「ロボットの花束」 (Robotto no Hanataba)
“The Robot’s Bouquet”
The original Planetarian ~ Reverie of a Little Star was developed by Key, the same folks who brought you this season’s Rewrite, amongst other things, but they didn’t call it a visual novel. Instead, it was the start of a new line of products called the ‘Kinetic Novel’, as if Planetarian was something very new and dynamic. For most purposes, though, Planetarian could still be considered of the visual novel medium, a text-based experience accompanied by music and still graphics. The main difference was the size; Planetarian, unlike most visual novels, lacked choices of any kind and had no branching route structure. As such, it was also short, easily finished in a single sitting of a few hours, which would have been impossible for previous Key monstrosities like the aforementioned Rewrite. It wasn’t all too much different to a light novel with a soundtrack, or maybe a radio show with pictures—that is, it was a very distilled story experience. This makes it prime anime adaptation material, since it’s not too long, it’s completely linear, and is relatively simple with only two major characters in Hoshino Yumemi (Suzuki Keiko) and the unnamed Junker (Ono Daisuke). Combined with the visual and sound design assets ready and waiting to be used, a Planetarian anime was a long time coming.
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this adaptation per se, mostly because I didn’t see it coming. I read Planetarian a good ten years ago, and thought that, after all this time, it had been laid to rest. I also had some conflicted feelings about it. I remember quite enjoyed reading Planetarian, at least until I got to the end. The ending, I took issue with, which coloured my entire experience for some time until I got my hands on the epilogue story Hito no Hoshi, which wrapped up the Planetarian narrative much better. Hito no Hoshi is going to be a separate movie from this original net animation, so I at least have confidence that there is every intention to do Planetarian justice. I can perhaps go into some of my concerns about the story when the series of net animations is actually finished and I can be free with the spoilers, but perhaps I won’t need to anymore if Planetarian the anime aims to be a definitive adaptation and smooths out some wrinkles in the original.
For now, I’ve enjoyed this Planetarian pilot, as I did the start of the visual/kinetic novel. That should be no great surprise, as the team lead by director Tsuda Naokutsu has done good work. Not only is the OVA (ONA, whatever) budget in play here, so everything looks pretty good, but the VN (let’s just call it a VN, it’s a novel, and it’s visual) has also been translated to the anime medium quite well. Sure, I noted above that Planetarian doesn’t make the task particularly hard, but it’s by no means trivial. Planetarian was driven mostly either by dialogue or first-person internal monologue, so it’s notable that in its anime incarnation it’s strongest scenes are when there’s no talking at all. Both the ambience of the setting and conflict of the protagonist come out clearly without any narration, which is just making use of anime as an audiovisual medium. I am all for more showing and less telling in my anime.
I could be biased though, since I pretty much enjoy the genre by default. I love sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic settings in particular; show me some artistically old buildings and I’ll sing whatever praises you wish of me. There’s some Isaac Asimov-style rumination on robotics, too, but while I enjoy that immensely as well the post-apocalypse is the main focus of Planetarian. Why do I enjoy such depressing subject matter, though? I think it’s about the role it plays in science fiction. What distinguishes science-fiction from other fantasy (and I do consider sci-fi to be a form of fantasy) is that it presents a vision for the future. They are about imagining the continuation of the story of mankind. For classical sci-fi, your Jules Verne and whatnot, that vision is mostly hopeful, about what mankind can achieve next. More recently, space has been that next frontier. Take the older Star Trek: it proposes that, in the future, mankind has solved all its problems, everyone’s keen on exploration, everything is hunky dory. An optimistic vision, still. Post-apocalyptic fiction, though, was born from the nuclear age, and the realisation that mankind may very well destroy itself. The vision it presents is a pessimistic one. Rather than imaging the continuation of the story of mankind, it offers its epilogue.
That’s the kind of tale Planetarian. It’s made by Key, so it’s more or less bound by law and custom to be sad. But unlike Maeda Jun’s works (Planetarian was written by Suzumoto Yuuichi), Planetarian is sad by its very setting. The tragedy is in the fall of the human race. But sadness itself does not make drama. Hence Hoshino Yumemi, an advanced gynoid, enamored with the stars, the representing that hopeful vision of sci-fi, to contrast the bleak setting and her co-protagonist, the Junker, who has no name, who is completely jaded, who has no time to gaze upwards. Yumemi is more pleasant than the grouch, of course, but the Junker’s impatience, his paranoia, and his obsessive scavenging are necessary to survive. Yumemi’s good-natured cheer, her naive positivity, and her unfailing faith in her colleagues are the bounds of her programming, even malfunctions. The light she and her planeterium represent have no place in this future. That is why The Reverie of a Little Star is sad.
ED: 「Twinkle Starlight」 by 佐咲紗花 (Sasaki Sayaka)