Now if you’ve played Skyrim, odds are you’ve seen one of its books. The Mystery of Talara. The Firmament. The Black Arrow. Maybe one of the billion volumes of The Wolf Queen or A Brief History of the Empire. Depending on how low you’ve fallen, you may even have opened one of them and *gasp* read through it till the end. If you’re really crazy, you might have bought up the house in Markarth just for the extra bookshelves and then proceeded to fill it up with exactly one copy of every book you have in perfect order. If you were at one point, completely lost to it, you may have found that book full of racist jokes about Argonians, which, I’ll be honest, is a total hoot.
Ok, now back on topic. If you read the Brief History of the Empire without having played all of the preceding Elder Scrolls games, you’d find yourself exactly where I found myself when I tried to sift through the whole thing. Its impossible. Utterly impossible, since each book is the product of a different era, and is rife with references to other literature published in the First Era, some few hundred years before Skyrim takes place. The texts, it might strike you, are entirely separate experiences when you read them in the Skyrim than if you had read them in the Era they were published and addressed. Much of the story you receive in Skyrim is unrelated to, or even in direct narrative opposition to what you read in the in-game lore, mostly because the lore was about the Altmer 200 years ago, and the game take place in the now. The lore in Skyrim is bottomless, and consequently rather impenetrable.
What we’re getting in Sidonia is a sense of the scale of the lengths of time involved here -up to hundreds of years- and a colossal, hulking mass of implied in-world points and even contradictions. We have a faction rebelling against the ‘undead rulers who wage a false war to prolong their lives‘, and a visible rationing of power, resources and maintenance from the military rulers up top. We know that the residents of Sidonia have gone through an incredible amount of optimisation to perfect their status as space-beings, what with asexual reproduction, photosynthesis, new genders, and the lot, yet entire sections of the Sidonia seem to go to waste for simple military equipment disposal. This Hiroki, father of Tanikaze, who seems to hold a wealth of valuable knowledge, is dead, undocumented, in a corner of the underground parts of Sidonia. Tanikaze is not even documented, yet the captain greets him with unusual familiarity and warmth. Tanikaze is not a special pilot at all, but is handed Tsugumori, which by the way, is the most badass-looking mecha I have seen in a good long while.
This may all sound like poor writing in how there isn’t a clear answer for any of these in sight, but I hold it to be the best shit ever, and easily the best way to introduce you to a new, alien world. Recall that events in Sidonia happen over very long periods of time, and you get a sense of the scale, yet smallness, of the history of Sidonia, as well as an appreciation of how impossible it will be to disentangle the current state of Sidonia and explain why everything is the way it is. Hell, even in reality, explaining why anything is the way it is is a bitch of a job. Linking Sidonia to the point of contact with the Gauna, and the seed-ship construction effort is an even more colossal task. It isn’t one that the anime has to do, but it, once again, gives you a sense of how big this story is, both in terms of history, and in terms of the things that will no doubt be gambled on later on in the show. The whole package is rather impenetrable, and that makes it enigmatic, alluring and bottomless.
Like, these guys have had 4 Gauna defense wars already. If I hadn’t rewatched this episode a hundred times, I would never have noticed this at all. Part of this has to do with how Tsutomu Nihei takes full advantage of his manga being a manga when he wrote it, which means that the information density on the manga is very high too. That, translated into anime form, will probably mean more breakneck background foreshadowing.
All scifi should be this good.
I am in despair.