Planetes Vol. #3 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • 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

Planetes Vol. #3

By Bryan Morton     February 06, 2006
Release Date: January 12, 2006

Planetes Vol. #3
© Beez

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 several bomb attacks, Fee ends up joining the ISPV-7 sooner than planned. While the Toybox is on a mission, its crew spots a satellite transmitting a message from the Space Protectors, warning of the imminent destruction of the ISPV-7. Fee sets off in pursuit of the missile launched at the orbital station.

Episodes Comprise
10 - A Sky of Stardust
11 - Boundary Line
12 - A Modest Wish
13 - A View with Rockets

The Review!
Yuri finds what he’s been searching for since joining the Debris Section, Claire finds her ties to her homeland again, Fee has problems finding somewhere to have a smoke, and Hachimaki and Tanabe come so close to finding each other.

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 here - with zero-gravity allowing characters to float in from any direction, the audio track is put to good use to place where characters are. This is also one of the few shows to accurately portray space as silent, so there's some creative use of background music to cover for the lack of background noise during scenes in space - a little bit of scientific accuracy that I really appreciated. 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.

Fee gets her turn in the limelight with this volume's cover, with a moon buggy in the background. The rear features an orbital shuttle with the Earth behind it, and includes episode summaries, screenshots and the disc's technical information panel. The reverse of the cover has character profiles for Fee and Yuri.

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.

This volume has a very good selection of extras. Along with the usual textless opening and closing sequences & character profiles - this time featuring Cheng-Shin, Lucie, Azalia & Nono - two more Sound Comics are provided. These are again in the original Japanese, with subtitles. The first comic takes place on a lunar shuttlebus, and features Fee and Tanabe sharing their thoughts on the other Debris Section members - especially how they compare to Hachimaki. In the second, Myers finally realises it's time for him to go on a diet after getting stuck in a doorway. The crisis gets worse when he suddenly finds he needs the bathroom, but can't work himself free to get to it. There are also episode commentaries for episodes 10 & 12 featuring the Japanese cast. The subtitle options for the sound comics & episode commentaries were locked out on my player, making it necessary to go to the audio options to turn them on before starting these clips.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Tanabe & Hachimaki still aren't talking after Tanabe found out about his past fling with Claire, and now it turns out that Hachimaki's interest in whether she had a boyfriend or not wasn't for his own benefit - he was just doing some research for Cheng-Shin. Hachimaki finally begins to notice that Tanabe hasn't been her usual cheerful self lately, although he isn't the only reason for it - she's also preoccupied with Gigalt and his illness, and whether she should tell anyone about it. She eventually turns to Yuri for advice. Yuri, meanwhile, seems to be looking for something himself - Hachimaki's found out that he's been scouring the station records for something, and is more than a little annoyed that Yuri won't share what he's up to with anyone.

What Yuri's looking for is connected to the death of his wife several years earlier, and it's not something he's ever spoken to the other Debris Section crew about. He's very much been the quiet, mysterious one up until now, but this volume finally gives him some character pieces that really explore who he is and make him a much more likeable character – both to the viewer, and to the others in the Debris Section. His character has been shaped by the pain of losing his wife, something he's still feeling and that's touched on again at several points over these episodes.

While Yuri's story deals with the partner he lost, other people are thinking of a partner they could gain, as Cheng-Shin finally makes his move and invites Tanabe to dinner. All this makes Hachimaki noticeably grumpy as he watches on and tries to find excuses for her not to go. His protests that he wouldn't go out with her for anything don't really seem to ring true, while for Tanabe it's all a bit sudden and surprising, and she finds herself just going with the flow. I still feel that it's a given that Hachimaki and Tanabe will eventually find love with each other, which makes it all the more fun to see them dancing around each other here. Tanabe's friend Lucie also has an interest in events, as she's interested in Cheng-Shin herself. When she ropes Hachimaki in to help keep Tanabe away from him, her plans lead to a bad case of crossed wires as Tanabe starts to think Hachimaki and Lucie are dating. There are signs that both Hachimaki and Tanabe beginning to see what they're missing, though, with one scene in particular during episode 13, while they're on vacation to Hachimaki's hometown back on Earth, that will have fans of the pairing screaming at the screen.

While all this is going on, Claire's been handed the job of carrying out adoption testing on a new type of spacesuit. Given that it's a lot bulkier and more primitive than anything else used by Technora, no section seems to want it. Claire's been told to do the bare minimum she needs to before fobbing off the sales rep, but Hachimaki spots it and decides to give its maker a break. The suit's makers are from El Tanika, a small South American country ruined by civil war and economic sanctions, and also Claire's home country - not that she wants anything to do with it. She left there when she was still a child and has barely thought about it since, but spending time with the suit's sales rep & hearing him speak about how he wants to help turn his country around has something of an effect on her.

Claire's another character who has been almost one-dimensional until know, being very much married to her job and unwilling to put anyone or anything ahead of that – just ask Hachimaki – so it's definitely a surprise that even before Hachimaki takes an interest in the suit she seems determined to give it a fair trial, despite essentially being told not to bother. In some ways what happens to her after spending time with her fellow El Hanikan is similar to the way Yuri's character has softened over the same episodes, but with Claire it's more surprising as she always seemed to be positively making an effort to be the way she was.

Finally, while Fee is on the Moon with Lavie and Yuri arranging repairs for the Toy Box, a bomb explodes in the city. It was planted by a group calling itself the Space Defense Front, who have been campaigning for humanity to abandon space and return to life on the surface. That wouldn't be so bad, except they've been specifically targeting smoking rooms - and poor Fee hasn't been able to have a smoke in days. Even when she gets back to Seven she's unable to light up after a row between Tanabe and Hachimaki damages her smoking booth. Later, Yuri picks up a suspicious transmission during a debris collection run - the transmission is a message from the Space Defense Front, and is timed to coincide with the launch of a missile at Seven. After nearly two weeks without a smoke and faced with yet another delay in getting some nicotine into her system, Fee's patience finally snaps.

While this episode does have serious undertones with space terrorism being added to the mix, the comedy provided by Fee's seemingly endless search for a place to smoke really steals the show. It's a one-gag episode, but it's done really well, with Fee's frustration slowly building as smoking place after smoking place becomes unavailable to her. When she finally snaps her response is really over-the-top, but the way her frustration is built up over the episode it's also completely believable.

In Summary:
These episodes provide almost everything, from comedy through action to a little bit of romance, with some touching & darker moments in between, and the stories are so heavily focussed on the characters that sometimes it's easy to forget you're watching a science fiction show. Some of the lower-key characters finally get their chance to shine here, while the relationship between Hachimaki and Tanabe begins to move forward a bit. It all adds up to another volume that's compulsive viewing. Planetes has impressed me right from the start, and is showing no sign of losing its appeal. Highly recommended.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Sound Comics 3&4,Audio Commentary (Episodes 10 & 12),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.


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