planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume – Episode 1

All right. I guess not doing a season preview works better for me as surprises seems to have a greater effect without the hype pre-season window shopping generates. A couple of days ago we had ReWrite, and today we have planetarian. Both of which are yet another addition to the ever growing list of Key adaptations alongside Clannad, Angel Beats!, Charlotte, etc. A couple of noteable difference between the two is that ReWrite is written by Jun Maeda, whilst planetarian was helmed by Yuichi Suzumoto. You thought all Key novels are Jun’s? No worries — so did I. Normally, visual novels have routes the player can end with depending on the choices he/she makes, however, planetarian doesn’t offer the same liberty as it’s one of those “kinetic novels” — a game where players cannot interact with the story, thus there’s basically just one route/ending. Oh, one more thing. I haven’t watched ReWrite yet and I don’t think I’m planning to do so anytime soon. The former is a different case though given that the 19-minute pilot episode left a pretty good impression to me — one that I’d like to talk about.

As per usual, spoilers ahead! If you haven’t watched the first episode yet, do it now. Okay? Okay.

planetarian03I was actually feeling ambivalent at the end of the episode, which is a good sign since I can take that as a hint that planetarian‘s message was successfully conveyed. The first episode creates a melancholic and bittersweet backbone through clever use of directing and its presentation of the environment. We start off with a first person perspective of Hoshino Yumemi (Keiko Suzuki), a rather bubbly and talkative attendant of a planetarium, initially surrounded by gleeful faces, and then cutting on to a scene showing a group of people bidding her a tearful farewell. Now, this gave literally zero emotional impact to me considering that I don’t know who they are or wtf is happening. However, I think that’s basically what the show wants to ingrain on us — that Hoshino is a robot, and that robots do not have any sort of emotions whatsoever. To her, she sees the world as a set of numbers; to us, we see the world on a different light obfuscated by our own human perception. With this in mind, the last few minutes of the episodes felt even more gut-wretching, sad, as I found myself wondering why should I feel remorse, pity, over a “little broken” robot? The same question should ring true to our protagonist, a battle-hardened soldier, who calls himself a Junker (Daisuke Ono) scouring for… well, junks he can use to survive. A mere “thank you” coming from a robot shouldn’t hold any weight, however, the fact that something appreciates you for whatever reason is already a treasure worth salvaging specially in the dreadful world of planetarian. Sure, you can fish a ration worth to pass the day, but a companion who can feed your soul is invaluable.

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Another one of which that planetarian used to convey its message is its presentation of its world and characters, and how it can be tied in with the narrative. planetarian is set in a post-apocalyptic world, wherein evidently almost all of the human population have been wiped-out. A chase scene ensues with Junker escaping from a couple of rouge robots, and then finding himself inside an abandoned planetarium afterwards — a place he himself is unfamiliar of; a place and feeling that is remotely alien to him. The first thing we’ll notice is a bouquet of flowers tools you can normally find from your dad’s jungle garage. I think this unusual trinket signifies something more — that beauty can be found anywhere even amidst an ill-fated situation, so long as you believe it still exist; the stars are always there, and so is Hoshino waiting to greet a new customer. And, this kinda juxtaposes Hoshino’s vibrant attitude and Junker’s gloomy outlook together which makes their interaction and chemistry a treat to watch.

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There are a couple of jokes and gags cracked here and there, but I feel like it’s more of the show subverting the drama. Hoshino keeping count of customers is in itself funny, but at the same time, it felt sad — she kept the tally to heart for over 30 years unaware that no one will come; Hoshino announcing Little Jenny’s start of the show with brimming pride and all, only to find out that it’s broken were both presented in a rather dead-pan and comedic way, but is actually bittersweet if you think about it — she really wants to show Junker the stars, after all. Their actions tell us more about their characters, and the more we read between the lines, the more we learn what makes them tick. Of course, everything Hoshino does is what’s pre-programmed of her, but this actually is what was posed by planetarian from the very star: why should we care for a robot of all things? I honestly have an answer now, but I guess I’ll save that for later and see what comes next!

For an episode that only lasted for 19 minutes, planetarian manages to tell a lot. We probably won’t be seeing high-paced comedic relief prevalent in Jun Maeda’s works, but I have a feeling that planetarian will have the good emotional punch Key loves throwing. Well, then. See you next episode!

Oh, one last thing. You can actually visit planetarian’s promotional website here. Check it out. Do check it out, It’s cool!

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