Planet With has got to be threatening some kind of record as far as efficiency of motion is concerned. I don’t know if it’s possible to do an epic science-fiction series in 12 episodes, but that seems to be what Mizukami Satoshi is trying to do here. There aren’t a lot of stones being left unturned here in terms of either plot or thematic diversity. I’m a big fan of ambition in anime, though as I’ve often said, ambition itself is no guarantor of success by any means. Under different circumstances, I would be highly leery of a writer biting off more than they (or their schedule) could chew – but, well…
What’s fascinating about this, for me, is that this is not a case (I’m pretty certain) of a guy coming to a production committee with 50 eps worth of material and being told he was only getting one cour. This is simply how Mizukami writes, which is why Planet With doesn’t feel like a size 15 foot being crammed into a size 9 shoe. He’s hopscotched genres and even demographics throughout his career, and what I think happened here was pretty simple. He was interested in taking on sci-fi/mecha, got a chance to do it, and decided to take on pretty much all of it. In anime terms, anyway.
As expected, Mizukami chose to take the story forward by looking backwards. With Sensei and Souya still suffering from hangovers (I thought we were headed in a different direction when I saw Ginko with those leeks in her shopping bag), Souya dreams of the past. And interestingly, not only his – I suspect it’s because both he and Ginko are telepaths, but be remembers the destruction of his home world from her perspective. And almost hers, too – turns out she’s a princess from a planet called Riel, which is apparently a peaceful (and vegetarian) one. It was in the process of being invaded by Sirius (Souya’s home world) when Sensei shows up to help – only to have the Siriusians head home at that moment with the news that their world is being attacked by a giant dragon.
There’s an awful lot to grind on here. Ginko choosing to leave her world behind to study under Sensei is interesting – it speaks to Nebula’s exalted status as an icon of reason of stability. The contrast of Sensei and the Generalissimo is also notable – he bounces around from rescue mission to rescue mission like a pinball, while all Wan-kamoto has to offer is really “give it up”. It does make one wonder if the Dragon was really just doing Nebula’s dirty work here – especially when you consider that he brought the full power of Nebula’s empaths to bear on the Dragon, but only after Sirius was destroyed.
We call this the Sealing Faction vs. the Pacifist Faction, but it strikes me that it’s more the consequentialist vs. idealist factions. And that Sensei is not truly a pacifist – he’s a being who loves peace, but is willing to fight for it. That subtle distinction is going to be borne to bear with Souya soon, I’m sure of it – though for now he’s trying to settle back into a school life that has a lot fewer students in it. Many have moved away in the wake of the conflict, but there is a new transfer student – Shiraishi-san. Let the fireworks begin.
Where to start with that one? Well, first off, why doesn’t her mind control work on Nozo-san? Could it be because it’s a sign of human telepathic abilities awakening (possible with Mizukami)? Or is it something silly like Shirashi’s glasses blocking the mind control (equally possible with Mizukami)? And not only that, but Shirashi reveals that she’s recruited Benika-san (who snarkily points out the ludicrousness of Shiraishi claiming to be a student) and Yousuke-san to the Sealing Faction – and declares war with the Pacifist Faction. But that’s a conflict that Souya professes to have no interest in waging – he says it’s not his problem, but I think this is more of a Chief Seattle-like “I will fight no more forever” declaration from Souya – having remembered the consequences of his people’s warlike ways and tasted the bitterness of having taken a life (maybe) he wants no part of battle ever again.
As if all that weren’t a full plate, consider this: in the waning moments of the episode Mizukami introduces yet another variable here, and potentially a game-changer. The man he saw as his brother appears again, but it’s not – he introduces himself as one of the “Peoples of Paradise”, the oldest race in the universe, and says he has no physical body so appears as the perceiver wills it. He also says he was going to ask Souya for a favor, but defers that. Superficially, maybe these POPs are above the fray of the Sealing and Pacifist factions – but everyone else has their agenda, so I’m sure they do, too.
It’s too early to state with any confidence just what Mizukami’s ultimate thematic aim is here, but that he’s taking on the nationalism that’s become the new normal in sci-fi anime (especially that adapted from light novels) is pretty clear. Colonialism and factionalism seem to be in his sights, too. But I’m going to be fascinated to see what tack he takes on the question of pacifism – whether there are some fights that have to be fought, regardless of one’s ideals. Poor Souya is going to in the crosshairs of this existential dilemma – that’s just how it works with this author – and he’s not going to be presented with any clear-cut, easy choices. Neither, of course, will we – and that’s another way in which Planet With presents a start contrast with the direction of sci-fi anime in recent years.