「カレルレンとラシャヴェラク」 (Kareruren to Rashavu~eraku)
“Karellen and Rashaverak”
So, let’s start with a stipulation. Any discussion of Planet With from me – as to the merits of any specific episode or development – comes in the context that I think this series vastly outpaces every show this season (except Hi Score Girl) in terms of scope, vision and sheer quality. It’s the most accomplished, relevant and historically significant mecha anime in a very long time (I’m struggling to come up with a good recent counterpoint, to be honest). In many mays – maybe most ways – it’s a masterpiece, in a genre that’s become far too staid and self-referential in recent years.
With that said, what’s interesting is that I’m kind of struggling with what to make of the last couple of episodes. It’s almost scary to imagine what Mizukami Satoshi could have done with two or three cours, he’s cramming so much sheer content – intellectual, emotional, narrative – into this short series. In effect, we’ve had two “seasons” already, with their own finales – Episodes 6 and 10. That sets us up for a two-episode final season, post timeskip (which was a surprise). This is not gimmickry by any means – if one looks at the narrative structure of Planet With, Episodes 1-6 and 7-10 are treated very much as seasons in their own right. It’s just that Mizukami is so efficient as a writer that he can actually pull that off, when almost no one else could.
My feeling right now, and it’s certainly one that I hope changes, is that this show peaked at Episode 8. That was the apotheosis of all the ethical and moral pondering and character-building that Mizukami had lovingly shoehorned into Planet With. At that moment in time it looked like no less than a deconstruction of shounen sci-fi in general, and mecha in specific. There are certainly still elements of that in the past two episodes (I don’t know how anyone could not have thought of instrumentality last week) but on balance, they’re less ambitious than what came before them.
I really think what’s happening here is that Mizukami-sensei is very much experimenting. This is his first time writing for anime after all (though there is a Planet With manga too, and I’ll be interested to see if there are major plot differences). He’s playing around with what works for him, and then extrapolating whether it will work for the audience. What these past two episode have felt like to me – especially this one – is great conventional mecha anime. But not much about the first eight eps felt conventional, and that’s causing a bit of a disconnect for me.
Things are rather neat at the moment, it seems to me. “Season 2” basically came down to one big fight, the good guys vs. the (sorta) bad guys. And it was a great fight – rousing, beautifully choreographed, emotionally engaging. You probably can’t stage something like this using a lot of CGI in the mix and do it much better, to be honest. The pacifists were right and the sealers were wrong, the pacifists – through their three-headed bastion of decency and martial spirit – carried the day with the help of a surprising ally. And in the end it turned out that the sealers really just wanted what was best for humanity in their own way, like any loving parent – they were just too strict about it. All is forgiven, now let’s move on to fight (eventually) the real enemy.
This is all well and good in its own right, and I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent with the characters as they’ve been developed. It was great to see Nezuya-sempai back, and Takezou’s surprise entry into the battle was a great twist. And the vocal theatrics of Wakamoto and Koyama – “Wao!” “Nyan!” – were thoroughly spectacular. But… I mean, there has to be more here, right? What happened to all the ethical-moral ambiguity equity that was banked up over the first eight episodes? I’ve never seen Mizukami fall back on straightforward and clear-cut denouements for his stories before, but as I said – experimenting…
The last real chance I see to change course is with the People of Paradise, because it seems as if the “Rashaverak and Karellen” thing was more a homage than foreshadowing. If things with Nebula seem too neat, that thread is way too neat for me. A benevolent super-race looking out for everyone’s best interests, and a Bahamut-like monster that must be defeated in a grand spectacle to save the universe? If that’s where Planet With goes I’m sure it will execute it as brilliantly as it’s possible to execute it, but that climax would be a major anti-climax to me. Life is all about hard choices with unforeseen consequences, and so is every Mizukami manga I’ve ever read. I get that things are different with Planet With in a very obvious practical way, but I’m hoping they’re not that different. Season three, I suppose, will provide the answers.