In 2068, after an incident with a high-altitude Alnair 8 type passenger plane, the issue of space debris became paramount. Composed of unnatural space objects, debris orbit Earth at a speed of 8 km/s, which can spell disaster if any collide with space-faring ships and lead to the birth of more debris. In 2075, Tanabe Ai traveled into space with high hopes and dreams of chivalrous astronauts… only to have them dashed by the harsh reality of life as a debris collector working for Technora, a space development company. As her new senpai, Hoshino “Hachimaki” Hachirota begins schooling her in the ways of a debris collector. Thus begins their, and many others’, stories.
summary by Eek
Highs: Strong character development and attachment; feels natural
Lows: Comedy is hit or miss; some characters could be expanded
Pay no attention to the near-perfect animation or the massive rewrites of its manga counterpart; Yukimura Makoto’s Planetes is a helluva new age space anime, even if you may think it’s just garbage men in space. Although it isn’t raw science fiction in the tradition of Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke, this anime is nevertheless a mesmerizing experience that’ll capture your attention without flaw.
And the best way Planetes reels you in is with its near-constant character development. There are infrequent times that a character’s past is ever clearly laid out; instead, we’re given little bits and pieces to each character’s puzzle that eventually reveals their quirks and personality traits while building the story. With a quiet charm I haven’t seen since Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, action scenes are hard to come by, yet the characters make this anime exciting with their presence. Eventually, you’ll come to emotionally connect and empathize with many of the people and messages; now that’s the hallmark of a good anime. However, I believe that the charm comes from just how natural the anime is. Some may blame the excellent seiyuu cast, but I think the natural feel comes from the little things, such as a script that never feels forced, realistic movements of objects in space or even a mechanically accurate motorcycle.
I only have two beefs. First, there’s a certain goofiness present throughout most of Planetes, and while it provided another lens to look through characters, I found myself laughing only at the rare subtle stabs rather than blatant attempts at humor. Second, Arvind Lavie and Phillip Myers provided a lot of comedic relief, but not much information is ever revealed about them or their backgrounds. I mean, when the temp secretary, Eldegard Rivera, is fleshed out in an episode dealing with her past, you know that the two top-ranking employees in the Debris Section should’ve had more development.
Sci-fi junkie or not, you’ll come to enjoy Planetes one way or another. With an introspective finale that’d give Neon Genesis Evangelion a run for its money, this is an anime that’ll inspire you to reach for the stars.
Planetes can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.