Planetarian Chiisana Hoshi no Yume – 02
「投影機修理」 (Tōeiki Shūri)
“Repairing the Projector”
Week two of Planetarian is a short one, which is perhaps appropriate, as Planetarian the visual novel (let’s just call it that instead of ‘kinetic’) is itself quite short. There’s only a few hours of reading in it, more novella than novel, and five full episodes of anime time would probably have been overkill. Plus, it’s mostly a lot of talking anyway—what you see in this episode, where Yumemi and Okayku-sama exchange dialogue while repairing Jena. Planetarian aims to do basic things: build some sort of chemistry between its sole two characters—a robot and a post-apocalypse survivor—and then do some contemplation based off that. For an audiovisual format like anime it’s probably best to keep that stuff snippy, so 13 minutes for this episode felt fine. It’s interesting that Planetarian is direct-to-web and therefore can vary its episode times like this, unlike a TV show where scheduling requires each episode to adhere to the half-hour (more like 23 minutes, give or take) slot time. One of the complications of adaptation is that each chapter of a book may be of almost any word count, whereas anime is much more procrustean. Planetarian has no such constraints, and it’s good to see them make use of their freedom. It shows some thought in the direction, at least.
So, yeah, mostly talking for Planetarian with some backstory for both the junker and the world in general. I don’t remember much of the original VN (again, it’s been more than 10 years) so I can’t really tell you how closely they’re sticking with the source on that stuff. I do think I remember the rain being highly caustic, though, so the leisurely shower would probably have gone badly in the original. I can see why they would make such a change, if they did. Planetarian spends enough time inside the planetarium (as one might expect) as is, and they need to make use of their nice background artists. Might as well vary the sets a bit. I approve, since VNs are mostly rows of text and a few graphics, and the extra scenery in the anime adds value to the adaptation. The little details aren’t that important anyway, since humanity has so many nifty ways to destroy itself these days that the exact how of it is fairly freeform. The exposition serves the more useful purpose of pointing out some of Yumemi’s robot idiosyncrasies, in the way her memory works, in the way she processes information, and in the way she sees the world.
Many of these sci-fi stories like to have their robots play foil for their human characters, as part of an examination of the human condition and general navel gazing that sci-fi likes to dip into once in a while. Planetarian is no exception, though perhaps without the technical detail that some stories may sometimes get into. What we do know is that Yumemi is entirely incapable of cynicism, in contrast to the entire setting which, being post-apocalyptic, offers a very dim view of just about everything. In particular, Yumemi is an oddly spiritual creature—where robots are stereotypically conceived as coldly logical machines—because her colleagues filled her little head with ideas of robot heaven. I mentioned something about Planetarian being having this spiritual side to it, and here is where it shows. I won’t be tackling lofty metaphysical questions like whether heaven awaits us after death here on RandomC, but the afterlife is one of those things that humans as a whole have never stopped thinking about, perhaps ever since we understood death. Murder, then mysticism, in that order. Is heaven just one of those comfortable little lies we tell our children—noting that Yumemi’s naivete is very childlike indeed—like Santa Claus? But what is the alternative, especially in a setting like Planetarian? There’s these junkers, who scavenge through the corpses of civilisation just to survive. Instead of heaven, robot or other wise, is life hard, the struggle meaningless, and death nihilism? Planetarian juxtaposes the alternatives here, and is often the case for spirituality does not offer a case about what is true. It makes an argument about what one should believe regardless.