After going through my collection of shows and films I decided to spend the weekend watching one of my favourite ‘Hard’ sci-fi shows, Planetes, and it reminded me of why I got hooked on anime back in my mid-teens. Shows like Planetes are the main reason I really got into anime. Based on the manga of the same name it portrays quite beautifully life as we now know it or more accurately as we may come to know it by focusing mainly on human interactions and our relationship with space.
Severely underrated, forgotten by most and unheard of by many; we have to go back roughly 11 years for this show. It came out in the autumn of 2003 and ran until April 2004 clocking in at 26 episodes (although I didn’t catch it until the late 2000’s) and in my opinion is hard sci-fi at its finest.
Set in 2075 Planetes is a Sci-fi drama with a multicultural team of misfits who are underpaid and under-appreciated in their role as space garbage collectors. With large and tiny debris orbiting earth at 7,000 kilometres per second (about 15,500 mph), an impact with a space craft or space station could prove to be catastrophic and it’s up to the Toybox team to prevent it.
What I really enjoyed about Planetes was the sense of realism in its execution. The division between space and earth, nations and individuals, was nicely portrayed in the show and to greater extent, a mirror image of the world we live in. Cutting through it all and at the centre of the show is the character development which is top notch.
To add to the sense of realism, having JAXA (The Japanese Space Agency) serve as consultants to the series really paid off. We come to see astronauts suffer from a myriad of diseases such as radiation poisoning, brittle bones and mental illness from prolonged isolation in the vacuum of space, all of which are all known issues. Sound does not travel in the vacuum of space (unless of course you have super sensitive hearing and can pick up a couple of atoms hitting against your eardrum) which the anime again portrays with space ships making no noise. To this extent, Planetes goes beyond the call in order to present a realistic view of space, giving it a serious setting for the story to play out in.
Juggling heavy weight themes, concepts and dynamic individuals isn’t an easy thing to pull off but pull it off Planetes does…sublimely. It takes pot shots at our idea of ‘the norm’ and emphasises the point that it’s ok to just be yourself. Each episode builds on the last and advances the main story without diverting needlessly or adding too much to an already full plate.
It’s a great piece of work which you need to watch! and is quite possibly one of the best ‘hard’ Sci-fi anime shows I’ve seen.
With a nice blend of science, politics, philosophy, romance and comedy; it’s one for the collection which sadly has been all but forgotten about.