One's favorite anime is often not what they would consider the best anime. It's hard to be purely objective, as personal tastes will always come into play when someone considers something a favorite of theirs. Citizen Kane is not everybody's favorite movie, after all, and my slice of life bias has always been prominent. But there are times when one must adhere to what their heart says and recognize that some shows are just really, really well made. Some shows are just so perfectly constructed that you just can't help but love it. Is Planetes my favorite anime? Not necessarily. But Planetes is, in my opinion, the most well-constructed anime I've ever seen in my life, and my number 1 pick for the 13 anime I watched from Fall of 2015 to Winter of 2016.Summary:
Humanity has finally spread to space, colonizing the moon and spreading through the solar system with plans to begin a quest to Jupiter in works. However, an incident resulting in a space shuttle's destruction has resulted in the need for trash and shrapnel sent through space to be collected to keep space safe. This is the job of Technora Corporation's Space Debris Section, to which newbie astronaut Ai Tanabe finds herself assigned. There, she meets Hachirota "Hachimaki" Hoshino, and astronaut that dreams of owning his own spaceship, and the eccentric crew of the DS-12 "Toy Box", and she joins the crew in retrieving the trash humanity leaves behind in the barely respected career as a space janitor. The job takes this crew through the best and worst of humanity, the mysterious cosmos of space, and their own relationships.Pros:
This show is firmly grounded in reality. It's a sci-fi show, but all of its science is logical and, dare I say it, sounds actually pretty likely to happen. Tons of effort is devoted to realism, from the way astronauts move through space to how all their science and politics and processes should work. One of my absolute favorite details is that the only sounds you hear during space scenes, outside of music, is what the astronauts can hear through their headsets, meaning voices of others over the radio or when they thud their helmet against a surface. And that realism carries through the characters and writing, too. The show can certainly be comedically cartoony, but the character motivations are all very natural and human. And pretty much the entire cast has some kind of relevance or arc. Everyone on the crew, most characters outside of the crew, it's insane how much attention is given to this ensemble cast in a mere 26 episodes; nobody feels left behind. And they're very unique in their morals and ideals, too; everyone is flawed, even the "girl scout" archetype of Ai Tanabe. Everyone just has an amazing scene or at least a highlight of some sort, it's a shock to me that longer shows aren't able to develop a cast as much as this 2-cour space janitor show. Very diverse, too, with about a dozen different races and nationalities present. The show is able to be both really fun and really dramatic without feeling like it has too much whiplash. At its lightest, this is an astronaut slice of life of a crew getting into antics in space as they try to get a bigger budget or meet eccentric characters or even fall in love. But at its darkest, the show tackles politics, existentialism, nihilism, death, abandonment, trauma, and more. This is a show that is able to introduce sympathetic characters that are terrorists, and that is a damn impressive feat. The show even mixes up its light and dark themes, with stories involving things like having to frequently write your own will being a casual office activity. It all works really well. Even the romance is largely well done, with only a little melodrama and a lot of fairly realistic tension and interaction. The writing all really makes this series, led by an excellent cast that has a lot of chemistry. Even the one-off plots are fun and engaging and interesting; the anime is from 2003, but the visuals still really hold up. The animation isn't the most complex, but the character and set design is fantastic enough to make it hold up, and the motions and linework all make it really hold up. Music's pretty solid, too, and the show does my favorite thing with its OP, "Dive in the Sky" by Mikio Sakai, where the visuals actually update over the course of the show as new revelations and plot threads come to light. Direction is pretty solid, with some interesting visuals and really selling the more intense moments well. The dub starts rough, but it gets going quickly, with an amazing cast of Julie Ann Taylor, Kirk Thornton, Jamieson Price, Wendee Lee, Doug Stone, Steve Schatzberg, Kate Higgins, and cameoing Crispin Freeman, Johnny Yong Bosch, Steve Blum, Michelle Ruff, Dave Mallow, Paul St. Peter, Lara Jill Miller, IT'S A REALLY GOOD CAST. I can't even say anyone steals the show, it's just all really good. And like...I don't know, do I need to keep going with this? Direction, animation, characters, writing, plot, themes, setting, science, sound design, opening, voice acting...this show just covers everything. Almost every element just comes together so well, it becomes so easy to forgive its shortcomings when everything things it does well it does REALLY well. And hey, it has a good ending, so that's a plus!Cons:
If there's one thing I need to pick apart, it's how punchable characters can be at times. They can get pretty frustrating at times, especially Hachimaki. He gets really obnoxious in the third act, and while it fits his character arc and does lead to some good stuff, you reeeeally want to reach into the screen and give him a good slap across the face. Aside from that, I...don't really have much to complain about in particular. Some characters might be obnoxious sometimes, some characters are less developed than most, some episodes are a little bit too silly (space ninjas notably). But there isn't a ton I can think of that can't be too adapted to, unless you're sensitive to stories involving terrorism and other sensitive material. It approaches a fine line sometimes without ever really crossing it, I feel. So yeah, it gets kind of frustrating and silly at times, and I suppose the dub does take getting used to, but I don't have a ton to complain about here.High Point:
The cast.Low Point:
Hachimaki's behavior in the last third.Final Thoughts:
Watch Planetes. I don't care how, just watch Planetes. It has its fans, but it's so much more obscure than it should be. This show just impressed me from beginning to end. It's humble yet grand, silly yet serious, down to earth yet up in space. I've certainly never seen something with an environmental message of all things do as well as this, and I really do think it's among the most well-made anime I've ever watched, perhaps even of all time. So yeah, Planetes is pretty obviously my favorite anime I watched in Fall of 2015 and Winter of 2016. It was an incredible couple of seasons for me, and this was simply the best of the best.