Planetes Vol. #5 -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • 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: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Planetes

Planetes Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     January 31, 2006
Release Date: January 24, 2006

Planetes Vol. #5
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
Hachimaki has decided to quit the Debris Section and take a one-in-ten-thousand chance to join the crew of the first manned mission to Jupiter. It won't be easy competing against high profile candidates. The project chief will put the candidates through a set of grueling tests that will force them to make life or death choices. Will Hachimaki show that he has the "right stuff" and also stop a traitor before he blows up the Jupiter explorer?

The Review!
Planetes goes beyond hitting its stride and simply produces some of the best character pieces yet as it deals with the reality of the situations that these characters live in.

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.

Unlike the first 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 decent with a shot of Hakim and Claire floating along as the Von Braun is floating behind them in the small strip available. 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.

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.

The extras overall are less than previous volumes but the quality level is still there with what we get. For this installment we get another audio drama that builds upon the previous ones as well as a collection of trailers for the show and the digital comic that was done for it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the Planetes series has shifted from the smaller personal stories that showcased what the world was like in this near future to this new arc where the impetus is to move out further into the solar system to explore, the show has become far more focused on the real lead character and moved further from Tanabe while still making sure her view point is kept in play. The drama is heightened considerably as it moves forward and as engaging and fun as it was before it's even more so now.

Hachi's sudden move to quit the Debris Section has landed him on Earth now where he's one of twenty thousand applicants that are trying to become part of the small group of eighteen to twenty that will go on board the Von Braun outside of the already selected basic crews. The entire selection process has turned into a mix of showboating and performances as well as those who are deadly serious about getting on board. Hachi, with nothing to his name outside of the bag over his shoulder, finds that there's a lot more he didn't think about since he can't even camp out in the park while going through the preliminary rounds. Having to hang out in the homeless district in the streets puts him into a few tough situations but it reinforces part of what's going on in the world. While some are aspiring to reach the stars others are dying around him.

The application process is pretty interesting to watch as the man who is behind a lot of it is the kind of man who has a certainly sense of self and ego about him that lets him be over the top in a few ways that unsettles others. During one of the test sessions where teams of four dive underwater to practice fixing a mechanical error, he doesn't let the safety divers go in with them because in the real thing there would be no safety divers. If the test applicant's can't handle the risk of danger at this level he doesn't want them at the real thing. This comes up a few times in between more standard tests and it's interesting to see how everyone performs under pressure, particularly as Hachi undergoes the testing phases with both Cheng-shin and Hakim.

The rest of Debris Section aren't shuffled off completely though as we see it mostly through Tanabe's eyes as she deals with Hachi's leaving, trying to figure out what happened and where it all goes from there. Since he's not calling her at all, since he wants to have no safety net while trying to achieve his dreams, she's stuck in thought about this but at least not to the point of distraction where she causes problems on the job. In an amusing twist, Claire finds herself assigned to the Debris Section and this brings in some mild tension among some of them as they aren't sure what she's really doing there when she was part of the elite side before. When the entire team is brought over to the moon to help out with a particularly big project now that they're famous, it gets even more curious in the relationships particularly for Tanabe who has a deep seated need to please people.

The series gets into some fairly heavy material as it progresses through the Von Braun storyline and it crosses to all of the characters with a few key phrases being the same among them about certain people being the fortunate ones. The way of the world is covered very well here since it's exactly the same way today and has been for some time and that added level of realism that we've had in glimpses in other ways previously really hits home strongly. It's something where your views on how the world works as well as your position in it will dictate who you side more with and what you think is important. Both of the main areas can of course be important, but it's where you lean more towards that will have someone in a show like this call you a fortunate one.

In Summary:
Planetes has been an engaging show from the start but it's taken awhile for it all to really start tying together and for a few short flashback pieces here to emphasize some of the points that were being made earlier in the series. With Hachi firmly now in the shows lead position and much of what's going on due to his motivation and dreams it has a slightly different feel to it with a bit more urgency and desire mixed in. The socio-political elements that are drawn in here work perfectly with the show and is just as much an element of what this is all about as the ships, stations and spacesuits that they all wear. Planetes doesn't shy away from some of the harder questions and poses it to the characters who, like many of us, don't know quite what to say.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Audio Drama,Trailer Collection,Digital Comic

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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