Planetes Vol. #4 (of 6) (

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Thursday, February 16, 2006
Release Date: Monday, December 12, 2005

What They Say
2075. Space has been invaded by debris of all kinds: broken down satellites, parts lost by spaceships or space stations. They all pose a potential threat to the spaceships travelling through space. To collect them, teams or space debris salvagers have been set up to clean the neighboring space. They are known as "Half Sections".

After an accident in space, Hachimaki develops a fear of heights. This phobia triggers anxiety attacks in sufferers and can prove fatal. If Hachimaki isn't cured, he could have to return to Earth.

Episodes Comprise
14 - Turning Point
15 - In Her Case
16 - Ignition
17 - Why He Is the Way He Is

The Review!
Hachimaki has to deal with his feelings for Tanabe, a phobia that could end his astronaut career and an unexpected visit from his father, while Edel receives an unwelcome reminder of her past.

Audio is provided in English, Japanese & French, with each track being presented in 2.0 stereo. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. There's quite a bit of directionality used, which helps to place where characters are in zero-gravity scenes, amongst other things. There's not a great deal of background music used, but where it appears it's effective. There were no apparent problems with the audio encoding.

The show is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect, enhanced for anamorphic playback. Visually, this is one beautiful show, particularly when they get into space and start using Earth as a backdrop to some of the scenes. Backgrounds are highly detailed and good use is made of colour to bring the show to life. There were no noticeable problems with the encoding. Subtitles use Beez's usual white-on-black font which is clear and easy to read, if a little on the small side. There were no problems with the subtitles on this release.

Two of the less prominent characters get their moment of glory here, with an image of Claire and Hakim floating above a background shot of the station. The back features the usual episode summaries and screenshots, along with a technical information panel. The reverse of the cover has character profiles for Edel and Claire.

The disc menus are available in English and French - I used the English version. The menu takes its theme from the head-up display used by the Debris Section's EVA suits, and runs through a "boot-up sequence" before you get to the main screen. Options for language select, episode select and extras appear at the bottom right against a view of the Earth and another floating spacesuit, with a few sequences from the show shown as "incoming transmissions". The opening theme plays throughout. The language and extras scenes are silent static screens, while the episode select menu runs a series of clips from each episode. The menu options are all clear and easy-to-follow, and the lack of any animated transitions makes it quick to use.

Another good selection of extras is included with this volume. There are 2 more sound comics, an episode commentary for #16 featuring the Japanese cast, some character profiles, and a textless version of the opening & ending themes. Subtitles for the commentary track and sound comics were on by default on this disc, correcting a problem that previous volumes had suffered from. Sound comic #5 looks at the aftermath of Fee returning to Seven and finding her smoker's seat destroyed, while #6 is done in the style of a storyboard & has Fee and Yuri trying to decide who'll go to visit Hachimaki on the moon while he recovers from his phobia. The character profiles feature Goro, Norman, Nin and Sasha – there are some unfortunate grammar and layout issues with the text for these, which makes them difficult to read.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
The reality of what they feel for each other has finally dawned on Tanabe and Hachimaki, but before they can confess their feelings to each other, Lavie brings word on a new ban on office romances. What's the pair of budding lovebirds to do? Hachimaki's approach is to deny everything, but that just turns out to be a sure-fire way to annoy Tanabe - but when he meets another Technora employee who has risked the wrath of a senior manager by dating his daughter, he realises that no office policy should stop you doing what you really want to do.

From one couple to another, as Edel's ex Sasha pays a visit to the station. This is the first time the usually unflappable office temp has really done anything other than work away quietly in the corner, making her reaction to Sasha's appearance a real surprise – Sasha and his schemes have put her through hell in the past, but with Edel now beginning to make an honest life for herself she's not about to let history repeat itself.

In contrast to Edel's efficiency, Claire's usual reliability has been slipping of late - she's still concerned about what's happened to Poitier (the El Tanikan sales rep from the last volume), and it's beginning to wear her down. Her meeting with him has also given her something of a crusading attitude to helping third-world countries get a fair share of the work that Technora generates, but it doesn't go down well with some people and Claire soon finds herself relieved of her duties and bumped back down to the sort of work that's usually done by new employees. For most people, that would be quite a humbling fall from grace, but Claire takes it quite well and just gets on with life. It looks like she's beginning to realise that the corporate world isn't where she really wants to be and it'll be interesting to see how that plays out over the coming episodes.

The second half of the disk really focuses on the Hoshino family. First up is Hachimaki, who develops a bad case of "Spatial Loss Disorder" after being caught outside – and out of contact with anyone – during a solar flare event. Spatial Loss Disorder is a phobia that makes it impossible for him to spend any useful length of time in space, and could signal the end of his career if he can't be cured. Like any other phobia, it's purely psychological, but it seems there's a part of Hachimaki's subconscious mind that would be quite happy with a normal life back on Earth.

This episode is a little bit different from some other Planetes episodes where characters have wrestled with their inner demons, in that Hachimaki's land-loving personality takes a very visible form, and it's done in a way that left me unable to decide whether it was just a way the writers decided to present his internal doubts, or if it was an indication that he was beginning to lose it a bit. Either way, Hachi's subconscious has seen that painful deaths are almost a certainty for astronauts, and it's looking for a way out. With Spatial Loss Disorder, it's found it - and beating yourself is no easy task.

The final episode sees the arrival of Hachimaki's father, Goro, on the scene. He's on the run from the head of the Von Braun project, who's in need of Goro's engineering skills on the project's engines, but Goro's the sort of person who only works on the jobs he wants to. Eventually, though, he sees something in Dr Locksmith that persuades him to change his mind, but not before making his son's life hell for a few days. Goro's one of those characters where you never know what he's going to do next, and his decisions are based on his own internal logic and not on the sort of criteria most other people are used – as is shown when he decides to join Locksmith's program, apparently because of the way Locksmith is prepared to put results ahead of human lives.

I have to admit that I was cheering inside when Hachimaki and Tanabe finally sealed the deal, in an almost underplayed scene at the end of episode 14. From there, they're pretty much constantly together for the rest of the disc, but already there are one or two pointers that the road ahead for them isn't going to be smooth. The most noticeable sign is Goro – Hachi's more like his father than he's prepared to admit, and if he becomes as self-centred and as focussed on his dreams as Goro is then Tanabe's in for a whole load of heartache.

In Summary:
The more I watch of Planetes, the harder it is to write about it without sounding like a gushing fanboy. A lot of that is because the series gives you reasons to care about the characters & what happens to them, good or bad. As well as giving Hachimaki / Tanabe fans something to cheer about, this volume continues to develop the minor characters and throws a few obstacles into the live of some others, and the end result is another hugely enjoyable release.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Sound Comics 5&6,Audio Commentary (Episode 16),Character Profiles,Textless Opening and Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Planetes