Planetes is an uncommon find in science fiction anime where the focus isnt on warfare aliens or mecha with a setting of outer space but rather where the focus is on outer space itself and how it affects the people inhabiting it. This isnt a dismissal of those common elements of sci fi anime I love those things but from the getgo Planetes really stands out as being unique. However it isnt a great anime simply because its different its great for a whole host of other reasons as well as being different. As a side note I havent read the manga so I wont address how accurate an adaptation it is nor do I know what exactly is different about it but from what I understand the anime deviates a fair amount. 750 Story 9/10 The setting of Planetes is the near future of 2075 after humanity has taken its first steps into outer space and some years after a tragic disaster involving space debris. As a result space garbageman became a career. The main characters of Planetes are Ai Tanabe and Hachirota Hachimaki Hoshino two employees of Technora a debris collection company. Aside from the main two Planetes has a fairly large cast. Most notable are other members of the cleanup crew Fee and Yuri Technora control support Claire and Hachimakis friend/rival Hakim. As the names would suggest the cast is very diverse in nationality and background and for quite a few characters it plays a big role in their development. For others characterization is informed by other plot and story elements and the show does a great job of developing many of them despite the sheer number. 500 The best part of Planetes though isnt the characters but the world building. For the first half of the series episodes consist of mainly standalone stories that the crew encounter about different aspects of space life such as living in low gravity being away from Earth or being part of humanitys rapid space development. These stories are all pretty interesting and are sometimes upbeat and comedic sometimes sad and sometimes both. Through the sliceoflifeesque stories it simultaneously sets the foundation for whats to come in the latter half and provides a comprehensive look at the most feasible future setting Ive come across in the medium adding information piece by piece to slowly reveal its worlds current state of affairs. Following a lot of the story from Tanabes perspective allows a bunch of details about the technology and how it works to be explained naturally without feeling like infodumps and details like space radiation proper vernier usage and why the suits use cameras instead of the usual transparent visors really help to make the world feel real. Around the halfway mark things begin to take a turn storywise as the episodic format shifts pretty suddenly into a more linear storyline that focuses heavily on Hachimakis character and a more serious plot. It also has a significantly heavier tone than the optimistic first half perhaps due to the switch in character perspective. I found this to be pretty jarring at first but as the story progressed I found that while the change was sudden it was definitely not unprecedented as many story points resurfaced after previously appearing in some form or another. Im still unsure how I feel about the change by the end I enjoyed it and thought the drama was well handled for the most part but I did definitely miss the feel of the first half. Even though they arent the main thematic element Planetes tackles a lot of ideas that arent often tread upon in anime such as poverty economy terrorism the value of life and aspirations and the cost of humanity leaving Earth and for that I commend it. It also interestingly suggests that exploring space might be bad for the human race. This especially took me off guard as I was expecting it to glorify the new frontier and capture the feeling of excitement of wanting to explore space which it does do fantastically. But then it also shows the bad side how space development affects Earth and its inhabitants and the fact that humans werent built for such a harsh environment. It creates a very interesting and unique dynamic of juggling the desire to explore space with the desire to not destroy yourself and the Earth. 500 I found the ending to be pretty good. Everything wraps up in a way that makes sense there are some really memorable scenes Tanabe especially has some really great scenes near to the end and the romantic subplot reaches a surprisingly solid conclusion. Overall Id say Planetes story is the biggest draw to it as it combines good enjoyable characters and interactions with an interesting story and a whole load of interesting concepts and ideas and then wraps it all up nicely leaving pretty much no loose ends. Visuals 8/10 Unfortunately Planetes is a bit hitormiss concerning the animation. For most of it Sunrise did a good job with some really nice character animation. Other times animation quality can be pretty sub par. Sometimes a character will float through zerog dynamically with their clothes reacting correctly while other times a static image of a person will slide lifelessly across the frame. There is also some awful offmodel scenes though these are pretty rare. Its not the worst out there and its not often but the inconsistency definitely detracts from the overall visuals. Sunrise Smooth On the upside the character design hits a nice balance between being cartoony and realistic and it manages to never feel out of place even with the wide variety in tone. Mechanical design is fantastic everything looks believable and fitting in its setting and are often explained well. Yuriko Chibas character designs are also fairly unique and it gives the show a recognizable look and easily distinguishable characters. The only issue I have with character design is how late 90s/early 00s everyone looks. While it makes sense considering when it was made it does date the series a bit and is especially strange considering its future setting. Similarly as with most early 2000s anime the show has not aged particularly well unfortunately. Sound 8/10 Sound design in Planetes is really great with the silence of space often being used really effectively. All the sound effects of the suits and the ships are great and the soundtrack is fitting with some really good tension building tracks and a lot of pieces that help emphasize the emptiness of space. The opening for the series is absolutely fantastic. Aptly named Dive in the Sky it perfectly captures the feel of wanting to explore space. The visuals are mostly character portraits interspersed with highlights of humanitys quest to reach space and coupled with the music it makes a perfect way to set the tone for the series. The Japanese dub for the series is topnotch all the voices fit the characters and are easily distinguishable. Tanabe and Hachimaki in particular have a lot of character in their voices Hachimaki sounds unrefined and kind of dumb and Tanabes VA really gets across the naivete of her character. The English dub unfortunately isnt as good with a really horrible casting for Hachimaki. Where he should sound strong or tough he often sounds whiny and the voice just isnt a good fit for the character which is a shame since the rest of the English cast do a pretty good job especially Fee and Yuri. 500 Overall Planetes creates a great world with a great story some great looking animation and sound design. Occasionally it stumbles a bit in each category but its never enough to ruin the experience and the show itself is unique and memorable enough to make up for it.
80 /100
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