Planetes Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • 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. #4

By Chris Beveridge     December 15, 2005
Release Date: December 13, 2005


Planetes Vol. #4
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Hachi is adrift in space in the middle of a solar flare and miraculously survives it. But is diagnosed with Acute Spatial Disorder and unless he can overcome it, he will be grounded from space for the rest of his life. Dolf has been replaced as director of 2nd Division and the new director wants to shut down the Debris Section. Will they step down quietly or will they fight for what's right until the very end?

The Review!
Technora goes through some serious changes while Hachimaki faces his own fears and truly looks at his life.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Unlike the previous three volumes, this release doesn't have a second disc as the extras fit with the content this time around. It also doesn't have a slipcover which means that the release looks really poor on the shelf up against the first three which have the slipcover and a much sharper and shinier feel to them. This won't bother some people but will surely drive others nuts. The cover artwork itself is really nice though as this one features Nono in a spacesuit with no helmet while behind her in the small strip available we get the long view of the Von Braun engine that's being built. The back cover is laid out similar to previous volumes with the strip along the right listing the episode numbers and a shot from each of them while the larger panel along the left side provides an eerie shot of the planet with the summary along the top and the bottom half with the usual listings such as episode titles, features and production information. No insert was included with this release though.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras overall are less than previous volumes but the quality level is still there with what we get. This time around there's a new commentary track with the ADR director and several of the actors for episodes sixteen. Another audio drama is included and a new featurette on orbital debris. An interesting extra is one called" Disassembled Opening" which breaks down parts of the opening sequence with separate clips and how it all comes together.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Planetes firmly moves into the second half of the series with this volume and the show picks up speed towards what appears to be the main storyline now that we've established all the characters well enough and have set up quite a lot of situations where we learn what life in space will be like in the future. As with previous episodes, the things that are going on here are almost the same as you could find with any Earth setting which really emphasizes just how normal life in space can be in a lot of ways but in the end, it reaffirms that humanity is the same no matter where we are.

Of the four episodes here, three of them push forward with the new storyline while the first one brings us a bit of back story on one of the more enigmatic characters. Edel finally gets to have some of her past revealed, though it's done in a cursory fashion that doesn't really provide much in the way of flashbacks and only a few brief discussions. Her story is one that gives her a much harsher background and explains well enough why she is the way she is now as we see her doing various jobs around Seven when not doing work in the Debris section but it's tied to another story that doesn't really have much impact at all about a group that's being watched before the OSA arrests them. Some of these events do spin off other events which catch up in later episodes though so it's the kind of episode that's interesting to watch in order to see how it changes everything that happens elsewhere.

The arc that follows starts off in an unusual way as it follows the after effects of a mission that went badly and could have ended in disaster as Hachimaki had gone and done things on an EVA that put him out of touch from everyone and with no communications or tether. The incident itself isn't a huge thing but it sets in motion an interesting chain of events as Hachimaki finds himself being diagnosed with a rare spatial disorder that could disqualify him from being an astronaut and would effectively ground him. Being unable to be in space by himself would be a huge blow to him and it allows for some really interesting visualized internal dialogue that he goes through with himself.

The question of what he really wants to do with his life becomes the key thing and it's a matter where at this stage in his life and the age he's at, he really has to be honest with himself about what he wants to do and what he can really achieve. The realization that he wants to become more involved in the Von Braun Jupiter project isn't a surprise since the idea of him owning his own ship is definitely one that's hard to imagine coming true but realizing that he does want to pursue it means he has to go through a number of changes in his lifestyle and goals. This comes at a time when his life is already in flux and both he and Tanabe are trying to figure out what their feelings for each other really mean. What's probably both the best and worst thing about all of it is that it comes at a time when he finds himself having plenty of time to simply be by himself and think, which lets it all come in and constantly go at him.

While the character issues do dominate this volume, there are a lot of characters that get affected by the changes made due to the Von Braun project becoming so much more central. Politics in the corporate world of Technora cause a significant number of changes and the affects are widespread across the cast. Watching the changeover in directors is amusing all by itself since you get the arrogant sycophant type that comes in and finally gets to do things his way which in turn causes all the good people to actually leave. They got that part right to be sure as I've seen it happen several times. The Technora side of the push towards the Jupiter project is fun to watch since it takes almost all of the characters and changes their directions dramatically in some cases.

In Summary:
Planetes continues to be a very engaging show that's even more engaging now that essentially all of the characters have had their backgrounds covered. Having learned about them and how their lives are in this interesting future has made connections to most of them easy since they are very well developed and "normal" kinds of people who no truly exceptional powers. Everything they've achieved has been through hard work and very little influence which makes it all the easier to relate to. Now watching them go through the challenges that happen when companies change like this gives them the chance to grow even more and adapt to interesting new situations. The next two volumes should simply be fascinating to watch. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commentary track with Director and Voice Actors (Episode 16), Audio Dramas, Orbital Debris Featurette, and Character 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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