Kaina of the Great Snow Sea Has the Potential to be the Breakout Sci-Fi Anime of 2023

There's a big reason this Sci Fi epic is worth your time.

To say Kaina of the Great Sea of Snow is releasing during one of the most diverse anime seasons in recent memory would be an understatement. Alongside the usual slew of Shonen action titles, Isekai fantasies, and romantic comedies, there are standout experiences that break from the tropes and molds of other anime to do something original. One can find something to enjoy whether they’re in the mood for a Sci-Fi Western or a Middle Ages melodrama and find an exceptionally executed experience to boot.

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It’s both a great and terrible turn of events. While it’s terrific for those who enjoy variety in their seasonal offerings, it also means certain shows will be passed over as a result, either because they don’t stand out enough or aren’t well-known enough to grab people’s attention.

Kaina of the Great Snow Sea could easily fall into either of these camps. Not only is it an entirely original creation that isn’t based on any other existing property, but it’s also a 3D anime in the same season when Trigun Stampede is turning heads with its stellar 3D take on the beloved series.

Normally, I’d shrug this off as bad luck for the show, and hope that it finds its audience at a later date. After watching the first four episodes though, I now have no doubt that the series should be one of the biggest series of the season, and the reason for that is simple: It’s a culmination of everything Polygon Pictures and Director Tsutomu Nihei have done up to this point.

Seriously, Don't Sleep on Kaina and the Great Sea of Snow
Screenshot by Twinfinite via Polygon Pictures

Over the past few years, Tsutomu Nihei and Polygon Pictures have made a name for themselves with 3D animated series like Knights of Sidonia and Blame!. While not the most renowned series out there, these shows served as some of the better examples of 3D anime one could find. Their character modeling felt noticeably better than other shows out there and made anime’s inevitable jump to 3D animation seem far closer and more feasible than ever.

Likewise, their action felt like it took full advantage of the fact that they were animated in 3D. The use of spacing and movement, along with the additional detail that could be conveyed through fights that took place in 3-dimensional environments, served to make every fight in both series feel that much more visceral and weighty.

Most important of all, though, is that both of these shows displayed a surprising level of skill in building up a Sci-Fi world for viewers to get lost in. Whether it was the sprawling technological husks of Blame!’s setting or the dystopian portrayals of spacefaring life in Knights of Sidonia, these series were adapted in a way that sold the vast wonders, both great and terrible, of a Sci-Fi story.

Kaina of the Great Snow Sea, meanwhile, carries the strengths from both these shows splendidly. Though the premise at its core is a fairly simple tale of a young man trying to help a princess save her home, it executes it wonderfully and lends it some originality through its setting.

The show sells the scope of its gargantuan, otherworldly trees with shots that emphasize just how small its human characters are in comparison. The designs of the people from different cultures that have emerged from taking advantage of said trees feel distinct yet believable, too, incorporating elements like bones from animals and insect carapaces which pop even more thanks to the 3D animation.

Speaking of which: The 3D style Polygon Pictures is known for has never looked so good. Though it might not be on the level of something like Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero or even Trigun Stampede in terms of its action, it rises above either of these moment-to-moment. The fluidity of character movement as they explore otherworldly terrains and the way the show seamlessly incorporates an anime aesthetic into a 3D production style sold me on the premise of 3D animation being a new standard for anime like never before.

Screenshot by Twinfinite via Polygon Pictures

Above all, though, Kaina of the Great Snow Sea stands out thanks to its story. While its premise is simple enough, the actual plot carries plenty of new or interesting facets. For example, Kaina, the male protagonist, begins his journey high above the clouds atop a massive, collapsing tree as the youngest member of a dying village. He expects to spend the rest of his days there until a young girl floats up to the village in a balloon, despite the fact that the planet’s surface supposedly has no one left living on it.

This results in him venturing out to return the girl to her home, but with a catch: Once he leaves, he will never be able to return to his village, as the other aging residents don’t foresee themselves being alive to greet him. This lends a sort of melancholy to the adventure, with Kaina truly having to start a new life at the same time that his journey takes place. It’s reminiscent of the plots from both Blame! and Knights of Sidonia but manages to set itself apart as a truly novel storyline.

To be sure, it still might be hard to dive into Kaina and the Great Snow Sea. Being an entirely original work, there’s no past proof or metric to go off of to figure out how good it will be. For those willing to give it a chance though, there’s more than enough here which proves this show could be one of the biggest surprises of the season.

The first four episodes of Kaina of the Great Snow Sea were provided to Twinfinite by Crunchyroll. The anime will be releasing episodically and available for streaming via the anime streaming platform.

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Keenan McCall
Keenan has been a nerd from an early age, watching anime and playing games for as long as I can remember. Since obtaining a bachelor's degree in journalism back in 2017, he has written thousands of articles covering gaming, animation, and entertainment topics galore.