Review: Have you ever read thousand page novel that gives you a hard time reading and understanding its mythology at first and almost make you drop it but when you reach the second half, you simply can’t put it down and by the time you finish reading it, you realize that it is almost five A.M. in the morning and you haven’t had dinner? PlanetES is just like that. It’s not especially fun or spectacular. I think it’s rather boring and almost preachy at times but when all is said and done, the show leaves an impression in my mind and I can’t help feeling that this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
The anime follows two regular ‘salary-man’ lives of Hoshino Hashirota (Hachimaki) and Tanabe Ai. Hachimaki has a big dream of owning a spaceship, he has the gift and the skills but he is stuck as a low level employee of the giant Technora Corporation while Tanabe is a new recruit for the company and she brings an unexpected change and new perspectives into Hachimaki’s life. The anime has two main themes, one is a universal issue and the other is simply a personal adventure of the protagonist, Hashimaki. Both themes are carried out simultaneously in an incredibly perfect harmony. The first and bigger theme is about capitalism. The anime cleverly uses the conflict of the giant corporation like Technora and the Space Defense Front to represent the global problems happening right now about the balance between technological advancement supported by financially powerful organization and the poorer people who are always abused and left behind to suffer. Clair and Hakim’s characters effectively provide very strong argument against capitalism and let the viewers see that behind all the fantastic achievements, many people have to pay the price. The second theme is about the mental and spiritual journey of Hachimaki through hardships and obstacles which mostly are within his own mind. The anime uses Hachimaki’s reflection which is always seen as himself wearing a spacesuite to represent his inner conflict that appears every time he starts feeling uncertain or fear.
Believe it or not, every single episode of PlanetES is an excellent piece of anime. The early episodes serve, very subtly, as introduction to the show’s universe and its characters. Surprisingly, all the details that don’t look significant at first are all used as vital parts of the later episodes. Each episode carries more than one storyline and still manages to balance them and eventually conclude them at the end. These multiple plots usually involve matters in different level ranging from very personal story of the character to national or even global matter. For example, episode 12, ‘A Modest Request’, contains three separate storylines; the cute love story between Hachimaki and Tanabe, Fee’s search for the place she can smoke and the terrorist bombing incidents that subtly reflects the greedy human nature. All these subplots are beautifully wrapped up at the end of this episode. I was impressed beyond words.
Another distinguish qualities of Planetes is that it portrays life in space in such realistic way. Unlike most sci-fi/space-opera anime which always have incredibly fantastic technology, nothing in this anime seems beyond our reach. They all seem possible and believable. The character design of PlanetES is also quite realistic to match the anime’s tone. The animation is fluid and full of details while the original score, although not exactly memorable, works effectively when needed. Conclusion: there’s nothing more to say but what I’ve already said. Just watch this anime and you’ll understand.
Genre: sci-fi, drama, psychological, political
Released date: October 4, 2003 – April 17, 2004
Director: Goro Taniguchi
Animated by: Studio Sunrise