Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine
I was a little worried going into this season since what buzz I had heard, and there was less for this season, was "eh, not quite as good." This was neither the start to the story nor the end, it also took me a little while to get around to watching so while I knew that the manga was ending in the fall but there hadn't been an announcement for a third season (unlike this second season which was announced in the credits of the first season).
So, let me enthusiastically say that this season was very good, perhaps not quite as good as the first one but honestly it's my second favorite "summer" anime after Insight. In some ways the plot is a little looser, we know from the title and the first episode that we are following the cast to Planet Nine to do battle, but that engagement only looms large in the second half of the show and the smaller mis-adventures of the cast dominate the screen time. That isn't to say that the show is aimless, lurking beneath the surface there is a lot of tension on both a personal front (as Izana's body goes through more and more changes) and dramatic front as Kobayashi deals with the immortal council's planned rebellion. And no matter which "side" the story was focusing on it was always a really gripping show; I remember I said this about the first season but again, I'm actually rather glad that Netflix got this series so I could watch it all at once instead of waiting week to week, the suspense would've been too hard to bear!
Even those less suspenseful, more slice of life adventures really work well with the show, it should be no surprise that the more likable the cast is the more you care about their fates. I was surprised how charming Tsumugi, the gauna hybrid creature was, even if the show does try very hard to shoehorn her into Nagate's harem. It felt also felt like Izana had even more screen time this season, which frankly is a good thing since Nagate isn't a repulsive lead but he is still very very bland (I get the impression that a lot of characters like him more for his actions/what he's done than his personality) so bumping them up to almost co-lead status really helps the show.
Some of the other characters weren't as clearly "defined" this season however, in the very first episode we have a return of Ochiai, the main villain of the series, and yet due to the circumstances it's hard to remember that he's even around and while he doesn't seem good he doesn't come off as villainous either. It's also a little distressing that there are some really nice, cool female characters in the show but that all of them seem to have a crush on Nagate one way or another. I'm only half joking that he has a harem, it's one of those cases where I genuinely like all of the characters involved but just wish sometimes that the show wasn't dragging out the romance so much.
Moving on, there's no way to beat around the bush so I will just say it: the art still doesn't look fantastic. The characters might look a little better than the first season but lighting and shading are still far too harsh and they don't emote enough. Funny enough I did really like the backgrounds in this season, if those are also CGI then I am doubly impressed given their level of detail and actual grasp on lighting, and thought that there was a lot of really great framing as well. I'm curious if those elements are from the original story or from the anime since the glimpses I've had of the manga haven't blown me away either. But after seeing the eye-catches in the show and the backgrounds I would totally buy a "100 views of Sidonia" guidebook. I also didn't expect myself to end up liking the opening and ending songs as much as I did, I loved the ones from the first season but the new ones really grew on me as well.