Resides in Austin, TX (USA). Long time connoisseur of anime and manga - I'm an art director, media critic and eccentric. I love to write, draw and travel.
I’m only vaguely familiar with Planetarian. I know it was a PC Visual Novel back in the day and I may have even played it. It was later ported to the Playstation 2. However, I like to pretend to know everything and even so I definitely wasn’t ready for what this mini-series was going to throw at me.
The anime adaptation will be a series of 5 episodes and a movie and though we’re only one episode in, I’m fairly certain that I’ll be bawling my eyes out before it’s all over. I know your type, Planetarian. You’re deceptively cute on the cover but you’re just trying to lure me in to get attached – only to make my manly spirit break when the series concludes. Episode 1 is absolutely lovely and our main character, Hoshino Yumemi is way too naive and sweet. She’s going to give me cavities.
Planetarian takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, about 30 years after a germ bomb went off it the city. We don’t learn much from the episode, other than the survivors call cities like the one the Flowercrest Department Store is in, a sarcophagus city. Apparently there are patrol drones left in cities to wipe out any survivors. No motive is given to the audience as to what caused the war – or why the drones want survivors dead, but it’s definitely not a city you’d want to spend your post-apocalyptic honeymoon in.
After we learn Yumemi’s name from the group of scientists that created her, we time skip immediately to the present, after the bomb has gone off. An unnamed junker (a supply scavenger) is looking for provisions leftover in the city. We can make the assumption that he is gathering these goods for a survivor settlement. The Junker dodges several drones and finds himself at the Flowercrest Department Store. He finds a room with electricity and is shocked (figuratively, not literally) to see power still works in this area. As he searches around he discovers the Planetarium and is surprised when a young girl greets him. She convinces him to stay and watch a planetarium presentation of the stars and he finds out she’s actually a customer service robot. She explains to him that many of her systems are failing and that’s making her more conversational and erratic. He waits around for the presentation to start, but Miss Jena (the projector) fails to boot up.
Yumemi apologizes profusely, and the Junker falls asleep. He wakes up the next day still sitting in the Flowercrest Planetarium. She notices that the Junker has a constellation pendant around his neck and comments that he must love the stars as he’s wearing Cygnus the Swan. The Junker is frustrated because he assumes the broke robot is in a loop. She asks him to stick around for the next presentation, because the repair men are on their way. He realizes that the repair team will never come and almost feels sorry for Yumemi. She suggests he heads to the gift store to wait and he says he will, though he’s clearly intending to leave. When the Junker makes up his mind to head back to his encampment, she tells him she’s happy because she’s finally able to serve. He walks out to return home and just before the episode ends he takes a step backwards.
The first episode of this mini-series astonished me with the detail given to the animation. There aren’t any shoddy frames and the entire episode is beautiful. Lighting is perfect, the atmosphere is dismal and the characters are vibrant. One of the highlights of the episode is the voice acting. It’s easy to give a monotone voice over to an AI or robot, but Yumemi’s voice actor takes it to the next level, delivering ecstatic dialogue – while still giving the impression of being inhuman. Her voice, however, convinces the audience that deep within her metal frame there must be a heart beating. The Junker is rightfully skeptical and it’s easy to project onto him.
There are several mysteries presented to the audience right from the start and it’s going to be one heck of an emotional ride to see how they resolve. There’s a flashback that takes place before the end of the episode which includes a hardened veteran – I think this flashback is going to prove to be the source of some major emotional turmoil before the series is over.
Overall I’d give the first episode of Planetarian a 9 out of 10. The pacing is perfect, the acting is on point and the animation is pristine. The only thing I’m slightly upset about is the length. Planetarian is only 18 minutes long with a 2 minute credit sequence. But it’s always better to be left wanting more.