Planetes Vol. #3 -

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: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Planetes

Planetes Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     October 13, 2005
Release Date: October 11, 2005

Planetes Vol. #3
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
A terrorist group called the Space Defense Front hopes to kick out mankind from space and they'll do it by any means possible. The debris gang could care less but the SDF is blowing up all the smoking areas. The SDF better watch out because nothing's going to stand in Fee's way of puffing her smokes.

The Review!
While the personal stories continue, the larger picture of life in space continues to unfold as a bit of politics begins to intrude.

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.

The release gets something of a makeover in terms of the packaging for this release as the keepcase is now a dual M-Lock case, which means no flippy inside or discs popping out as some people had happen. Tthe release gets a black slipcover that goes over the keepcase whose artwork is a shot of Tanabe in her dress uniform walking along while one of the big science satellites is off to her side. The slipcover doesn't cover up much 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 release has plenty of material here to please fans and it continues to be good worthwhile content at that. There are two new audio dramas included and the NASA interview enters its third part. The English cast interview this time around is with Wendee Lee who talks about her role as Fee as well as the show in general. A new mecha gallery is included but the gallery I enjoyed the most is the one featuring the Japanese cover art.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Planetes continues to build upon what's come before with the characters being the main focus but their environment being such a key part of that. The show really is just a futuristic office/company kind of show but it has so many neat little quirks to it and does it in as realistic a manner as possible that it serves more as a handbook guide to the future than anything else.

The mix of episodes here covers a fair bit of relationship material between Hachi and Tanabe but there's a lot more to the show than just that. The opening episode in particular is one that shows that the politics of the future aren't much different than what we get now. An engineer type from a South American company called El Tanika has arrived at the station in order to have his spacesuit, which is more like a somewhat larger spacesuite but really a space ship of sorts, put through the tests to see if it's up to international standards. Being from El Tanika and not having any clout, as well as dealing with a company that has no interest in such things, he's pretty much given the cold shoulder wherever he goes.

It's not until he and Claire bump into the Half Section folks and they're sold on testing it out since the suit looks like it'd be perfect for their work. The episode covers a lot of ground on the kind of testing that goes on but the real story is about El Tanika and how a country that's on the outs is trying to get back into the swing of things. Claire's origins there add a nice element to the story but it's what INTO does that's the most surprising and how it affects the testing of the spacesuit. Anytime that the Orbital Space Agency shows up and gets involved you're never sure what's going to happen.

In a way, the episode that surprised me the most was the "A Modest Request" episode. The main focus of the episode is really about the terrorism that's going on in space as a group that's very much intent on keeping humanity restricted to Earth so as to not spoil the stars begins a serial bombing run by placing suitcase bombs throughout the lunar base. While the bomber himself isn't the main focus, what he does is place the suitcases in smoking lounges throughout the lunar city. This coincides with Fee being on the moon and with her being a smoker she runs into the problem head on. Where it turns highly amusing is that in order to cut down on the places where the bomber can strike, they close all the smoking lounges which leaves Fee without a place to smoke. Her growing anxiety over not having a smoke for so long and finding each place she goes to closed only makes it worse, especially when her own smoking box in Half Section ends up ruined. The end result as she's out in space with Toy Box is sort of cheesy in its own way but it's just priceless as it plays out.

The cast gets some downtime in this volume as well which has them going back to earth. Most head home and we get a few scenes with them, such as Fee with her husband and son while the chief is with his wife, most of the time is spent with Hachi who returns to his house with Tanabe and Yuri. We get to meet his mother who is the kind of woman whose had a pair of really rambunctious kids to deal with over the years so she's pretty mellow and just lets them do their thing. Hachi and his younger brother are like water and oil since one's somewhat achieved his dreams by being in space while the other is still in school but building rockets and wants to be an engineer some day. But it's the way they act with each other that's the best as they have that brotherly style of roughhousing. For Hachi though, it's been a bit since he's been home so his brother is much stronger than he used to be.

The episode plays some good secondary storylines well. Yuri and Yutaro spend a good deal of time together which allows him to play with rockets for a bit but also allows him someone new to talk about his past about now that he's recovered the watch and is at that point where he can reveal things about himself. Yutaro's fun in general with his somewhat brash approach and you can see a lot of Hachi in him but it serves well to draw Yuri out. The other relationship that's nice to watch as it grows slowly and surprisingly innocently is that between Hachi and Tanabe. It's been good in that it's not been the main focus of the show and there have been surrounding issues that have kept it to a minimum but it picks up nicely here during the Earth visit. It's not forced which is what helps it the most.

In Summary:
The first half of the show is covered with the conclusion of this volume and there are some interesting stories still to come and surely some things from the past that will still come to surface. The mix of episodes on this volume run a pretty wide range and the time spent on Earth really brought some new ways of looking at the cast and some noticeable growth as well. Planetes' pacing and style continues to be really appealing as it's almost just a really laid back show that's getting plenty done at its own leisure but manages to cover a lot of ground. Thankfully there's still a good deal more to come.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Audio Dramas (2),NASA Interview,Interview with English Cast,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Mecha Gallery,Cover Art Gallery

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.


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