Planetes Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, April 27, 2006
Release Date: Monday, April 03, 2006
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".
Dolf gets transferred to the head of the Juipter Project, leaving ISPV-7 in the hands of Norman Schweimer, who immediately proceeds to disband the unprofitable debris section. However, during its last voyage, the Toybox xrew rescues a team of journalists whose ship was disabled by an illegal INTO space-mine...
18 - Debris Section's Last Day
19 - Endings are Always...
20 - Tentative Steps
21 - Tandem Mirror
Hachimaki decides to pursue his dream by applying for the Jupiter mission, but possibly at the cost of his relationship with Tanabe...
Audio is provided in English, Japanese, French & German, 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, 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 some issues with the subtitles, with some lines not being finished along with some spelling and formatting errors.
Myers, Lavi and Edel on the front this time, standing around and seemingly avoiding work. The back features the usual episode summaries and screenshots, along with a technical information panel. The reverse of the cover has character profiles for Dolf and Cheng-shin.
The disc menus seem to come in more languages every volume. This time around, the available options are English, French, German, Polish and Dutch - 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.
The only extras this time around are 3 more sound comics.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
What goes around, comes around " so after having incurred with wrath of Third Division chief Norman Schwimmer earlier in the series, the Debris Section find themselves on the verge of being shut down when Schwimmer replaces Dolf as the head of the Second Division. The team's final mission takes an unexpected twist when Toy Box picks up a distress signal " on investigating the source, the crew find the film crew Tanabe had first met on the lunar shuttle during her first trip to the moon. They've now gone legit, and are investigating rumours than INTO's been planting mines in space under cover of debris - and they're about to find out the rumours are true.
No good deed ever goes unpunished, it seems, and Schwimmer's very clear on his opinion of the Debris Section from the moment he makes his appearance. Reactions to the section's demise are mixed " some fear for their future (Myers, who has been doing nothing really for so long that he's not convinced there'll be another job for him after the shutdown), others rage at the injustice of it all (Tanabe, whose righteous anger is always worth watching), while others try to make the best of the situation (Lavie, who uses his well-developed bootlicking skills to make sure Schwimmer has another job lined up for him). The only one who really doesn't seem to care is Hachimaki " he's got other things on his mind. The discovery and disarming of INTO's mine is the second heroic deed the Debris Section have carried out in the space of a few episodes, and it's enough to force Schwimmer to stay their execution, but while the section survives it does so without Hachi " on returning to Toy Box after disarming the mine, he calmly announces to Tanabe that he's done hauling debris and is quitting Technora.
From there, the story splits into two distinct tracks. The first covers the Debris Section and life on ISPV-7. Hachi's departure leaves Tanabe wondering what just happened, as from her point of view he left with almost no warning at all, and now he's gone he's not even bothering to keep in touch. His replacement on the team is Claire, who given her past history with Hachi isn't the easiest person for Tanabe to get on with, and who seems to becoming more and more bitter and disillusioned with her job as time passes. Add it all together and it's clear that life isn't as happy for Tanabe as it once was, and it's clear that Hachi's new, completely self-centred approach to life is largely responsible.
There are some fun moments here, including the return of Colin Clifford, he who received a well-deserved thump from Tanabe back in episode 4 after spending his time putting the Section down. A year later and he's got a cushy job with INTO thanks to Daddy's connections, and has come to carry out an inspection of the Debris Section's work " at least, that's the public excuse. It's fairly obvious that something else is going on, possibly tied to the work of the Space Defence Front who seem to be stepping up their terrorist campaign.
The second track of the story follows Hachimaki on his efforts to pass the selection tests for the von Braun mission. He quickly finds out that thanks to Locksmith's ruthless streak the tests are far from easy, while he's also up against Hakim and, initially, Cheng-Shin. By throwing himself completely into the selection process, Hachi effectively puts his time with the Debris Section completely behind him " it's like it's another life in another world to him, a world that he really doesn't want to be reminded of. Cheng Shin's the first to notice the chance in his attitude and tries to warn him that's not a path he should really be going down but Hachi's pays him no attention, and when Tanabe finally manages to make contact with him he's so abrupt and dismissive of her that it's clear he's no longer the person he was for the earlier part of the series. Hachimaki's actions and attitude up to now made you feel positive towards him " an all-around good guy, or so it seemed " but just a few scenes here and all that changes. The "new" Hachi is completely fixed on what he wants, with no thoughts for others, and it's made him a very unlikeable character, which is a real disappointment.
Hakim and Hachi eventually both progress through the initial stages of the tests and eventually find themselves on board the von Braun for the final stages. Both men display very ruthless and uncompromising attitudes to others during the tests, in particular Hakim, and it becomes clear once they're on board the von Braun that Hakim has other plans that simply passing the tests.
In between all the personal issues that most of the cast seem to be developing, there's an undercurrent of conspiracy building, surrounding the Jupiter mission and the efforts of the Space Defence Front to undermine that. This is building up to be the real focus of Planetes' final episodes " it's a long way from the slice-of-life feel of the earlier episodes, but looking back you can see where this aspect of the story began to play a role in events, even though it didn't seem to be anything significant at the time. Now, with the series reaching the final stretch, events are beginning to overtake the characters, and I'm very keen to see how they each handle the situations they find themselves in.
In a lot of ways, Planetes has moved on as it has progressed and now feels quite different than it did back when it began, but it's no less enjoyable. There's a feeling now that things are beginning to fall apart for a number of characters " both emotionally and in their chances of seeing their dreams fulfilled, and the series is now definitely showing a darker side. With only one volume left, I'm really looking forward to seeing how events are finally resolved.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,German Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,German Subtitles,Polish Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Sound Comics 7-9
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2