The definition of “tsundere” that comes up when you Google it goes like: a Japanese character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing his or her warm side over time. I’m bringing this up because it perfectly describes the newest addition to “Sidonia’s” cast. Teruru Ichigaya is an android that was created by a scientist who belonged to the separatist pacifists that left the ship some volumes back. Now, the Sidonia has intercepted her S.O.S. and Tanikaze, Izana, Ms. Hiyama and a few other crew members have volunteered for a low-tech rescue mission to slip by the Gauna in the region and get Teruru out. Problem is that the android has a major beef with the hapless Tanikaze as she was led to believe that his emergence from the bowels of Sidonia is what triggered their latest troubles with the Gauna.
This leads to their relationship being an antagonistic one from the start and leads to the rescue mission being much more difficult than anyone would expect. As with much of this series, the most interesting thing about Teruru is seeing how her particular character type is re-interpreted in mangaka Tsutomu Nihei’s style. While she has a humanoid appearance most times due to her outer covering, it’s controlled by autonomic functions -- which is to say that whenever she gets angry, Teruru reverts to the more robotic appearance you see on this volume’s cover. Though the situations in which this happens are nominally played for comedic effect, her robotic appearance makes the scenes memorable for how they shift the tone towards “creepy.” You can also see Nihei struggling to tick all the right boxes to get her to fit within this particular character type -- Tanikaze saves Teruru and later offers to become her guarantor, which endears him to her; but he also has to pat her down for illegal communicators before he brings her back on the ship, which she’ll never forgive him for.
That’s less impressive since it gives you the feeling that Nihei is bringing her in as a calculated way to broaden the title’s appeal rather than because the man has a story he wants to tell about this character. I can’t begrudge him this too much because “Sidonia” is still going to be a very weird book no matter how much catering to the mainstream he does. If nothing else, Teruru’s addition pushes the title even more firmly into the “harem” genre, and I can’t remember the last time I saw so much bloodshed, death, and murderous aliens in one of those titles. You can almost describe this series now as “‘Macross’ meets ‘Urusei Yatsura’ by way of H.R. Giger.” If I wasn’t already a fan of Nihei before reading this series, I’d have picked it up just on that description alone -- regardless of how self-congratulatory this sounds.
It’s not all Teruru’s show in this volume. We get some interesting scenes with the ursine Ms. Hiyama and find out that she’s quite skilled as a Garde pilot as well. It’s also revealed that even though she looks like a bear, her outer appearance is actually a life support suit so we have no idea what she looks like after all. Tanikaze’s rescue of Teruru from the Gauna is pretty thrilling while their escape takes them next to the aliens’ greater cluster ship that is appropriately “end boss” in size. Then there are the little bits, such as the revelation as to how Tanikaze replied to Izana after she accused him of not giving a damn about her in the last volume which go to show just how clueless the ace pilot is with regards to the fairer sex. Also, it’s confirmed that the phallic nature of Tsumugi’s “tentacle” appearance” is completely intentional.
I do hope that we’ve reached critical mass for this particular harem, though. The mangaka’s execution of the conventions embodied by Teruru and the rest of the females who live with Tanikaze is just strange enough to keep them from being totally conventional or dull. Adding more would likely devolve into gimmickry if he doesn’t take the time to flesh out the existing cast. There are plenty of interesting characters here and I’m sure that there’s a lot of weirdness waiting to be found just by exploring how they interact with each other, and find new ways to injure Tanikaze in comedically brutal fashion.