Planetes Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006



What They Say
As the final preparations are made for the Von Braun's maiden voyage to Jupiter, the Space Defense Front makes a bold attempt at interrupting the INTO summit by taking control of the Jovian explorer. Again, the Debris Section is caught in the crossfire as they try to prevent the Von Braun from falling on the Moon's most populated city. In the middle of the chaos, two lost souls search for their own purpose and each other...

The Review!
The next stage of humanity's adventure faces the challenge of those who don't think it's time and everyone's lives are set for change.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Not surprisingly, this release doesn't have a second disc as the extras fit with the content this time around. It also doesn't have a slipcover which means that the release looks really poor on the shelf up against the first three which have the slipcover and a much sharper and shinier feel to them. This won't bother some people but will surely drive others nuts. The cover artwork itself is good shot with which to end the series as it has a happy looking couple of Hachi and Tanabe together in their spacesuits with a lunar base shot behind them. The back cover is laid out similar to previous volumes with the strip along the right listing the episode numbers and a shot from each of them while the larger panel along the left side provides an eerie shot of the planet with the summary along the top and the bottom half with the usual listings such as episode titles, features and production information. No insert was included with this release though.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras are a bit different this time around with some of the same and some new. There's a commentary track included with the last three episodes that feature the voice director and several of the voice actors. A new audio drama is included along with another installment of the digital comic. A really nice addition for the end here is the textless opening collection with the small changes made to several of them as well as a clean version of the final episode's ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The end of Planetes actually manages to hurt in a way that very few other series do. Similar to the feelings that the Wings of Honneamise evokes, the awe and wonder of our world and what lays around us is at the center of the finale of the series and it's something that for people like me who grew up with very different views of what the future held for space will feel pangs of disappointment about. Between the characters and the way they move about their lives at the end here, Planetes manages to be an extremely human and touching show that really manages to get under your skin.

The final four episodes are filled with moments that tease and scare, cliffhanger moments that are then pushed aside at the start of the next volume and not talked about for some time that only frustrate more but tantalize as well. A lot of things have been building up in the last several episodes with the move by the supreme council to hold their session in space in order to promote their next planned stage of having all of humanities resources basically be at the hands of those who've been able to pony up the money to get to them. The distribution of wealth and materials as well as advances and more have always come at a cost and many countries and regions seemingly get left behind so it's not surprising that it comes up here as well in a show that tries to be as accurate as possible. The only thing that those who have no say can do is to root for the Space Defense Force.

But are they worth rooting for? They have their plans in the works to deal with the announcement and to wreck some havoc while trying to ensure something better for the long term here, but their past actions and general attitudes haven't been something that you can get the moderates behind even if they agree with the position of the SDF. It's true that violence can gain more attention than peaceful protests and other methods but it's also the quickest way to lose support. The first people that tend to suffer the most are those that are already oppressed or those that would support them. What we see here after the numerous smoking room bomb attacks and other incidents is that life on board the station is even more difficult to get through due to the heightened security and distrust among everyone. The entire angle of the SDF and what they're trying to accomplish is fascinating to watch play out here as is the way others react to them. What's most fascinating is that in the end, the SDF leadership is actually quite crafty and willing to sacrifice their own in order to achieve their goals, something that the lower ranked folks should have long understood based on how the organization works.

From a character perspective, they cover a lot of ground across numerous folks as the situation changes once the SDF members make their play. There is a lot of general moments as the fight sprawls across the station and you get fun moments such as Lucie taking on the SDF guys because she has clothes she still wants to buy and things to do with her life, but it's the far more engaging moments such as with Tanabe and Claire on the moon that are powerful. A lot of the characters find themselves in situations where they have to make life altering choices in order to survive the experience. What's even more frustrating about these situations is that they make them out to be so tense and so critical that when they shift away you want to scream at the screen, particularly since they don't provide the resolution but them move forward several months. But in the end, it does make the show all the more engaging because you have to know what's happened and every hint makes you fear for the worst based on how everyone reacts.

While the show does bring back in a lot of things that it covered throughout its entire run, such as tying together certain characters moments or times spent together so that things make more sense in the present, one area that it managed to do wonderfully throughout was to show the awe and wonder that is space. What humanity can be like and do out there. A lot of it will in the end seem no different than today's office workers outside of a few exceptions, like a lack of gravity in places. At the same time, if you have the right frame of mind, the wonders of space and what you can experience there are plentiful. Those quite moments alone on the moon or going through a basic space walk. The simply beautiful moments of looking down on the Earth either from a low earth orbit an seeing the beauty of the lights at night as the continents pass by or from the moon itself where everything blends even more and glows more brightly. The passion of those involved in this project really shines through and evokes great feelings within the viewer.

In Summary:
While there were a few areas to Planetes that I didn't care for, the series overall is one of the best things out there with its realistic exploration of a near future that can serve easily as a guide of what to expect and how to deal with it. That in itself is the real focus of science fiction to me in being able to take things that could be, explore the possibilities and use it as a launching point for discussions on what to do when we get there. So many things covered in law and legal areas as well as social today are things that science fiction writers took to task decades ago and provide a myriad of still very valid options and courses to take. But we continue to dismiss them and look at everything as a fresh problem with no prior background. The legacy of a series like this is that decades and decades from now someone will be on some message board somewhere and declare they knew what was going to happen because their grandparents showed them some show called Planetes. This is a series not to be missed " now or in the future.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Audio Drama,Textless Opening Collection,Textless Ending (ep 26),Digital Comic

Review Equipment
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: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Planetes