「パラディンブレイク・1」 (Paradinbureiku 1)
“Paladin Break 1”
I’ve kind of given up on there being any sort of middle ground with Planet With. The audience seems to be mostly made up of those that love it (guilty) and those that consider it a wildly overrated mess. And the latter group attacks any position supporting the former (certainly if espoused by yours truly) as biased in favor of the mangaka. This is a disconnect that’s probably never going to go away, so why worry about it?
For me, the point is not that I love Planet With because it’s written by Mizukami – it’s that Mizukami is a great writer who’s quite unlike anyone else writing for anime these days, and the end product reflects that. In a sense I think Mizukami was always writing anime – it’s just that they were anime in ink and paper, not cels and rendering software. Of course, now that he’s liberated to write anime that’s literally anime, the limiters have come off and he’s exploring (and enjoying) the potential of the medium to the fullest.
With Planet With we have something like a survey course in the history of mecha anime, a genre in which Mizukami has never seriously dabbled. Thus it feels quite different from his other works while still maintaining all the quirks common through all of his catalog (and likely, certain common canon points related to a shared mythology). Mizukami in anime form is like a Shinkai rendering of a cloud or a train station – it’s unfamiliar because it’s not a photo-realistic reproduction, but rather an impression that captures the essential nature of the subject more than that reproduction would.
All that sounds like blahdy blah to the haters, I’m sure, but anime of significance don’t exist in a vacuum – and rather than view them as if they did, it makes more sense to view them in the context in which they were created. As to this particular one, we have a hell of a story playing out, and one of the most interesting elements is the juxtaposition of Souya and Takezou. The whole meat thing certainly feels significant and not just a running gag (though Mizukami can fool you that way, in both directions). My current take is that there’s something in Souya’s nature that will make him turn savage at the taste of meat, thus Sensei is preventing him from tasting it – let’s not forget he’s a “Siriusian”, with the requisite association with dogs (or perhaps wolves?).
But what of Takezou? It’s certainly interesting that he and Souya both told lies – to Yousuke and Nozo-chan respectively – about alien origins, using the same language (“You’re a goof”). But while Souya’s lie (understood to be such by Nozo) was about himself, Takezou’s seemed to be about his son – so why does he love meat so much (or at least obsess over it)? Yousuke has remained in Paladin so Takezou won’t have to fight alone. but the old man doesn’t seem to need coddling based on his battle with first this week’s Nebula beast, and then Souya. His loyalty is seemingly to his son (of whom he says “I knew he didn’t have what it took to be a leader”), not to the cause – but it’s no less fierce for that.
As for Souya, at this point he seems to have regained most if not all of his memories, and he seems quite relieved to unburden himself by sharing them with Nozo. His older brother is most central to those memories this week, and probably for more significant reasons than simply that Souya loved him and misses him. Souya really seems to desire a sense of belonging, and the idea that he’s become a sort of savior to the town has a deep-seated appeal for him. We also learn a bit more about his Siriusian background (Mizukami’s depictions of alien cityscapes are incredibly evocative in their understated way) – Souya describes them as “close relatives” of humanity.
That’s a very ominous comment whose significance is easy to overlook, and the more we learn of the sealing faction the more ominous they seem. Nezuya seems to have been sealed – that is to say, in Ginko’s words, his innermost wishes have been granted but he’s lost his hunger (meat symbolism, again) and “the fire has gone out in his heart”. This seems to be the Hobson’s choice the doggy faction offers – once they decide you’re a threat, either become spiritually and intellectually lobotomized or be destroyed. If that isn’t playing God I don’t know what is. Having seen his friend – his first friend – with all the soul sucked out of him hardens Souya’s resolve that the Sealing Faction must be opposed, no matter the cost.
It can be no coincidence that this week’s Nebula beast is food-themed. And as soon as we see that, it’s a given it’s going to be Takezou that enters it and sees his wishes granted. The old bastard is tough – he enjoys the bacchanal without being tempted by it, and while seeing his late wife Eiko rattles him, he doesn’t succumb. Nebula’s final message to him – “you have nothing to regret”. Of course the fact that this was what Takezou’s heart most wanted to hear tells us that in fact he has things he very much regrets, and one could certainly speculate as to what those might be, but they almost certainly involve Takashi. That’s why even when Souya saves the town from the snake that emerges after Takezou pops the first part of the Nebula beast, Takezou challenges him fiercely – any enemy of his son is an enemy of his.
Things seem very much to be coming to a head here – we may only be approaching the halfway point of the series, but it’s one of Mizukami’s distinguishing features that he can fit an astonishing amount of substance in a limited narrative space without ever feeling rushed (not wasting a single panel or cel will do that). Shiraishi reveals her true colors – they may have been obvious to us, but they were meant to be, as they were to Takeshi as well. The Sealing faction seems to have decided their patience is at an end, and are now in open warfare with Paladin – even as Paladin’s last real soldier is in battle with the Pacifist faction as personified by Souya. The doggies seem like the real enemy here, but if Takeshi is really in this out of megalomania, I’m not sure he can be considered a true ally of humanity. Perhaps either he or his father will realize the truth, and a true alliance for the future be born.