In 2075, eager but maladroit Ai Tanabe, the heroine of the sci-fi broadcast series Planetes (2004), arrives at Space Station ISPV-7 and discovers she's been assigned to the Debris Section: the department charged with clea... more »ning up the orbiting junk that threatens interplanetary navigation. Ai immediately begins squabbling with her jaded partner, veteran spaceman Hachirota "Hachimachi" Hoshino. The set-up of a feisty newcomer joining a team of hardworking but underappreciated grunts recalls Patlabor, and the feuding friendship between Ai and Hachirota is anime boilerplate. But Hachirota has more depth than the usual diamond-in-the-rough character, and the setting allows for some imaginative storylines. The result is an entertaining, if not terribly original series. The two-disc set is loaded with extras that go beyond the standard interviews with ADR director Tony Oliver and voice actors Kirk Thornton (Hachirota) and Julie Ann Taylor (Ai): photographs of real space debris that's fallen to Earth, and a discussion with NASA officials, who explain there may be 15,000 objects 10cm or larger orbiting the planet at speeds approaching 8 km./sec. (Rated 13 and older: violence, alcohol and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon« less
"As a viewer of Japanese animation for about (gasp!) 25 years, I'm astonished at how fast this terrific series has risen into my top 10 list. (The top 5 is already permanently filled, but that's another review entirely.) It's a deft combination of real science and emotional interplay, set during a time when humanity has FINALLY taken the first real steps into the solar system, building a colony on the moon and discovering a wanderlust that will push ever outward. First, though, there's a mountain of trash to be cleared out of Earth's orbit; literally millions of tiny (and not so tiny) bits of debris travelling faster than bullets that can punch clean through a spaceship. The main characters in Planetes are at the bottom of the sociology of the time, yet they perform the most important service imaginable: they're trash collectors. Through their eyes we witness the social and political paradigm shifts that are being caused by access to this new frontier. Some nations are at the forefront, others are being left behind. The series leaves nothing out, often mixing the big picture with the most intimate and touching moments I've seen in any anime series in a long time.
Long story short: if you're a hard science-fiction fan with an eye toward realism, this is the anime you've been waiting for (I often get the feeling that if Arther C. Clarke were to write a series, it would turn out pretty much like this one). If you're an anime fan, here's one of the best examples of the medium you can find. 26 episodes, infinite enjoyment.
(And while you're at it, you'll want to read the manga of the same name. The two versions of the story overlap, but each has its own unique elements.)"
A great first volume.
Michael Valdivielso | Alexandria, VA | 06/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First, Planetes is a powerful anime based on a good, solid manga. With five episodes on the first disc, you get a nice beginning to the story, with a foundation on the characters, the time and the setting. The first episode even has commentary with the Japanese director and two of the main Japanese voice actors (while they're all drinking beer). And the English voice talents are some of the greats in the business. Kirk Thornton, Julie Ann Taylor, Wendee Lee, Jamieson Price, Steve Jay Blum, Tony Oliver, Crispin Freeman, Lex Lang, Steve Kramer and much, much more. The second disc has interviews with Tony Oliver (who is also the English ADR director), Kirk Thornton and Julie Ann Taylor, as well as members of NASA's REAL Orbital Debris Department! There is also a photo gallery showing real debris that has fallen back to Earth, audio dramas in Japanese and the normal trailers you find on a anime disc. This special edition is truely special and does not cost you an arm and a leg. A must for any fan of anime, sci-fi, Wendee Lee (YEAH) or anybody who enjoys a good, solid story!"
The Best Series of the Year
Strategos | In Space above Planet Earth | 04/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No doubt about it, 2005 was a good year for anime. In the same year we got Galaxy Railways, Samurai 7, and this awesome gem. If you boil it down to it's basic components, Planetes about the lives of people in the not-so-distant future who work in outer space collecting garbage from the Earth's orbit (the literal translation of the Greek word Planetes is "Wanderers"). In actuality, this show is so much more it's very difficult to describe. You could say it's more like a traditional television show (or even documentary television) than most anime (no fan-service, giant robots, exaggerated body types, over-the-top action, ect). It's so grounded in reality that you could be forgiven for wondering why you would even want to animate it in the first place. The characters are ordinary people, their working environment is very realistic, much of the drama comes from the personal struggles of the characters, and there is NO sound in space. Furthermore, under the the tight direction, superb dialog, exquisite characterization, detailed artwork and smooth animation, you will find the soul of outer space arguably not glimpsed since a certain Gainax classic.
If I were to try to describe the spirit of this show, I would say it is very like the legendary Wings of Honneamise. In both that film and this series, we are presented with a world that has lost it's idealism, its hopes and dreams, and is being swallowed up by greed, laziness, and self-interest. Like that universe, here it is shown repeatedly that despite the cold, unfeeling, uncaring world, there are always little ways that the true beauty of humanity (and indeed, the universe) can shine through. If this show has a motto, it's gotta be something like "There's a big, scary, cruel world out there... but I don't believe in it."
This romantic idealism is personified by the kind female protagonist, Ai Tanabe. Introduced in the first episode and one of the two main characters from there on out, Ai is one of the greatest, to say nothing of most human anime characters I have yet witnessed. At once timid, shy, sweet, tough, strong, and righteously motivated, her character makes a perfect foil (perfect match?) for the rough and cynical Hachimachi (the headband wearing wannabe). The true genius of their relationship is, of course, that despite the fact that Hachi is always acting like a person totally grounded in reality who only cares about himself, he actually has dreams, ideals, and deep feelings that he hides deep down. In other words, he's just like her.
There are many other characters, and all of them save one or two receive considerable character development time in this series. In the beginning and middle of the series, there are entire episodes devoted just to the back story of a single character. And of course, despite the realistic setting, we see again and again what might be called miracles by the true believers and amazing coincidences by the unmoved.
Through the course of the show we get to see some wonderful drama, greatly enhanced by the use of the silence of space and some very appropriate music. Again, the realism of the series serves to further strengthen things, as we find ourselves thinking of the characters as real people, and feeling their deep inner struggles.
If I had to describe the animation style of this show, I'd say it looked somewhat like the style of The Cat Returns. Everything has a somewhat pastel coloration, people and buildings look detailed, but somewhat sketchy (as opposed to the sharp angles or overly round looks most are familiar with). The spaceships, machinery, and other fine points are meticulously detailed, and CGI is used carefully and sparingly (again, only enhancing the presentation).
If there are any downsides to this excellent show, they would probably be either the comedy (which I personally love, but some people find too bizarre), the somewhat awkward beginning of the first episodes, and perhaps the ending theme (it just doesn't seem to go with the epic feel as well as the opening theme which I absolutely love).
Everyone who is a fan of serious science fiction, drama, or just plain old good anime or good TV shows in general needs to watch this series. I was hooked from the first time I saw the intro with the first rocket ships taking off, and knew it was a classic when the final episodes had me in tears. This one gets my highest recommendation."
Collector | USA | 10/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Planetes is one of the few anime series I've watched lately that have really managed to impress me. When I first started watching I was shocked by the high animation quality. It was almost like watching a movie not a TV show! And the way the background music and scenery come together was extremely beautiful to watch. Secondly, I was impressed by how the creators managed to make such a dull sounding storyline so interesting to watch. There is much excitement and danger to be found in the debris collector job and the creators have managed to successfully convey the importance of the task from the start. This is a highly enjoyable anime series for mature audiences who can sit back and enjoy a good story without magical creatures and robot transformations. One minor quibble I would have is the fact that some of the characters are too darn cliche. But other than that, Planetes looks to be shaping up to be one of the quality animes being released at this time."
Best "realistic" sci-fi show created.
Cumulus Nimbus | Orlando, FL USA | 02/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As far as near-future or alternate future sci-fi goes, this story is by far the best. The music is great, the english dub is superb, the animation is clean and visully appealing. There are many details to space exploration found in the show to keep it plausible. If you are interested in the space programs, and anime, you will love this show."