December 22, 2005
by: Michael Bartholow
The drama unfolds in the next volume as we learn more about the intersteller debris catchers of Half-Unit.
Review Hardware Used: Sanyo 30 Inch 4:3 TV, Cyberhome DVD Player
The crew of orbital debris collection ship DS-12 continue to search for their place in the vast emptiness of space. While recuperating from a broken leg sustained while playing ninja on the moon, Hachimaki encounters an old-timer astronaut that makes him question whether man is really meant to travel into space, until a unique girl changes his perspective of what home is.
Rumors start floating around that Fee may be promoted to Control Section. Can the Debris Section manage without her expertise and experience? The Debris Section sets off to prove they can so that they can send off Fee with confidence.
Hackimaki’s sensei is back, not to knock more sense into him, but as an old Orbital Security officer on a safety inspection at ISPV-7. Revelations are made about Yuri and the tragic Alnair-8 flight. Yuri finally finds the thing he has been searching for while working at Debris Station.
2 disc Special Edition
Animated Interactive Menus
English & Japanese Language tracks, English Subtitles
Commentary Track with Director and Voice Actors (Episode 10)
Bonus Disc includes: Audio Drama, Interview with Scientists at Nasa’s Orbital Debris Program, Interviews with English Cast, Orbital Debris CG Model
Content: (This section may include spoilers)
Volume 2 of Planetes continues developing the character arcs established in the first five episodes. Hence, a good bit happens in Volume 2.
Tanabe searches for an apartment to be greeted by a community of Western wannabe ninjas (They heard Tanabe was Japanese and wanted to greet her accordingly, ha!). This ragtag bunch of ninjas come in handy when a nearby apartment complex goes up in flames. Mustering all the skill they’ve learned from the movies, they are able to save a stranded woman when the fire crew had given up hope. Hachirota breaks his ankle while assisting the rescue effort.
Hachi later meets a child dubbed a “Lunarian”. An interesting idea is developed as we find that the girl was birthed in space and her body is not capable of adapting to the atmospheric pressure of Earth, forcing her to live a lonely life in an orbital medical facility.
Stern crew captain Fee must make a choice between promotion and work in the field while butting heads with Corporate Management.
An old mentor joins up with Hachi for a safety inspection mission that turns into a close call. We find out that the mentor has impacted Hachi’s life to a great extent, but is hiding a secret from him. We learn the origin of Hachi's nickname.
Soft-spoken debris ship pilot Yuri’s story is told in the last episode on the Vol 2. We learn that Yuri has dark reasons for collecting space debris. His life is at risk as sentimentality trump protocol in an effort to retrieve a memory from the vacuum of space.
You will find yourself very engaged by the time you reach the last episode on this disc. All of the character arcs receive some touching and thoughtful exposition. I was very curious how the cool idea of an interstellar garbage unit would translate once the novelty is worn off and we must care about the characters. Vol 2 doesn’t disappoint. Planetes is one of the better Anime series in recent memory.
The last episode of the disc laying out Yuri's trials and tribulations manages to be extremely touching. I actually reminisced and recalled the Batman: Animated Series episodes featuring Mr. Freeze warmly thinking of his love, forever frozen, waiting to be cured of an advanced state of disease. Yuri’s story arc in this episodes connects emotionally with the viewing in the same way: asking us all why we do what we do.
No change of quality is present from Vol 1. Planetes looks fine and contains no artifacting, even though there are numerous dark black shots set in space. Character art deserves special mention again as Vol 2 includes quite a few new and unique faces. As Science Fiction, Planetes doesn’t strive to portray any hyper-idealized version of the future, and the character and background art reflect that.
Following Vol 1’s example, Vol 2 doesn’t contain any Earth-rattling sound effects, however, the soundtrack itself expanded nicely and included some really enjoyable music. I found myself, without realizing so, googling for the OST this morning.
No major changes here to the function or design from Vol 1. Menus for the Episode disc remain fun to look at, mimicking the HUD (Heads Up Display) of the Planetes space suit. The Extras disc again features a more bare bones presentation that makes surfing bonus content easy to do.
The interview with NASA’s Orbital Debris Department is continued on Vol 2. I think this is a particularly great idea for Bandai, as we learn more about space debris while following the show, each subsequent installment of interviews looks at the real life implications and possibilities of debris interfering with NASA missions and future commercial interstellar travel.
It’s rare of a company to hide any genuinely educational content on their discs. Thanks Bandai!
Also included is another Audio Drama. In it, we see still sketches of characters laid over Japanese conversations between characters. These are fun extras, but does anyone enjoy these? I always feel a bit cheated on Audio Dramas, as if the message is “You’ve loved the movie, now hear the…Audio Play?”. It’s a petty personal gripe, and their inclusion on the discs so far hasn’t hampered the overall goodness, but I can’t find any use for the Audio Drama.
In addition to the interview footage, Disc 2 contains more interviews with the English Cast (always fun to learn how folks come into a career dubbing cartoon voices), a Commentary Track with the English Director and Cast, Bandai Trailers, and a CG model of debris that NASA is tracking from Earth. Good stuff there.
I split my time with Vol 2 between English and Japanese dubs, as a few of the English voices for the newly encountered characters (mostly the Lunarian girl in the hospital) were a bit annoying. Japanese tracks on dramas always irk me a little as there is occasionally an overemphasis in the delivery of dialogue. The English dub on Planetes strikes a nice balance of serviceability and levity.
The Bottom Line:
Planetes Vol. #2’s Special Edition follows in the footsteps of Vol 1 in terms of stellar content, presentation and packaging. Let’s hope the series continues its current course of development. Characters are emotionally engaging, the dangers of rescue missions make for good drama, and the expanded soundtrack is a delight. Planetes looks poised to quickly becoming this year’s hit Sci-Fi Anime series.