Planetes

PlanetesType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Sci-Fi / Drama
Vintage: 2003

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 17 Mar 2007

Grade: A

If NASA made an anime, this would be it.

Plot Summary
The year is 2075, and space debris is a very real threat to satellites and space shuttles going between the Earth and Moon. Something as small as a bolt can severely damage or destroy any passing vessel. Twenty year old Ai Tanabe has just joined the company of Technora as a debris hauler, and she must learn the ropes of the trade. Planetes follows the lives of the Debris Section of Technora as they do their job.

The Review
This is probably the most realistic depiction of space that I’ve seen in any fictional program, animated or otherwise. For starters, all physics are kept within the limits of reality. In other words, you won’t find any giant super-nimble mecha here. Also, space is silent due to the lack of an atmosphere for sound waves to disturb. Any scenes taking place outside of a space shuttle are completely silent. You hear no machines churning, no rockets blasting, no explosions booming. Just complete silence. Planetes takes place in 2075, and the state of technology presented in the series is probably on the very optimistic side of where things will actually be by then. That said, technological progress tends to be exponential, and we very well could be looking at a world similar to that as depicted in Planetes in 2075. The city on the Moon is probably the most lofty goal presented in the series, but even so, it sticks to real-world physics and is completely plausible. Planetes gets an A+ grade for science!

Planetes starts out by showing the daily ins and outs of the Technora crew as they retrieve various pieces of space debris in all sizes. It’s a very engaging hard-science look at what we may actually be doing up there in a generation or two. Once the routine is set, the series begins its expert transition into a character drama. There are two lead characters: Ai Tanabe the rookie, and Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino, who is essentially Ai’s trainer in the Debris Section. The two get off to a rocky start, and it is their stories which are the main focus of the series. However, each crew member does get explained reasonably well, so there are no flat characters. Storywise, Planetes is rock-solid. The scriptwriter is the same as from Stellvia, so this came as little surprise. If there were any plot holes, I sure couldn’t find them. There were some elements left open-ended, but this is fairly common in anime, and I like that in a series since it leaves plenty of opportunity to think about the story when you’re not watching it.

If you’re a fan of science fiction, you need Planetes in your collection. It’s a wonderfully told and completely plausible story of what we may be facing in the not too distant future. With strong characters and a strong story, it’s a fantastic series that, somehow, actually makes living in space seem, well… ordinary. After all, which is more likely in our future: armies of giant robots patrolling planets and gigantic orbiting space colonies or getting rid of junk in space that could destroy the next passing shuttle to the moon?

Houston, we have a winner.

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