First Impression: Kaina of the Great Snow Sea

A silent figure walks in the snow, fully covered to protect himself from the arctic chill. Under the ice, there are clouds, lights, and strange animals. Meanwhile, enormous insects are repairing an enormous hole. Full of enthusiasm, our hunter prepares his harpoon gun and goes after one that’s bearing delicious eggs. We are under the Great Canopy, and Kaina is the only young person from an almost-extinct tribe living in an enormous tree over the Great Snow Sea. There used to be more trees and more villages, but not anymore. Upon his return, hooded elders congratulate Kaina on his capture and enjoy the delicious dish together with him. Afterward, the Sage instructs the young hunter on the writings of the ancients: aging signboards full of words whose meaning is now obscure—but that tribesmen must learn to read it anyway. Bored, Kaina wonders what is below the clouds: what are all these lights that shine through, moving? People, maybe? Yes. Unbeknownst to him, a princess escapes into the snow, pursued by soldiers wearing black armor…

Once in a while, a show appears that reminds me of what animation can truly do. How it can blow my mind. How it can feel like discovering a new planet. And, judging by this one episode, Kaina of the Great Snow Sea may just be that show this winter season. Our protagonist walks on ice as Armstrong walked on the moon, exploring a world that feels like a living, breathing place, full of weird and familiar things. Is this fantasy? Sci-fi? A post-apocalyptic tale? Who knows? Every frame, every conversation, every object is telling you a little story. You can sense untold depth everywhere, layers upon layers of human experiences and poetic visions. There’s something of Miyazaki’s Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke here, and something of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Perhaps something of Made in Abyss, too. The music fits the show like a glove (what a great, unusual opening!). The 3-D, also, is better than any other anime 3-D I have seen. In sum, I think I have found my golden show of the season, and I just hope it doesn’t disappoint. See you in episode two.

Kaina and the Great Snow Sea can be streamed at Crunchyroll.

10 thoughts on “First Impression: Kaina of the Great Snow Sea

  1. Oo, this sounds really good! What streaming service did you find it on? I didn’t notice this anime on CrunchyRoll’s recently released menu, is it on HiDive?

  2. Yep, this is looking fantastic. Coming from the creator of Blame! and Knights of Sidonia, it fits many of those same aspects. Humanity lost and split up by some long past disaster. Our heroes trying to find a way to help their people survive. It feels almost familiar while still being completely different.

    That, and… the artwork was just stunning. The way it portrayed this frozen planet was amazing. I think this has all the ingredients to be a great sci-fi tale. Can’t wait to see more!

    1. I agree wholeheartedly. It has a bold, groundbreaking feeling to it. I have yet to see Blame! and KoS, but if they are anything like this one, I bet they’re fascinating.

  3. I am a big fan of Nausicaa, one of the first animes I watched as a kid alongside Gunbuster, so when a new one comes along with the same aesthetic, I am there to check it out! I think it was a year or two ago there was an anime that tried to be like Nausicaa, and just felt like a cheap rip-off, but this one, oh man, this one nails the feel of it. Humans living in this alien world but its still Earth, wondering what happened? How did the snow sea come about? You got swords and crude clubs along side guns and armor made from shells of insects, it feels like someone who knew what made Nausicaa good, decided to make their own version and so far they are nailing it! Can’t wait for more episodes!

    1. Thank you for the comment! I love Nausicaa, too, and I wholeheartedly agree. It is interesting, in general, how the direct imitators often fail to capture the spirit of a work, while things that look very dissimilar on paper can be animated by the same spirit. I find that very encouraging, because this way, the inspiring potential of the best things is limitless.

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