Subject: Thoth talks Planetes
Posted on: 2020-01-27 13:49:55 UTC
Dammit this manga is good. But I really wish I liked it more.
Let me back up. Planetes is a manga by Makoto Yukimura, the same man who would later go on to write Vinland Saga, one of my favorite mangas ever. It's set in the near future and follows the crew of the DS-12 "Toybox", a ship tasked with cleaning up space junk and debris from earth and lunar orbit—an unglamorous but important job. Yuri knows this all too well: He lost his wife when a single screw hit the spaceship they were in at low-earth orbit. To Fee, it's just another job—a way to support her family and pay for another pack of smokes. For Hachirota, it's a way to get into space, a gateway to better things, to becoming a real astronaut like his father. As for Tanabe... well, she just seems to be glad to be here.
I'm about to rag on this series a bit, so let me just be clear—Planetes is good. Like, really good. It's full of strong sociopolitical commentary, memorable, lovable characters, and the whole story has a strong central message that ties everything together.
The ending has... problems. It really feels like Yukimura was planning something longer and was forced to end it abruptly. Fee's arc does complete, but it doesn't really feel completed—it feels cut short. Hachi's ending scene feels like it came too far along and his arc should have been wrapped up earlier. More to the point, it was wrapped earlier. And new characters like Baron and Colonel Sanders (yes, really. Yes, he does look like the fried chicken mascot. Yes, other characters make fun of him for it) didn't really get the screen time and development they needed to feel fully realized. It feels like the story should have either ended sooner, or later. As it stands, it's somewhere in between and everything feels unresolved. Far too unresolved for the series to end with a big ending speech.
Maybe the anime, which ends earlier and changes around some plot elements, fixes this. I haven't actually seen it so I can't guarantee, but by all accounts it is a very good anime so... yeah.
On the whole, I do recommend Planetes if you can find it. The anime is impossible to purchase or legally stream now so you'll have to either buy it used or pirate it. Meanwhile, the manga got an extremely nice two-volume omnibus release from Dark Horse, which is great... but only the first half is in print. Copies of the second half are available online, but they're going for twice the price of the first half.
Or, if the ideas and strengths interest you but you don't want to go to all this effort, go read/watch Vinland Saga, which is even better and by the same author.