Greetings! This is the first anime review for Anime Constellations, and the first post with any real substance. Today I will be talking about the anime adaption of Planetarian, full title being Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume, which comes more than ten years after the release of the initial visual novel. This is not a review of the movie, which will be in a separate post. This review will be much more me sharing my impressions on the anime rather than a review with a rating. Beware, there will be spoilers.
Without further ado, let us begin the review!
Summary: “It is thirty years after the failure of the Space Colonization Program. Humanity is nearly extinct. A perpetual and deadly Rain falls on the Earth. Men known as “Junkers” plunder goods and artifacts from the ruins of civilization. One such Junker sneaks alone into the most dangerous of all ruins—a “Sarcophagus City.” In the center of this dead city, he discovers a pre-War planetarium. And as he enters he is greeted by Hoshino Yumemi, a companion robot. Without a single shred of doubt, she assumes he is the first customer she’s had in 30 years. She attempts to show him the stars at once, but the planetarium projector is broken. Unable to make heads or tails of her conversation, he ends up agreeing to try and repair the projector…” -MyAnimeList
Planetarian is one of those anime that knew what it wanted to do, and succeeded greatly. The anime follows the adventure of the junker who is referred to as Kazuya in a post-apocalytic setting. He is adventuring through an extremely dangerous city until he stumbles upon a safe haven: the planetarium atop an old mall. To Kazuya’s surprise, it is still lit up and is maintained by the android known as Yumemi (not sure what it is with Key and “yu” names). Unfortunately, Yumemi the android is slightly broken and from there we are thrown into a rather short anime about Kazuya coming to care for and help Yumemi.
First thing to say about Planetarian: the animations is absolutely awesome and detailed (see below picture). Most Key anime have really solid animation, but Planetarian probably has one of the most effective uses of backgrounds out of all of them. The soft light and cleanliness of the planetarium contrasts very sharply against the ruins of the surrounding city. It really sets up what kind of story one has in store. Additionally, the animation of the stars during the planetarium show is just fantastic to witness.
As far as the plot is concerned, it is nearly a perfect adaption to the visual novel. They even retain the anonymity of the narrator’s name, though he is referred to as Kuzuya due to his position as junker or as “Mr. Customer” by Yumemi. The anime makes good use of the short number of episodes (5 total) to create a clear plot and develop the characters. The small cast of only two characters is a huge benefit in this way, as it can focus solely on these characters rather than a large cast and giving them a bare bones personality and moving on (which is exactly what Angel Beats does, but more on that at a later date). There is good variety in the actual layout of the show, with both action sequences and slower moments which helps the anime from feeling stagnant.
The biggest standout about Planetarian is how different it is from the typical post-apocalyptic anime. The anime is not too big on world building, though it still does it to an extent, and instead focuses on the people of the world. The themes even further reflect this. The themes are less about the depravity of humans, and completely lack the political commentary so common in most sci-fi entertainment. Instead, the anime desire to describe how one can find hope even when it seems impossible to find. The anime becomes a bit ambition at times, such as exploring themes of purpose between Kuzuya and Yumemi. Obviously, as the characters have very different background and thus different feelings toward purpose.
The soundtrack work equally well as the setting does in creating contrast between the ruined city and the planetarium, enough so I want to buy the soundtrack. Of particular note is the rendition of the classic hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” which is known in Japan as “Hoshi no Yo” which literally translates to “world of stars.” The song itself is very popular at weddings, which has some implications to the themes of the anime. However, as it is still a hymn and Key is frequently known for including Christian or Biblical themes and symbols in their stories. The main criticism for the soundtrack would have to be ED, which is still a good song, but does not fit the somber mood overhanging the anime. The ending animation is adorable, though, with a chibi Yumemi marching around.
As with anything, Planetarian has its faults. Most of these issues can be found in the plot and its full execution. My biggest irritation was the use of flashbacks, which added next to nothing to the background of any of the characters and mostly just feel like filler, especially in the cases involving Kazuya. In the same line, the use of exposition, i.e. information dumping, is not heavily present in this anime as it is in some, but it is still there. The exposition is at some rather awkward moments, the most notable of which for me was the beginning of the second episode, after we had already been introduced to the world and the ruined city.
The primary criticism it seems to be from most viewers is the lack of full emotion impact, especially compared to other Key anime such as Clannad and Angel Beats. There is plenty of emotion to this anime, and it does have a tragic turn in the end, true to the Key formula. While I did not face this problem, I figured I would address it. I have two theories as to why some viewers wanted more out of Planetarian. The first theory is that it is merely a result of run time. The anime is only 5 episodes, as previously stated, and does allow time to get attached to characters. However, it may not be quite long enough and so a longer episode run would have fixed the issue. However, I feel the more realistic theory is that Planetarian is too predictable for seasoned Key fans. This anime follows the classic Key formula to the letter, and as a result, leaves it feeling predictable. As a more obscure title, most people watching it would probably already be heavily familiar with Key’s formula, and thus find Planetarian predictable. It is still an emotional anime, just not as much as other Key titles.
Thank you all for reading this review of mine! What were your thoughts on Planetarian? Be sure to comment below and let me know; I love to hear what other people think. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter to find out whenever I post new blog entries. Additionally you can check out more Planetarian posts I have written over at RishRaff Reviews using the below links. The first is a more formal review of the anime, and the latter is an analysis of the Christian influences of Planetarian. Thanks again!