Review: PLANETES (2003) Anime | My Reviews 09 JUN 2009

PLANETESIn the year 2075, mankind has reached a point where journeying between Earth, the moon and space stations is a part of daily life. However, the progression of technology in space has also resulted in the problem of the space debris, a scourge which if left unchecked, can cause excessive and even catastrophic damage to spacecrafts and equipment.

This is the story of Technora’s Debris Collecting section, its EVA worker, Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino, and the newcomer to the group, Ai Tanabe…

2003’s PLANETES is a 26 episode long anime series based on the hard science fiction manga by Makoto Yukimura. The show is directed by Goro Taniguchi and produced by the combined force of Bandai Visual, NHK and Sunrise.

The science-entrenched story of PLANETES focuses heavily on human nature and the relationships between the various team members that makes up the debris collecting team for the huge Technora corporation. The two main protagonists throughout the series is that of the single-minded, space-mad Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino who dreams of one day owning his own spacecraft and love-obsessed, Ai Tanabe, the eternal optimist who strives to work hard and who more than anything else, wants people to succeed and get along with one another.

One of PLANETES’ strongest points is its intense characterization throughout the length of the series and as such the amount of depth and detail that is shared with each and every integral cast member goes a long way in creating some particularly memorable encounters and characters. Similarly, PLANETES also goes to great lengths to provide a solid scientific background to almost everything that goes on and occurs throughout the anime, and this particular attention to detail helps in forcing the viewer to completely suspend any disbelief that may arise from some of the more action-packed sequences, making the show just that much more engaging and accessible than what it might otherwise have been should it have gone for the more traditional ‘made-up’ science fiction route.

For the most part the series is quite episodic in nature, with most of the episodes exploring one or other of the team members’ histories or reactions to certain situations, usually building up to some sort of dramatic or explosive conclusion by the end of the show. However, as the series progresses and the characters strengthen in depth and motivation, the show suddenly pulls all its already strong elements together and launches into a wonderfully complex and involving story arc that steadily builds up steam and then releases with an extremely emotive and rewarding ending that is sure to leave anyone watching with a tear or two in their eyes.

On the animation front, Sunrise has pulled out all the stops and produced an exquisitely detailed show that oozes real-world qualities and as such begs the eye just to linger just that little longer over each and every environment that one gets introduced to over the course of the series. Character animation and detail is particularly well done and the result is a very clean and smart looking anime that doesn’t seem to hold anything back with regards to visual quality and smoothness of animation.

Voice acting for PLANETES is of a particular high quality as well, with some great seiyuu choices for the majority of characters. Special mention though must go to Kazunari Tanaka (Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino) and Satsuki Yukino (Ai Tanabe) who both manage to sync perfectly with their respective characters and just add that much depth to the presentation as a whole.

The music of PLANETES is a mixture of traditional orchestral music, supplemented by chorals, several uses of a theremin, and traditional Japanese woodwinds. The score is composed by Kotaro Nakagawa and produced by Victor Entertainment. The upbeat opening theme song, “Dive in the Sky”, is performed by Mikio Sakai who also provides the ending “Wonderful Life” theme as well. Episode 26 however does feature a different closing song, this time being Hitomi Kuroishi’s Enya-influenced “Planetes”.

In summary, PLANETES is one of those awe-inspiring, ‘real world’ (or at least, real world in the future) dramas with a well-sprinkled hint of the fantastic that is quite simply, just done right. Extremely strong and likable characters, engaging and enthralling scenarios, an extremely satisfying ending arc, beautiful animation and a polished soundtrack just makes up the perfect package and if you are looking for some serious, meaningful fodder for the senses, then you can certainly not do that much better than to give PLANETES a well-deserved spin.

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.