This mecha anime’s first episode hits the ground running
Opening with a simulated battle with this series’ alien menace, “Commencement” has the task of establishing a lot of details very quickly. Knights is interested in (to borrow a phrase from Axis of Awesome) getting to the fucking monkey, and it does so pretty effectively.
The protagonist, Nagate Tanikaze (Johnny Yong Bosch) begins this episode as an underdweller with limited knowledge of the outside world (ship), and his perspective mimics that of the audience. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but he knows that he doesn’t want to die. Other characters are introduced to Nagate in ways that reflect their attitudes toward him. Shizuka Hoshijiro (Stephanie Sheh) helping him, Norio Kunato (Todd Haberkorn) punching him in the face, Izana Shinatose (Melissa Fahn) first being forgotten and then providing helpful information, and Captain Kobayashi (Wendee Lee) protecting him through her influence and then immediately asking for his help.
This episode is very dense, trying to throw in as much exposition as possible while setting up plot points, setting stakes, and introducing characters. Almost every scene gives the audience new information about Sidonia. Even establishing shots let us know the scale of the “world” or give more information about it. Knights does a good job at hinting at a whole bunch of mysteries and folklore that have formed in this seed ship through dialogue and minor characters as well. A lot of this could be lost on the first watch; it definitely was for me. Even at this fast of a pace, not everything is explained, either. What the deal is with all those identical pink-haired girls and why Lalah is a friggin bear? Don’t worry too much, though; if it seems like an important detail, it will probably be explored more later. Except for the bear thing. Don’t expect that to be explained for a while.
The fast pace of this episode pays off at the end, when we get to see the first non-simulated Gauna. Nagate’s simple mining mission goes south quickly and his partner, the ever-serious Eiko Yamano (Karen Strassman), gets tentacled right in the robot chest while Nagate gets bitch-slapped into a hill. We get a brief look at the Gauna’s face, which is suitably otherworldly, then the ツヅク that leads to the next episode.
“Commencement” does as much as it can as quickly as it can and it does so with style. Some the exposition feels a bit forced every once in awhile, particularly a line about the organic converter reactor, but the amount of worldbuilding and character they are able to get across in 21 minutes is really impressive. That’s not even mentioning the art, which is beautiful, or the sound design, which is on point.
- The opening credits. Unf.
- Nagate didn’t even successfully steal rice.
- Izana sees Nagate checking them out and immediately lets him know they are totally sexually compatible.
- Yes, Miss Hiyama, it’s your arm that he’s confused about. Clearly.
- “I guess underground, you clean differently.”
- Okay Nagate, you’ve gone to a couple of classes and failed one sim. Time to go into space and mine shit.
- Space laser mining is so much cooler than non-space non-laser mining.
Nagate Owned x5: 2 broken fingers, 1 concussion, 1 bruised spine, 1 black eye, malnutrition, whiplash/concussion/worse?
Frock-block x0: Thankfully, the closest we get is Nagate being easily distracted. This will become more relevant as time goes by.