「軽い、7つの点滅」 (Karui, Nanatsu no Tenmetsu)
“Light, Seven Flashes”
It almost doesn’t feel real, but it really is happening. Mizukami in anime form – it’s like a dream (which makes the opening of the series rather ironic). I actually got quite emotional a few times watching this episode, because this is a legitimately historical moment. When a long-overdue adaptation of a manga masterpiece happens, that’s emotional in itself. But when it’s one of the greatest living mangaka whose work has never, ever seen anime form – not even a sniff – that’s on another level. Better late than never but damn, anime – you’re fucking late.
My take on the premiere of Planet With is pretty straightforward – glorious. Mizukami glorious. So much Mizukami in every frame. There may be no more recognizable mangaka in the world than Mizukami Satoshi – not just in terms of visuals (though his characters are utterly unmistakable) but his narrative style. And not only that, but that style is so perfect for anime that it practically epitomizes the essence of what classic anime is. The perspective, the vibe, the look – I don’t want to obsess over this, but how in the world can this have taken so long?
Sadly, I probably know the answer. Planet With is likely going to tank commercially, and that will probably in turn tank any hopes for future Mizukami adaptations. Not to doom and gloom here, but that’s just reality – I’ve been around anime long enough to know that. Mizukami is a man out of time as a writer, really – he’s way too shameless and feckless in his writing style and character design (physical and literary). And of equal importance, he demands way too much of the audience to succeed in modern anime. In essence, Trigger is what would happen if you took classic Gainax, stripped everything “Mizukami-like” out of it, and let the marketing department write all the scripts.
Surely there are two audiences for Planet With – those who know Mizukami’s work and thus what to expect, and those who don’t. That’s always the case with an adaptation of course (I see this as more of a general Mizukami adaptation that anything, though there is a manga too), but Mizukami is so singular that I think the divide is far more important here than usual. In brief, he’s not going to explain things to you. He’s going to make you (let you) figure them out for yourself, if you’re so inclined. He’s going to make you groan with cheesy humor. He’s going to make you think you know what’s coming, and then totally subvert those expectations. And then he’s going to rip your heart out and stomp on it, over and over.
That’s assuming you stick around long enough, of course – and I suspect a lot of folks won’t. That’s too bad, but they’re the ones who’ll be losing out. This premiere was about as innately Mizukami as it gets, apart from the fact that as the story progresses he’ll artfully steer the audience towards understanding what’s actually happening. For now we have a middle schooler named Kuroi Souya (Abe Atsushi), who lives with a maid named Ginko (Izawa Shiori) and – for some reason – a giant cat he calls “Sensei” who’s played by Koyama Rikiya (instantly recognizable despite only saying “Nya”, and something of an expert on playing big cats lately).
Why does Souya have amnesia, and why does he live with a giant cat? Why does Ginko only feed him vegetarian food? Why does he dream of dragons – and then read about his dreams? The answers will come, but patience will be required. With Mizukami you embrace the madcap strangeness – reading (and now, happily, watching) his work is about living in the present. There’s also a class rep who has a crush on Souya despite the fact that he can’t get her name right (he seems to consider “Megane-sama” her formal title), and a bunch of superheroes – superheroes who’re called into action when giant teddy bears with “Peas” written on their chests pop up all over the world simultaneously. Most important among these seems to be Torai Hideo (Umehara Yuichirou), who became a firefighter after his mother died in a blaze, but gave it up to “protect the Earth”.
Who are the good guys here, and who the bad guys? I don’t know yet, but with Mizukami-sensei it’s likely to be more complicated than that. Sensei and Ginko seem to be on the same side as the giant kigurumi, which may be part of a group called “Nebula”. Hideo and his six cohorts are clearly its enemies. Nebula appears to be closely connected to memory, based on the evidence of what the teddy showed the SDF pilot who tried to blow it up and Hideo (in a very powerful sequence) when he went inside it to destroy it. When Souya is called into action to fight Hideo, he’s highly skeptical and convinced Sensei and Ginko have kidnapped him to make him their hired soldier – but once he sees the item around Hideo’s neck that’s the “source of his power”, he appears to regain his memories. And possibly, to connect that power source to the death of his family.
I don’t know much about Planet With – about the plot, about how long it will run (I’m assuming 12 episodes), or why it was chosen to be Mizukami’s entre into anime rather than Spirit Circle or Hoshi no Samidare (yes, that was an Asahina figure whose pantsu Sensei was sneaking a peek at). But I know it’s Mizukami – would have known in less than 10 seconds, even if I’d never known of its existence before I watched it. I have total faith in this series because I have total faith in the power of brilliant writing, which I think is ultimately the single more important factor in whether an anime can be great or not. That power was amply on display in this first episode, and the seeds it planted will surely bear gorgeous fruit as the story progresses. Those who embrace the experience will be amply rewarded.