Reviewed by: Spike
Released by: Bandai Entertainment
Age Rating: 13+
Region: 1 - North America
Volume 1 of 6
Length: 125 minutes
English Dolby Digital Stereo
Japanese Dolby Digital Stereo
The year is 2075, and mankind?s dream of conquering space has finally become a reality with the moon colonised and thousands living and working in space. With this, the number of flights into space and to the moon has increased exponentially with more people than ever travelling into space for both business and sight-seeing purposes. However a much underestimated threat exists that has the potential to rip apart orbiting shuttles and liners, and that threat is orbital debris. Throughout the space above the Earth there are millions of pieces of space junk from the smallest screw, though old satellites and expended fuel tanks, to abandoned space stations, many of which are travelling at such a high velocity that any contact with them could cause a disaster.
Clearing up this mess has been deemed to be the responsibility of those companies who are making a profit from operating in space, and one of these companies is the Technora Corporation. The only problem is that as collecting space junk is not exactly the most profitable of ventures and as such, the debris section of the ISPV-7 space station don't really get the recognition they deserve. On top of that the department only gets half the cash and personnel they were told they need to operate, and are known by the derogative title "Half Section".
Into this group is thrust new recruit Ai Tanabe, an idealistic graduate straight from the company training program and not quite ready for the reality of what she will find when introduced to the rest of her new colleagues. Hachirota "Hachimaki" Hoshino is the EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) specialist with dreams of purchasing his own spaceship some day. Hachimaki is a fiery tempered troublemaker, but with his headband in place in the depths of space he becomes a master of his art. Now it's his job to knock the new rookie into shape, and to train the idealistic Tanabe in some hard truths about working in space.
The story really revolves around Tanabe and her relationship with her "sempai" Hachimaki as he guides her through not only the day-to-day duties of a EVA operative, but also of how things are done on the station, even though company protocol doesn't seems to quite be his forte. Other characters include Fee, the captain of debris sections ship the DS-12 (more commonly known as "Toybox" for some very good reasons), who calmly deals with her crew with a kind smile but quick tempered wit. Then there is the first mate Yuri, who is quiet and kind and has taken to caring for the range of animals kept in half section. Back at base the chief Philippe and his chief debris collector Arvind can be found playing off one another while trying to keep the section cost effective (and the apology letters flowing to the higher-ups), while the temp office worker Eldegard stoically keeps the paperwork flowing while trying to ignore the occasional antics around her.
Planetes looks great and has obviously had a bit of cash spent on it, being fluid and bright, with CG being used sparingly for some jaw-dropping shots of both the Earth and the space station as well as the computer screens. The level of detail in Planetes is point-blank amazing, from scratches and dirt marks on vehicles both in and out, to accurate displays on computerised panels, even in the distance, although most series just show meaningless junk hoping the viewer won't notice. On top of this, the creators talked to space professionals including NASA?s own orbital debris program and have created accurate renditions of vessel design and more importantly the physics behind them to leave an almost frighteningly realistic rendition of near-space travel. The music is slow and melodic, and rather hard to pin down to any particular origin, but it is understated and provides more of a background mood rather than trying to overshadow the animation. As for the sound effects, again they are used sparingly, perhaps even more so as the director and production staff seem to have acknowledged that there really is no sound in a vacuum (Other than a few times where dramatic license must apply).
Of Planetes, all I can say is this, it's different. Here there are no magical girls, giant robots, harems, scantily clad cops, 'zany' characters, strange creatures or pretty boys. Planetes is similar in execution to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex in the way that each episode, despite it's actual content, reflects on some aspect of the characters and in turn, the human condition itself. It is genuinely refreshing to see something this new and well executed come along in a sea of depressingly similar Anime out there, and once I got over the shock, it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable series that hasn't lost it's appeal even after viewing it three times. I can heartily recommend Planetes to anyone who likes anime like Evangelion or Royal Space Force (Wings of Honneamise), that has a more intelligent and serious plot, or anyone who wants a fantastic change of pace from the norm.