OP: 「One Unit」 by (Minami)
There’s no question that Planet With is the full-on Mizukami Satoshi experience. It has the randomness, the unsettlingly dark undercurrents beneath the goofy facade, the deep sense that whatever you think you know, you probably don’t know it. What’s different, of course (for veterans of his work), is that we’re experiencing it in anime form for the first time. And it’s made me realize in a way I didn’t just from reading Mizukami’s manga what a contradictory figure he is.
How can a show be both so Platonically anime at the molecular level, yet simultaneously stick out like a sore thumb? That’s the question Planet With asks me every time I watch it. I thought it might just be a matter of Mizukami being anachronistic, but it goes beyond time (though that’s certainly a part of the answer). Yes, Planet With does play like an anime from an earlier era, but it’s also the way he pieces these core anime elements together that seems so odd. I think there are patterns and formulas that have become so ingrained in us as anime viewers that we don’t realize they’re present until we miss them when they aren’t. All of the familiar building blocks are here, but they’re being used in ways we don’t really ever see them used.
That extends to the exposition in a Mizukami series too, of course. There are things which are both true and misleading, in ways that only become apparent with the passage of time. What he tells us serves to remind us of what he doesn’t, and why what we’re seeing doesn’t necessarily make sense. For example I have no reason to doubt that “Grand Paladin” exists for the reasons its apparent leader, Ryuuzouji Takashi (Nomura Kenji) says it does – to protect humanity from what it sees as an invasion. But I sure as hell know that’s not the whole story.
I suspect that the lie behind that truth is rooted in the woman who seems to be Takashi’s second-in-command, Shirashi-san (Goto Saori), though that’s merely a hunch at this point. I also wonder if there’s a clue in Ryuuzouji’s name (I don’t know how it’s written in Kanji, but perhaps “momentary dragon”?), given the prominence of dragons in Souya’s dreams. It’s an odd group to begin with, and the old man we’ve seen as part of it seems to be Takashi’s father Takezou (Kiyokawa Motomu) – a man obsessed with steak to the point of becoming a legend for it.
The obsession with meat is strong with Planet With – is it (and vegetarianism) a crucial plot element, or just a running gag? That’s the thing with Mizukami, you can never tell, because he treasures his running gags (hell, even Sensei’s pantsu obsession may prove important) like diamonds, and treats them as such. Meat plays a crucial role in the short reunion of Souya (who turns out to be a small high-schooler, not a middle-schooler) and Torai, who’s searching for the boy who foiled him in an effort to remain useful to Grand Paladin, but finds his memories of their encounter were blocked (amusingly, Sensei’s face is obscured by an image of his own face). Poor Souya thinks he’s getting a butaman out of the encounter, but it turns out to be anpaman in the end (yeah, the meat thing is important somehow).
Another encounter with one of Nebula’s giant beasts follows – this time it’s a mega-pig with “Smile (5m1le?)” on its forehead. Again, are these written messages a gag or a clue (I’m suspecting “Peas” was a misspelling of “Peace”, though that doesn’t answer the question). Ginko-san reveals more of the truth to Souya – she and Sensei aren’t behind these giants’ appearances, but are related to those that are – both are part of Nebula. She and Sensei are part of the “Pacifist Faction”, while the beasts belong to the “Sealing Faction” – the difference being in the way each views the threat humanity’s increasing technological prowess brings, and what to do about it.
That whole exchange strikes me as a glaring example of how to lie by telling the truth – both for a writer and a character. Ginko doesn’t want Souya to understand everything yet, I’m sure of it. For Grand Paladin the task is simple (because that’s how it’s presented to them) – destroy the beast and save humanity. This time around the one taking the lead is Inaba Miu (Ohwada Hitomi), the twintails girl who idolizes her comrade Kumashiro Haru (Fuchigami Mai, who also performs the ED song). Everyone in this group seems to have a hangup, and for Miu it’s size – she overcompensates for her own lack of it by an obsession with being strong, while her much bigger friend Haru takes a subservient role. And like Torai, she confronts her illusion and defeats the enemy, though as yet none of these enemies has actually done anything threatening.
If I’m betting, both the Paladins and Souya-kun are being lied to – there’s truth in the story they’re being told, and as yet neither version contradicts the other – but there’s deception buried inside it. They’re being used to fight each other, and so far Souya has the upper hand – the battle with Miyu is tougher than that with Torai, but he does defeat her and enable Ginko to nab her vial of power. But Torai seems to have led the others to him, and now he faces the five remaining Paladins – and their boss – all at once. Perhaps this crisis will force Sensei to reveal more than he’d prefer to at this point in the story, and get both Souya and us a little closer to the heart of the matter.
ED: 「Rainbow Planet」 by (Fuchigami Mai)