In labyrinthine corridors deep underground, a young man shows his piloting abilities in a VR simulator, before hunger forces him to forage for food... a decision which kicks off a chain of events that sets this new spring season show well underway.
With nothing else available, the young man in question decides to help himself to some rice being processed in the vicinity of his "home" (if you can call it that) - a major error of judgement, after an accident leaves him injured before his attempt to escape from those who catch him in the midst of his theft only brings further pain upon him. Awakening to find himself in hospital, a further escape attempt also goes awry, although it seems that some kind of guardian angel is watching over him, as instead of imprisonment (or far worse) he instead finds himself signed up as a trainee Frame pilot, joining fellow students as they learn how to both pilot and combat their enemy, the alien Gauna.
Now that we're fully introduced to the lad in question, Nagate Tanikaze, it's time to be introduced to a little more of the world around him, as he meets some of his fellow trainees, learns a little about this world's gender politics (there are three genders now, incidentally) and find that the Frames he's used to piloting in simulators have long since been superseded - in other words, a lot has changed on the surface while he spent his time living underground with his now-deceases grandfather. In no time at all, Nagate is sent out on his first sortie, where he's even outfitted with a Frame of the era which he's used to - a good job too, as what should be a routine mining job quickly goes south...
There's certainly a lot to take in this opening episode of Nights of Sidonia - some elements of its world are simply thrown out there as-is with no explanation, and even Tanikaze's place as an outsider doesn't grant us as much insight into the location of the series as you might expect. Still, what we do get to see is certainly compelling and interesting enough, and the show wastes no time in finding a way to hook the viewer into things by the end of the episode, which hopefully bodes well for it as a whole. This leaves us to discuss the elephant in the room that is Knights of Sidonia's visuals, a CG affair that, like many of its brethren, is incredibly hit and miss. Some of its action and first-person perspective shots lend a video game-esque feel (albeit one running at a horrible frame rate) to proceedings and the mechs and short battles scenes largely garner a feeling of excitement as a result, but any attempts to deal with human expressions and movements inevitably fall flat on their face, perhaps even more so than other recent efforts like Arpeggio of Blue Steel. Whether the series can rise above these issues remains to be seen, and I'm decidedly conflicted by what this first episode has had to offer, but the end of the episode at least kept me hooked in for more without considering taking a pair of scissors to my eyes, so it's a start.