Running Time: 125 min
Release Date: 6/14/2005
Set in 2075, Planetes is not your typical, futuristic space epic. There are no space cowboys out to stop bandits and loot ships. Nor are there action packed mech battles between two warring political entities. Instead, we get a story about middle class, virtually blue collar, workers in the garbage collection business in space.
Tanabe Ai has just started working in the Debris Sector of the DS-12. Dubbed Half Sector by the ship’s other departments, Tanabe soon learns why – it’s under funded, under staffed, and those that work there aren’t the brightest guys around. Most go about their daily lives, working to make ends meet, but always looking forward to breaks and quitting time. Their peer departments look down on them because collecting space debris, while necessary, isn’t a profitable business.
Having heard a number of good things about this series, I admit to being under-whelmed by these first few episodes. My main problem was Tanabe, who grated on my nerves every time she opened her mouth. She’s presented as a young idealist who has no clear direction in life but feels the need to climb on a moral soapbox every time someone does something that doesn’t agree with her vague notions of wrong and right. She’s a ‘shoot from the cuff’ person who passionately argues from her gut rather than taking a big picture look at the situation and trying to see things for what they are.
For instance, on her first debris collecting mission, she is supposed to destroy a peace memorial so that it doesn’t collide with a military surveillance satellite. This doesn’t sit well with her and she breaks into a peace is good, war is bad spiel – and all-but-refuses to complete the mission – until she realizes the peace memorial is just propaganda. Then she humbly apologizes for opening her mouth.
In another episode, they uncover a coffin left over from a space burial 50 years ago that wasn’t able to break free of the sun’s orbit. After contacting the man’s daughter and hearing that she wanted the body to be sent off into space in accordance with her father’s burial wishes, Tanabe again climbs on a high horse, steals the coffin and berates everyone how wrong this is – that he should be buried on earth with his family – until the daughter changes her mind. I’ll spare you other examples, but the bad news is that she’s just as irritating in Japanese as in English, so you just have to put up with it.
Her partner, Hachimaki Hoshino, isn’t that much better. Hachi’s a grumpy guy who rarely holds back his opinions and often resorts to fist fights. He’s seen a number of co-workers be promoted out of the department, while he’s still there three years later, and desperately clings to a pipedream that one day he’ll have enough money for his own spaceship – though his investment strategy consists of winning the lottery.
I have to assume that these characters will get less annoying as they grow and develop – episode 5 offered hope – so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for this review. The other characters are comical, if not a bit stereotyped. For instance, the department directors are always looking to smooth things over with the higher ups, kissing butt and offering formal apologies for their failures. Then there’s Fee, a smooth, chain-smoking chic who acts as the voice of reason between Tanabe and Hachi.
In one of the funnier episodes, it’s that time of year for employees to buy life insurance policies so a plethora of pushy salespeople are hounding the characters to buy so they can make their quotas. The characters do whatever they can to dodge these piranhas before they get talked into an expensive policy they don’t need.
One of the best things about the anime is that it adheres to realistic laws of physics. There’s no evidence of warp speed or worm holes, and people seem genuinely thrilled with trips to the moon, which still take 4 days. They achieve artificial gravity by spinning in space and there are handles on the floor to plant your feet so you can hold yourself in place. It even takes Tanabe a few days of practice(!) to get the hang of moving around.
I’m lukewarm about this series thus far. On one level, I’m intrigued by all the glowing reviews this anime has received. On another, I have no interest in the main characters nor do I get a sense of an overarching plot developing. Everything seems episodic right now, which, while cute, hasn’t sparked my curiosity to want to know more. My verdict is still out.
I alternated between the Japanese and English, hoping that the main characters might be less annoying in one, but sadly, they were about the same. The good news for purists is that the English dub is virtually identical to the subtitle translation. Tanabe even goes so far as calling Hachi ‘sempai.’
The animation is beautiful, with CG effects adding extra detail to the background. The character designs are more realistic than most – perhaps even a bit simplistic – but it works extremely well for mood.
The front of this slip cover is split into thirds with the top and bottom solid black. The middle is open to display an astronaut hovering above Earth and reaching for a piece of debris – in this case, a large screw.
The menu is designed to mimic the helmets that debris collectors must wear while out in space. At the bottom center is the control panel with the logo and options to play the anime or move to different sections. Offset to the right and left of the main menu are screenshots of the submenus. Animation of various objects in space and shots of the earth flash in the background.
This 2-disc release is packed with extras. The first disc only includes Japanese commentary by drunk voice actors of the first episode. The second disc includes a bunch of trailers, an image gallery of real space debris which fell to Earth, interviews with the English voice cast and the ADR director Tony Oliver, and two audio dramas for the series.
Category: DVD Reviews