Planet With is an interesting series for a variety of reasons. Outside of the fact that it’s a super robot anime in our current time, its premise sounds almost as peculiar as the designs of the aliens at its disposal. A fight for revenge against what are essentially still heroes spirals into a conflict about the nature of humanity and whether subjugation or love and freedom is the best path for them. In a way, this progression sounds similar to super robot juggernaut, Gurren Lagann from the previous decade. It certainly isn’t as impactful or even as well-crafted, but the charm and overall writing are strong enough to elevate this dark horse to its radar.
First, we need to get an elephant out of the room: this show ain’t a looker. The CGI is generally terrible, making action scenes have no weight to them in terms of actual combat, therefore making them look silly at times. The CGI works well when you see some absurd creature designs in the early episodes, but not for the mecha fights that are prevalent within the show, let alone any other machines that present themselves often. The character models are sometimes CG as well and they look even worse in those rare instances. That said, the designs are more than striking, from the mech and weird alien behemoth designs, to the wonderful, expressive, and/or sexy character designs. The actual animation and direction have some fun moments as well from interesting shots and angles, to rare moments of 2D monsters and struggles. If only the CGI was up to par with the 2D elements, but alas JC Staff can’t help but continue its recent trend of lackluster visuals. To be fair, at least it stands out, unlike the music, which beyond the decent OP and ED, is serviceable at best.
Where the show makes up for this is in its character exploration and chemistry. While few characters outside of Souya and Ginko are very memorable, the show does a wonderful job at exploring them and making them bounce off each other greatly. Most of the gags are spot-on, and despite how formulaic the early episodes were with some of its characters, what we got in terms of their backstories and how they dealt with everything was solid enough in its own right. Their conflicts, while spelled out to borderline obnoxious degrees, are handled in an engaging way, and the fact that this show works well as a modern surreal super robot shounen anime adds to this, right down to the finale. The show never indulges too far in its own bleakness despite how horrific several backstories can be and how the characters break down. All of this, along with the character designs, make these characters charming for as unremarkable they may be, and have the comedy and romantic moments work effectively in that same vein. It never quite hits Studio Gainax levels of maintaining that perfect balance between quirky and fun, and downright tragic with shows like Gurren Lagann or Nadia, but well-respected mangaka Satoshi Mizukami still crafted arguably the most well-rounded show of the year. Cramming it all into 12 episodes as cleanly as it did is arguably one of the show’s greatest feats as well.
Ultimately, this dark horse managed to be one one of the most surreal and charming shows of the year, visuals notwithstanding. Its conflicts are somewhat engaging, its feel is wonderful and genuine, and it manages to stand-out within this gigantic seasonal crowd for a variety of reasons. It’s a truly solid work with some real heart and talent to boot. Dare I say, with better action and CGI, this show could have been one of the greats. It certainly worked better as Gurren Lagann’s successor than Darling in the FranXX ever did.