After two years of regular bi-monthly serialization (save for this volume), the inevitable has happened with this series: “Sidonia” has finally caught up to the latest volume released in Japan. It also picked a fine note for that to happen on here. The opening phallocentric (no, really, it is) chapter and two that follow offer some conventionally entertaining mecha action, but things pick up from there. We see the harem situation that Tanikaze has found himself in for a while definitively resolved and in a touching fashion for the pilot and the female that he chose. As for the other candidates that weren’t picked, they handle the situation with class and in a surprising choice for two of them. In their case, I’ll have to go back and see if the decision to pair them off is dramatically consistent with what has come before. Romantic drama isn’t all this volume has to offer as old plot threads -- the Gauna’s greater cluster ship, the other hybrid Kanata, and the schemes of Ochiai in Kunato’s body -- are all revived here. Even though things end up on a cliffhanger here, there’s the sense that we’re headed into the final act and the series will be reaching a climax in the next couple of volumes.
That’s an interesting feeling to have, given how mangaka Tsutomu Nihei’s previous works, “Blame!” and “Biomega” never really mustered that feeling towards their respective ends. It underlines how “Sidonia” possesses the most conventional narrative of the mangaka’s works, yet it also shows how far he has come as a storyteller that the developments in this volume have real momentum to them. We still get plenty of the strangeness that the series is known for here, with Tanikaze’s romantic pairing and his experience with “marshmallow hell,” so it’s not like Nihei is compromising his style for the sake of drama here either. All in all, this is a great buildup to what I’m expecting to be the final arc for the series. I’m also hoping that Nihei will be able to expand on the narrative skills he’s been honing on “Sidonia” for his next series and deliver an experience that manages to be weird and compelling without retreading familiar genre conventions.