This is part of why Nagate's such a great pilot: he's used to space and Gauna due to training a lot, so they're not so unknown to him; his real struggles come from adapting to society and other people.
  • Organic Technology: The Chimerae, biomechs grown from Gauna and human cells by Ochiai as a replacement for the Guardians.
  • Phlebotinum du Jour: Both Sidonia and the Guardians are powered by Higgs Bosons (renamed Haigus Particles in the anime).
  • Posthumous Character: Hiroki Saito.
  • Real Robot: The Guardians count as this. Their spindly frames can't even stand up in gravity (with the exception of the Type 19).
  • Robot Girl: Teruru Ichigaya.
  • Rocket Punch: The Guardians can launch their hands off on a towline and grapple onto things with them. Tanikaze manages to weaponize this to defeat the Red Sphingida after it destroys his gun by taking a Gauna-piercing bullet between his fingers and launching it through her body at point blank range.
  • Scenery Porn: It's a Tsutomu Nihei manga. It's his trademark. In fact, chapters often start with travel-guide style images titled "Sidonia's 100 Sights" that show off the scenery.
    • Scenery Gorn: Among them is a sketch of a possible Gauna-occupied Sidonia. It's not too far from what the Gauna recreates in their collective ship in Ch.57, though that is quite beautiful. Chapter 0 shows the successful Gauna attack on Sidonia's residential area which happened a century ago.
  • Shout-Out: In the episode where they decide to destroy a Gauna-infested planet, one fansub group translated the command as "Exterminatus".
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Izana's limbs, as the anime leaves her considerably less perforated.
  • Spiritual Successor: The series had an early prototype in the form of an obscure one-shot manga called Winged Armor Suzumega, or The Armored Insects Sphingidae.
  • Starfish Alien: The Gauna are a weird sort of Lovecraftian fetus-like creatures with a central "main body".
  • Stealth Sequel: To Abara, possibly.
  • Super Prototype: Due to being The Ace, Tanikaze gets first run of the Type 19 and (eventually) the high-cost prototype unit for the Type 20 Guardians.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Played with. Ochiai aside, almost every member of the cast is genetically and/or cybernetically modified in some way, but they're still pretty normal and ordinary by our standards.
  • The Uriah Gambit: The Immortal Council wants Tanikaze dead for reasons not immediately explained and to this end has the Captain order him to fly in every single mission against the Gaunas in the hope that they'll eventually kill him. This backfires as not only Nagate always survives but he eventually becomes Sidonia's greatest hero. The reason for this is that [[spoiler:Tanikaze is an immortal and they couldn't tolerate an immortal outside of the committee hierarchy, so as a compromise to outright killing him, the captain agreed to put him on what should have been a suicide mission as a compromise. As long as he keeps succeeding, he can live. Of course once the committee is offed in a coup by the captain, he's no longer required to attend missions but tends to do so anyway due to having become used to being a hero.
  • Used Future: The residential area of Sidonia is filled with dilapidated buildings and massive amounts of old piping. Much of the clothing the characters wear is patched up. The Sidonia's hull is cratered and pitted from hundreds of years of minor impacts. Even the functional technology like spacesuits, hulls, and even the walls of the bridge are covered in old scoff marks.
  • White Shirt of Death: Most pilot uniforms are all white, as are the Guardians themselves. Considering the attrition rate versus the Gauna...
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: After the gruesome Fourth Gauna Defense War, Hiroki Saito suffers from longevity-triggered dysfunction and seeks to die in peace. He does not take it well when the captain tries to extend his immortality against his wishes.
    • Averted by the his immortal friends, when they were granted immortality every one of them had to swear an oath that their life AND DEATH was not their own. They have a duty to live for the sake of others and as such living didn't feel like such a burden, especially Dr. Yure who has a teenaged grand-daughter to care for. Hiroki got out of this by fulfilling his duty through teaching his immortal clone Takikaze everything he knows, so that the Sidonia will have an Ace who can replace him
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Teruru Ichigaya's hair is literally blue. Justified because she is an artificial life-form.

Alternative Title(s):

The Knights Of Cydonia