Planetes Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • 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
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Planetes

Planetes Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     May 16, 2005
Release Date: June 14, 2005

Planetes Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
The year is 2075 AD. The dream of working and living in the vast openness of space is now a reality. However, a new threat has arisen and if left unchecked can prove fatal: Space Debris! An undetectable screw struck and disabled a passenger space flight causing disaster and death to the ones on board.

A space debris collection agency is formed but, it's a money losing venture for the corporations. Follow the men and women of the "Half-Section" and witness the harrowing experience that is involved with such dangers.

The Review!
In 2075, the job of picking up garbage is still one of the most underappreciated jobs out there, even in a place where a single floating screw can cause hundreds of deaths in the blink of an eye.

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 fantastic shot of a spacewalk with the earth below the character. 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. 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 nice 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. The main extra that work with here is an interview with people who work in the department that handles the tracking and research of the various space debris that's out there. It's an interesting piece and highlights how much the anime series got right about things. This is nicely followed-up by a gallery of shots from NASA of real-life orbital debris that's come back down to Earth over the years. In terms of the English voice cast, there's a couple of really good video interviews here. The ADR director gets a lengthy piece where he gets to talk about the show in detail and then two cast interviews, one for Hachimaki's voice actor and one for Tanabe's voice actress, both of which talk about past roles, things about this role and the usual questions. The other extra that fills up some nice space on this volume is something that's creatively done only a few times in the past; we get two audio dramas for the series. They take place at different points in the series, and open with the anime lead-in, and then proceed to play out with some stills in place of listening to this on a CD. This is the only way that I really think drama CDs should even try to come out over here as it works really well.

One extra that you might miss out on is that there's a Japanese director and actor voice commentary on the first episode. This can be accessed only by going to the first episode scene selection menu on the episode disc and selecting the commentary there. It should have been put in the audio menu though and it doesn't make much sense for it to be where it is.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My all time favorite movie is the Wings of Honneamise with its story about the first attempts at space travel in an alternate world. The story was so richly detailed and layered in how it showed this event going from an off hand thought to reality that very few things have even tried to come close in the nearly twenty years since then. Planetes takes certain cues from this movie I think as it goes about showcasing how life in the future can be like where even the most menial of jobs can become the most important but it still retains the stigma.

As they talk about at the beginning of each episode, over the course of the century that humanity has expanded into space in near orbit, an immense amount of junk has been left up there from repair kits to satellites and other craft. All of these objects, from the biggest piece to the tiniest screw, pose a threat to everything else out there as they on average have a traveling speed of eight kilometers a second. One accident happened back in the 2060's where a tiny screw traveling along hit a suborbital jet and destroyed it completely. In the interim, ships like that beefed up in their armor and other protective measures but all of the main satellites out there in low earth orbit had to start bringing new programs into place that would handle all of the debris. And like any department, they're just as underfunded and often thought of as second class to everyone else.

The series focuses on one particular satellite and the debris section crew that works out of there. The section was actually rather underfunded from the start and they were only given half the budget and personnel that they required so they ended up getting a joking name of Half Section. We're introduced to this comical group of people whose lives are closely tied to each other on the missions through the eyes of Tanabe, a young woman whose come into space for the first time as a new member of the company. Her tests got her up there but her profile places her on the complete opposite end of the control section and anywhere that most people would consider important. But Tanabe takes everything as important as she is the young idealist and can't believe that they get treated as they do, though she doesn't quite believe that her job is what it is at first.

The crew she works with is amusing in general but the kind of people you can get comfortable spending time with. The one she has most trouble with though is her partner, Hachimaki. He's been there for three years and is the main person who does the space walks and handles most of the debris collecting on the outside. He's been assigned to teach her the ropes and the two are like water and oil as they interact as he's set in his ways and jaded and she can't believe some of the things they have to do. For Tanabe, the series at least initially is about growing up and realizing certain things have to give way to reality. This applies to Hachimaki as well but he also has to come to grips with his dreams by realizing that there are paths he has to follow properly if he wants to achieve them. Both of them are very likeable characters and as we get to know them, the roughness begins to ease off and they begin to get comfortable with each other as they both end up forcing the other to deal with things that they've otherwise put off.

Once past the basics of introducing how the debris collection works, what we really end up getting is a series of slice of life stories that take place on board a space station. This is where all the research that went into it pays off and the details simply make it all that much more of an enjoyable experience. The simple things that should be accepted all around such as having no sound in space is used, though they do fill it with characters thinking or music to help the flow of the scene, the numerous rails and footholds scattered throughout the entire station that allow people to float as need be. There's some fun scenes watching as Tanabe learns maneuverability inside one of the corridors using the wrist propellant jets and she goes from being worse than a newborn to someone who can competently handle herself. All of these kinds of scenes and small details build into a really well developed place that actually works on something of a class system.

Visually, this show is just beautiful. All of the exterior moments are so finely detailed and play out like a very serious science fiction piece instead space opera or science fantasy. There's plenty of tension in scenes where the walks go wrong or things start happening that cause the very detailed plans they have to change rapidly which is not something you want to happen in space. I've always had a deep fascination with all things related to areas like this so having a series that treats it right and does such beautiful views of the earth or of the moon in the distance that doesn't have giant mobile suits running around shooting laser beams or aliens flying about is something that's very rare in anime. Combined with the smooth and very appealing character designs which play closer to reality than the usual puffy cheeked and over endowed nature of anime characters, this just has me smiling throughout while being very entertained.

In Summary:
Planetes is the series that will appeal heavily to those looking for something that's more mature but still fun and engaging to watch. It keeps things close to reality and is the type of show that like some of the best science fiction novels could serve as a blueprint for what needs to be done and what you can expect in the future. Things that now seem like the fantastic will one day be the common and this show takes that theme and runs with it beautifully while draping it with interesting and fun characters that give it so much life. This is one of those shows that is rare when it comes along and feeds a need that I know a lot of people have deep inside them that is so rare taken care of. This is not a release to wait around for but one to enjoy and savor as much as possible. Very highly recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Commentary Track with Director and Voice Actors (Ep. 1),Audio Dramas,Interviews at NASA's Orbital Debris Program,Interview with English ADR director and cast,Orbital Debris Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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