- Titles: Planet With
- Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Mecha, Existential Angst, Coming of Age, drama
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: J.C. Staff
There are things in life that are out of our control. Actually, the great majority of things in life are out of our control, we just try to fool ourselves into thinking otherwise. It can be scary and frustrating. For Soya, a young man with amnesia who slowly remembers that his lost everything and belongs nowhere, it’s absolutely devastating. But when an alien species offers him some semblance of control over his own life, what will he do. And who will he sacrifice for it? Planet With is a story about a giant cat fighting with a giant dog even though they are sort of on the same side. It’s also about a princess who dresses like a french maid. Maybe this is one of those shows you have to see for yourself.
It’s not like I ever disliked Mecha shows or anything. I think I sometimes forget that they are not about the mechas. Or at least not in the same way that car movies are about the cars. So I sort of wait until I’m in the mood for a show about giant robots. And yet, out of the last 5 mechas I’ve watched 4 have ended up in my favourites and it’s not like I hated Granbelm. So rather than not disliking mecha shows, it turns out that contemporary mechas might in fact be my thing. I should make a point to watch them whenever they come out.
Did that last paragraph give away my feelings on Planet With? That’s o.k., reviews don’t need twists! In many ways, I felt like Planet With was a spiritual successor to Gurren Lagann and Gurren Laggan broke me in such a pretty way. I really liked this show, and I’m not going to bother faking being balanced or objective about it. I’m just going to tell you why I really liked it… Well, I’m going to try.
I did mention the show om discord once and some people mentioned that the character designs may have been a turn-off to viewers. So maybe never take my thoughts on visuals seriously because I thought the character designs were a strength. They may not fit into the classic anime aesthetics but I found them unique enough to be striking and memorable while remaining rather pretty.
OK, so not necessarily bishi pretty but I honestly found them nice to look at.
Also, the colours are fantastic. Just awesome. There are a lot of them, they are very brilliant and this anime actually made me realize how unusual a varied teal colour palette is in anime.
The animation was also great and I quite enjoyed the voice acting. Particularly Ginko’s character. Shiori Izawa (who I wasn’t familiar with before) manages to inject irreverent innocent fun and deep melancholy in her performance, sometimes almost simultaneously. The very sound of her voice drove home Ginko’s character development in a way I rarely have the pleasure of seeing in anime. It was not the type f performance that jumps out at you or demands attention but when you notice the subtle inflections put into even very casual lines, it’s difficult not to be impressed. I was and I was also rather moved.
Although I did say the animation was great, there is one caveat. The 2D animation was great. There is quite a bit of 3d in the series and I think your mileage may vary on it. I loved the 3d models personally, but in movement, there is a noticeable disconnect with the rest of the show. Personally, it didn’t bother but I could see how others might find it annoying.
Those are the things I liked about the production, but what about the story. I read a post by a fellow blogger recently about the importance of being logical and to a certain degree objective in your reviews. The example given was that stating one didn’t enjoy The Journey of Elaina because they don’t like witches is not best practice when reviewing a show and wouldn’t make for a very convincing argument.
I take the opposite view. I have written a few times on how reviews are inherently subjective and going by personal taste is not only inevitable but also what makes a review unique and interesting. At the end of the day not enjoying a show because one doesn’t like witches, isn’t any different than not enjoying it because it skips the rising action in its narrative structure…and the reviewer didn’t enjoy that. It’s just that more people are likely to share the opinion of the latter.
I also don’t really think reviews are supposed to be convincing in any way. I have rather unusual tastes and it’s unlikely that someone will like everything that I like. Generally, I try to share the elements I noticed that made me either enjoy or dislike a series so that the readers can make up their own minds.
Having said all that, Planet With is an often bizarre show that deals with the very classical themes of depression and coming of age. And I like both of these things. It is also a character-driven narrative which tends to be my favourites. Finally, it’s a drama that doesn’t dwell on emotion. This is key to making me enjoy dramas.
Let me explain these a bit more. The central themes of Planet With are really very common for both anime in general and mecha anime in particular. The classic coming of age story is intertwined with a study of depression and a theme of overcoming grief. It’s essentially Natsume. There’s even a weird cat called sensei!
But it also addresses these in a larger philosophical context. One of the recurring questions asked throughout Planet With is is it better to be Just, Fair or Right? And it basically suggests that there is something functionally dissonant between the concepts of justice, fairness and righteousness. Moreover, one’s personal emotional state will deeply affect their understanding of these concepts.
This central question is asked over and over again, along many different angles and from very varied perspectives with no real answer. And although I have heard many people argue that there are too many storylines in Planet With and it feels too spread out because of it, the fact that this one question is the main concern of the entire series gives it a clear focus. At least, it did for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe Planet With would have benefited from a 24 episode run instead of the restrained 12 but I still felt it was clear and compelling as is. I don’t think the story is rushed or unfinished but I do think it could have explored some concepts a lot more deeply and that it obviously had the tools to create some more interesting episodes.
I have often found that the concept of a character-driven plot tends to be personal. As in some people call shows character driven that I would call anything but. So when I say that Planet With is character-driven I don’t mean it has no action or that it’s a character study. It is in fact quite full of action. And although a lot of attention and weight is given to character development, there are simply too many of them to develop that deeply in 12 episodes.
However, all of that action is in service of the characters. If anyone else was going through these events, they would have played out differently. In fact, they may have played out better, or more cinematically. The plot bends itself the the characters. This means that when the characters aren’t at their best, the events can slow down. This said the pacing was so that I did not find the series to drag at any point.
Finally, I said that Planet With is a drama that doesn’t dwell on feelings. On a practical basis, it’s a 12 episode show with a lot of characters, a lot of action and a lot of weird aliens to explain. It simply can’t spare 2 full episodes to watch someone mope around. But I also mean it in another way.
There are many narrative and production tricks that are used to elicit specific emotions from an audience. Using them is not a bad thing at all, it’s a basic filmmaking tactic. Sad music behind a generally neutral scene, small revelations or flashbacks abut a character that serves no actual purpose to the plot. Those sort of things. Planet With does use a few, but much less than average. It seems to rely on the audience deciding the emotional impact for themselves. Which is risky. It worked for me but I can see how it can end up creating a clash for another viewer.
Finally, I found Planet With to be fantastically subversive in many ways. In twelve episodes, there are 3 endings. As in there are 3 separate episodes which feel like the natural endpoint of the story yet it goes on. That is so weird. Planet With also starts off shrugging off some of the most classic tropes of the genre in the very first episode.
We start off with an amnesiac protagonist that remembers everything within 15 minutes. Who does that? The morality of the main characters keeps changing in occasionally uncomfortable ways. This of course is a reflection of that question the show keeps asking. However, unless you just root for whoever has the most screen time or whoever you find the cutest, it is genuinely difficult to find the moral high ground in the story and the series itself stubbornly refuses to impose one. Also pretty unusual and it makes for some rather odd moments.
Planet With is an ambitious series that doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’s also a demanding series, putting the chore of deciding the message and the impact mostly on the audience. It can be quite funny, often really weird and it did make me cry a couple of times. I liked it because it was full of stuff I like. Maybe you would like it too!
Favourite character : Ginko! Although I also have a real soft spot for cats called sensei!
Suggested drink: A Salty Cat
- Every time the CG annoys you – take a sip it’ll pass
- Every time we see the Cat Ship – take a sip
- Every time Soya doesn’t get to eat meat – get some carrot sticks
- Every time Soya sleeps for days – be jealous
- Every time Soya forgets the class rep’s name – just you wait
- Every time Nezuya sparkles – cheer
- Every time the air raid alarm sounds – take a sip
- Every time Yousuke has a question – take a sip
- Every time we see a newscast – pay attention
- Every time Soya walks home with Nozomi – take a sip
- Every time Soya (and the rest of us) doesn’t get an explanation – take a sip
- Every time we see anyone’s long lost brother – pour some out
- Every time anyone mentions the dragon – switch to water
In case you’re new here, I have a Pinterest with all my screencaps (there are a lot!). If you can’t find a show you are looking for in my main boards, just go to Anime Screenshots. I move the shows I have reviewed there. Of course, I’m still going to add a few images here!