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Knights of Sidonia: Love Woven in the Stars Review

Knights of Sidonia: Love Woven in the Stars is now showing in theaters in the United States and Canada.

Knights of Sidonia: Love Woven in the Stars is a direct sequel to the second season of the anime inspired by Tsutomu Nihei’s sci-fi epic in feature film form. It’s been six years since the anime concluded, but Love Woven in the Stars is content to pick right back up where the story left off. The result is no less than a visually dazzling spectacle that valiantly works to adapt Nihei’s unique style. Unfortunately, it’s also a rushed, somewhat messy conclusion to a series that falters when trying to offer a neat wrap-up for such a complex narrative. However, what’s here is still very much worth watching and enjoyable in its own right.

With the length of time that’s passed between the anime series’ end and the film’s release, it’s understandable that even hardcore fans may have difficulty getting back up to speed. Fortunately, there’s an attempt to ensure viewers are caught up before the movie unleashes its story at a breakneck pace, recklessly rocketing to the stars.

The ship Sidonia is finally reaching the end of its journey through outer space as it works to slip the surly bonds of Earth’s destruction, which occurred what feels like eons ago. The Sidonia is the last bastion of humanity, an ark carrying survivors to safety, but the nefarious Gauna still pose a threat. Though a decade has passed since pilot Nagate Tanikaze (Johnny Yong Bosch) and his friends defeated the Gauna in another epic battle, they’re in for the fight of their lives — the decisive battle for humanity’s legacy. But while the crew of the Sidonia prepare to defend themselves from outward threats, they’re also facing one that comes from within.

Though an uneasy peace settled in after the Gauna’s first defeat, Nagate and the rest of the Sidonia must engage in a variety of missions as the movie wears on, all illustrated with gorgeous, new and improved CGI that runs circles around what the first two series featured. These battles look great, but often feel like ways to fill the runtime up with spectacle. And that’s part of the struggle that Love Woven in the Stars faces: getting new viewers where they need to be in the story is a bit difficult, while hardcore fans will want to see explosive battles and large-scale illustrations, like Nihei is known for. The film’s pacing suffers as it tries to reconcile both types of content from the opening moments to the very end.

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It can all feel very much like a rushed sprint to the finish as we’re constantly inundated with story developments, especially when a plan is devised to take out the Gauna and the movie careens toward a resolution. Thankfully, there’s one area that does slow things down a bit to let relationships percolate. Though the central narrative is focused on mankind’s battle with the Gauna, love still remains an integral part of the story, as romance blossoms between Nagate and the Gauna hybrid Tsumugi Shiraui (Stephanie Sheh).

The budding closeness between Nagate and Tsumugi is absolutely adorable, and despite Tsumugi’s size, outward appearance, and history, their relationship seems like that of any “normal” one. Tsumugi is impossibly sweet, Nagate protects her from harm, and perhaps the greatest part of all this is the fact that they can be together without anything trivial like looks or even heritage affecting their feelings for each other. Tsumugi’s infectious energy is such that it’s the perfect counterbalance for Nagate, who’d do just about anything to protect his love, even before we see any sort of confessions from the two. Their interactions are the high points of the movie, elevating it from what can easily devolve into a series of battles loosely connected by expository dialogue into a conclusion with real, true heart. This relationship is an important rumination on humanity and what it means to love — even in the midst of something horrible.

Love still remains an integral part of the story.

Outside of these moments, however, Love Woven in the Stars can move a bit too quickly, as if an entire two other films’ contents were squished down to fit within the confines of this one. One intriguing aspect of the film is that it does feature a new ending unique to this sequel that isn’t in the manga. Purists may have preferred that it followed the original work, but the film-only ending still fits what might be expected from the Knights of Sidonia universe. And in the end, perhaps some of the disappointment stems from the fact that this is a solemn goodbye to a sci-fi universe that had a lot more to give. Luckily, there’s still the manga, and that’s well worth experiencing.

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