A lot of times, people think back to the “good old days” of any medium (film, TV, music, anime), and only remember the good stuff. They tend to forget about the huge mountain of shit that got produced every year. That’s why they can get tricked into thinking that the current stuff is terrible, but in the past “EVERYTHING WAS AMAZING ZOMG!!!1!!1!”
Anime is not free from this. While it does seem that, with the onslaught of moe shit, never-ending shows like Naruto, Bleach, and Inuyasha still on the airwaves, and the fact that studio Gonzo still exists, anime is on the decline. However, that isn’t the case at all. Anime companies in Japan have continuously produced giant, steaming turds every single year, just like Hollywood.
One of those turds is a series called Planetes, which, like so many shows, started out as a good idea but was spontaneously aborted by really shitty writing, and what was left was such a bloody mess that nothing of worth could be salvaged.
Planetes, while technically a very well made show (nice animation and great music), had such a disappointing story (notably the ending), that it completely prevented me from enjoying it. I was actually able to sit through to the end, but that was a punishment in itself. Fortunately, I’m a masochist. Once I had managed to drag myself to the completion of the series, I could see why it did not perform well in ratings or DVD sales.
As I mentioned before, the biggest problem with this show is the horrible writing. The depiction of space was excellent and, for the most part, realistic, but the characters were so fucking annoying that it totally killed my interest. Plus, it deals with topics too heavy-handedly to be enjoyable in any way. If I wanted to watch failed relationships, death from cancer, terrorists, and people acting like assholes to one another, well, I already have real life. I don’t need to see it all again in anime form. Anime should really only be about one thing: tentacle rape. And there is no tentacle rape to be found in Planetes. Instead, it’s just a bunch of whiney teenage melodrama that would fit right in on MTV or the CW.
Hachimaki, the protagonist, is the one that annoyed me the most. He’s brash, an oaf, arrogant, self-centered, and all around a huge douchebag. The show could have been great if it had centered on ANY other character: Tanabe, Fee, Yuri, even Hakim would have been better. But instead they picked the least likable and least interesting one.
What I can’t understand are his motivations. He spent his whole life resenting/hating his father for always being away in space and never being there for him and his mother. And then, what does he do? He leaves his girlfriend, family, and friends behind so he can go on a selfish mission for 7 years. What? The? Fuck? He bitches and moans about being alone, but he’s constantly surrounded by people that love him and reassure him. He acts like a complete asswipe to Tanabe who, for some inexplicable reason, loves him regardless. It probably has something to do with how all women* love “bad boys,” and secretly want to be treated like shit.
In the end, after he get the girl and starts a family, he still goes away on the Jupiter mission. After all the emotional shit he went through, it turns out he learned nothing and still considers his own happiness and goals above everything else. Yeah that’s right, there was no character growth whatsoever. After 26 boring, annoying, so bad it’s suicide-inducing episodes, there was no payoff. What was the point of all that anyway? I can’t believe that Tanabe would actually be willing to wait for him for SEVEN FUCKING YEARS with their unborn child (whom he won’t see for first 7 years of its life) almost immediately after their marriage. Way to be there for your family, buddy.
Overall, the writing was just sloppy and lazy. The show began well, stalled a little during the early episodes, picked up steam around the middle, and then just fell apart in the end. Did we really need 10 episodes about Hachimaki doubting himself and acting like a brat to everyone? He’s a bigger whiner than Shinji from Evangelion. At least Shinji kicked some ass once in a while, but Hachimaki doesn’t ever do anything but mope around.
I get the sense that the writers had enough of a story for around 16 episodes or so, but needlessly stretched it out to 26 instead of cutting it down to 13. The fuckos at Anime News Network said: “Planetes is far and away the year’s best sci-fi series [of 2005].” Well, that would be true if they didn’t watch any other sci-fi series in 2005. However, in a year that also produced (at least in terms of U.S. DVD releases) Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Fullmetal Alchemist, Elfen Lied, Scrapped Princess, and Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, there is no fucking way in hell that Planetes is the best sci-fi series of 2005. If by best they actually meant worst, then yeah, it’s the best.
If you want to watch an anime that has good production values, but does not have an interesting protagonist, has no character growth, and has a rage-aneurysm-inducing story, then check out Planetes. You are guaranteed to be disappointed.
*This does not apply to all women, only most of them.