What is it?
An anime about garbage collecting, in space? Sounds pretty mundane but that’s exactly what Planetes premise is. Don’t let the rather simplistic premise fool you however as this anime brings forth many deep, philosophical questions and scenarios.
Animated by Sunrise from the works of Makoto Yukimura, Planetes is set in the year 2075 follows trash collector named Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino and his unusual crew on board of DS-12 “Toybox” of the Space Debris Section under Technora Corporation. Their job? Clearing debris in space that might cause damage to sattelites and space stations. Sounds boring but when you think about it, there’s clearly quite a bit of danger involved in the job.
In the background of the whole series is a mission to Jupiter on a new fusion ship called Von Braun and even bigger hints of danger in the form of a group of terrorist known as the Space Defense Front. However all of these are secondary as the series explores the lives crew of the “Toybox” as they go about their job.
Why watch it?
As boring as disposing of space debris sounds, its not so much the setting of Planetes that makes it a must watch, but the characters. The year, the sci-fi setting and so on provide a compelling background for the characters to function in and provides the necessary settings for some brilliant character building. Themes of humanity, with exploration of political, moral and economic questions are peppered throughout the series, drawing you in to care about the characters that explore them.
Not to say that the sci-fi element is a by the way thing, far from it. Planetes sci-fi setting is also rooted in hard current sciences, meaning to say that, whatever physics shown in the anime, it is as realistic as possible. And space is still a hard and dangerous place even with the technology of 2075, giving some pretty tense moments and drama in the series.
Planetes isn’t so much your action packed sci-fi series as it is a thinking man/woman’s sci-fi anime. So if you’re looking at the former, you might want to look at something else. Still it’s an anime that has to be seen, whether you’re a sci-fi fan or not.