The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials


Title: Planetes
Genre: Drama
Company: Bandai Visual/NHK/Sunrise
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 4 Oct 2003 – 17 Apr 2004

Synopsis: 2075 AD, humanity has managed to overcome Earth’s gravity and is now reaching for the stars. Originally considered trivial, excess space debris has become a problem to further exploration. In order to counter this threat, a division specializing in debris removal has been created. Under funded and poorly staffed, this section is the butt of many jokes within space station ISPV-7. Despite this, space debris remover, Hoshino Hachirota sees this job as a necessary stepping stone to his dream of owning his own spacecraft.

The Highlights
Consistent, detailed and sharp.
Characters: They may live in space but they are as down to Earth as you can get.
Story: Driven by a brilliant script and meaningful direction.
Finale: Shoves you to the edge of your seat, but is still socially and morally relevant.

For those of you who can only associate the word “Gundam” to the production company Sunrise, you are missing out on one of the greatest gems in all of anime. While the show may not fit neatly into such specific categories as action, comedy or romance, it does fit into the broad category dealing with all human relations: drama. Planetes, meaning “wanderers” in Greek, follows the lives of several underappreciated astronauts and their pursuit of meaning in their lives at the outer edge of the world.

If this anime weren’t set in space, I would have called it a slice of life series. A massive collection of dreamers and career searchers, as well as a few hilarious incompetents serve as the heart and soul of the series. While their predicaments may be extraordinary, their responses are unabashedly human. They quibble, gossip, complain, cajole and fight, but deep down, they all have hearts of gold. Despite being at the bottom of their space station’s bureaucracy, they optimistically plow forward in both work and play.

Outside of the characters, the second element that makes the show’s chemistry so effective is the engaging story. This is one anime that grabs you by the collar and just doesn’t let go until the ending credits of the final episode. While initially episodic in structure, Planetes knows how to keep its concoction interesting and unique. Every episode maintains the same high quality the series starts out with, but a few go above and beyond the call of duty and become absolutely unforgettable.

In one incident, a scientist trying to sell his company’s space suit manages to pass through the many hoops and regulations necessary to sell his invention. Carrying the hopes and dreams of his colleagues, he fights an uphill battle for approval. Despite his efforts, he is ultimately arrested simply because of his nationality. In a state of duress, he looks down onto the jaw-dropping, panoramic view of Earth and poignantly says “even though you can’t see any borders from up here…” This is one moment that will be forever etched into my memory. I assure you, there are many more.

With superb animation and music that works, this is a solid product boasting both flair and polish. For all you action junkies out there, I must warn you that Planetes is an anime about people. Sci-fi and politics aside, it’s the characters that lead this extraordinary ride.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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