Planetes Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2005
What They Say
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. Revelations are made about Yuri and the tragic Alnair-8 flight and Yuri finally finds the thing he has been searching for while working at the Debris Section.
Life, love and work continue to be explored in this series as elements from all of those are combined together for a well told story.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix for the show is one that's well done and creative with its use of directionality due to this being a show set in realistic space where gravity is played with and the characters come floating down from various directions at all times. With that, they placement becomes important and it carries through well here. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This is one of those Sunrise shows at its best where it just looks beautiful throughout. It's rich in detail, design and colors and comes to life in its own way. So much research went into it that the details are all over and the design is given a real-world color palette so it has lots of interesting tones to it. This is one of those transfers where I feel like I'm really stretching to find anything wrong with it and it just comes down to one that really sucks you in and lets you enjoy the show even more, which is all that I want.
Packaged in a single keepcase with a flippy hinge, the release gets a black slipcover that goes over the keepcase whose artwork is a shot of Hachimaki walking along as he's in his space suit while one of the orbital craft is off to his side. The slipcover covers up the bulk of the earthscape and gives it a gorgeous feel as you get the smaller window on the front and the back cover gets expanded with the summary and the discs extras and features that's set against a moonscape. I really liked the Japanese covers a lot with their single character shots and the simple but elegant feel of it, but this cover just blows it away and is one of the most attractive covers a NASA/science geek like myself could get. No insert was included with this release though.
The menus for this release are nicely done with an in-theme style that utilizes the helmet monitors from the debris collectors. With animation from the show playing in the background of various earthscapes and the ships and equipment floating around it, it's overlaid by the menus that come forward when selected. The main volume of the show only has the basics of the episodes on it and even avoids placing any trailers here, so all the space is given over to the show itself. Access times are nice and fast and the layout very easy and almost fun to navigate. The disc correctly read our players language presets for both audio and subtitles and played accordingly.
All the extras for this release are placed on the second volume so there's no compromise in space for either side of things which is a definite plus. With this series being such a favorite of a number of NASA folks during its initial run, they were more than happy to get involved in the US release and provide some real-world facts and details. This new volume of extras has a good selection on it just like the first. The audio drama continues with the third installment and we get the second part of the NASA interview that started in the first vovlume. The opening and ending sequences are presented in their textless form and there's a CG model showing the debris around the planet from a NASA study done in 1998 that's just fascinating and scary to watch and comprehend. A new feature added this time is an interview with the English voice actor cast regarding the show and their thoughts on it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first volume of this series being something that I enjoyed immensely for a lot of reasons, I'll admit that the first episode on this volume really made me question what I saw before. Thankfully, it seems like it was all done mainly to push a few light moments on the viewer but more so to set up for the next few episodes where they needed someone in a hospital. I think they could have found a better way to do it though than something like… ninjas.
The opening episode has the group arriving on the moon and getting acquainted with whatever their particular needs are though it mostly follows Tanabe and Hachimaki as he walks her down to the slum like area where the chief has rented her a room. To their surprise, the apartment complex is actually really strange in that the residents there all seem to be cosplaying as ninjas and just take it way too far. They end up doing all sorts of weird things and chasing the two throughout the area and eventually cause trouble for Hachimaki by wounding his foot. The episode plays into an amusing moment where Hachimaki finds out he's been set up for a marriage proposal and there's a fire in the hotel that causes an escape to go badly, wounding his foot even further. The overall idea of the episode is to show what happens to some of those who get swindled on their way to the moon and get stuck there but it does it poorly with the entire ninja concept and being really badly over the top with it.
Once past this episode, the remaining four are all excellent episodes that cover a lot of territory about living and working in space. There's some very background plot material going on about who is interested in who as Cheng-Shin is using his connections to find out if Tanabe is seeing anyone which causes some wrong impressions because he gets Hachimaki to do it, which on serves to have the already interested Tanabe wonder if he's interested in her. It's all fairly typical romance material but it's nicely kept to a minimum and doesn't become the focus of an episode but rather stays mostly as background.
The stories we do get that are the main focus are all rather interesting. While in the hospital, Hachimaki meets up with some interesting characters such as an attractive young woman named Nono that's apparently not been back to Earth in twelve years. This is quite surprising but he can't bring himself to ask what kind of disease she has that would keep her there since most serious cases are sent back to Earth. The two end up getting along well and he tells his tales of Earth and the two play games. The dub actually bothered me in this regard as the two end up playing cards at one point, a really simply game, but they changed the name of it to "bullshit" for the dub. Considering what we learn about the girl it doesn't seem right, though she'd surely do it, but it takes away from some of the innocence of the original game.
A recurring theme that comes up is started with the introduction of an older astronaut named Roland that's there being checked out. He's had a twenty year career in space and is actually famous for some of the things he's done in the past but now he's fighting against a disease that's cause by the space he loves. The dangers of long term exposure to space and humanities inability to deal with it yet is a constant reminder of the fragile nature of the species out there and its touched on repeatedly with this series.
This is brought up again obliquely when the satellite is put under inspection by the OSA. Over the course of a month they have four officers coming on board to work in various sections to make sure everyone is up to speed and performing properly and that all required things are being followed. For the Half Section, this isn't exactly a vacation but it does get to be more fun as the OSA officer they get is a former member of the group and the sensei to Hachimaki back when he had his accident and wasn't sure about heading into space again. Calling everyone by nicknames, it's like old times there as everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves for a lot of it.
There are some great debris retrieval bits throughout these episodes as well. One of them has the group going to acquire a random large piece only to find another heat source on it. It turns out that someone is already attached to it and using it for illegal dumping of materials. This of course upsets everyone on the ship and with an OSA officer on board they set about stopping them, which leads to a fascinating exercise and the eventual arrival of a full on OSA ship that shows what the real professionals are like. I was also really glad to see that Yuri got a tale that explained why he's on board with the debris haulers and in that it did an amazing job of being such a roundabout story with a neat little hook that was completely unexpected.
Ignoring the first episode here for the most part, Planetes continues to be a highly enjoyable series that plays strongly to my interests of what life would be like in a futuristic but not unrealistic future. What makes it work is that the cast of characters are just very fun to watch and easy to engage with and they're treating things seriously. While there are outlandish elements as there are in any work place, it has its politics as well as its long deep connections to the past. It's such a well layered show that's working with a premise that's rarely treated seriously in anime that it appeals strongly to the geek in me but also appeals to the wider audience. Great stuff and still very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commentary Track with Director and Voice Actor (Ep.10),Audio Drama,Interview with NASA’s Orbital Debris Section Scientists,Interview with English Cast,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Orbital Debris CG Model
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2