Planet With Episode 12
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Planet With ?
What a perfect ending.
Even though Planet With has proven itself quite capable when it comes to putting together some terrifically exciting action set pieces, it only makes sense that the series would conclude by dialing back the spectacle and really delving into the emotional core of this story: the difficult work of empathy and forgiveness.
Granted, this is still a colorful superhero show about aliens and robots, so the Grand Paladins, the Nebulan forces, and Earth's psychic warriors still get to put on a good show in the first half of the episode, as they amass all of their strength and willpower into one final push against Azrabarakura. It's exciting and well-directed stuff, giving all of our side characters one last sendoff before the story wraps up. The Grand Paladins get to bust out their Photon Armor, Nozomi helps the psychics push the dragon back from afar, and we're treated to the glorious sight of dozens of plushie-looking Nebulans assaulting the beast from space. It's a triumphant and satisfying climax, at least as far as the action is concerned, and I'm glad to report that this last battle lives up to all of the buildup from the past few weeks. Late in the episode, Soya is even afforded the opportunity to tie a bow on the season's best recurring gag, when he and Sensei sucker-punch Azrabarakura with a Tera Cat Clog Hammer.
But this being Planet With, the physical victory is only half the battle, and it comes at a cost. In a desperate gambit, the dragon sends Soya's mind hurtling back to the day of Sirius' destruction, and the following scene is one of the series' most quietly heartbreaking. Soya gets his real brother back, and then he's forced to relive the loss of the family, friends, and countless other lives that were snuffed out in a single instance of unfathomable destruction. Azrabarakura wants this pain to consume Soya and instill him with the same need for violent, vengeful justice that has driven him to remain in his dead husk of a body for untold eons. Fortunately for the rest of our heroes, Soya has learned much from his time on Earth, including what it means to be a true hero, and he, Sensei, and Ginko drag the dragon into the time-space prison, despite knowing that it means almost certain death for both Azrabarakura and themselves.
It's there in the infinite void beyond the universe that Planet With delivers its true climax, which is nothing less than an emotional gut punch. Having forced their way into the dragon's guts to confront the withered remains of Azrabarakura's true self, Soya delivers the secret weapons in his arsenal: gratitude and forgiveness. The dragon's cruel vision has reminded Soya that all he lost is not yet forgotten, and that he can live on with the memories of his people without clinging to the hate that has fueled the dragon for so long. Ginko offers her own gratitude for the lives of the Rielians; she can never condone what the dragon did to Sirius, but she gives thanks to Azrabarakura in spite of his crimes.
Ginko's own debt of gratitude is something that she's carried in her heart for so long that she breaks down in tears having finally been relieved of her burden. If that weren't enough, Planet With follows up with a one-two punch of pathos that literally left me in tears. Soya tells Azrabarakura “thanks for saving my sister”, which is just a completely unfair card to pull on Satoshi Mizukami's part. Then just before the dragon sheds his physical form for good, he's greeted by a vision of Takezo and his mother, who are both waiting for their baby boy in the life beyond this one. These two beats are so perfectly restrained and quietly devastating that I'm getting misty-eyed all over again just writing about them.
Of course, Planet With is a fundamentally optimistic story, so even if it would have been okay for Soya, Ginko, and Sensei's last mission to end with their self-sacrifice, I was quite happy when the People of Paradise pulled our heroes out of subspace at the last second, spitting them out onto Sirius' dead surface. It's still a melancholy place to end the story at first glance, but then Soya stumbles upon a single flower blooming from the soil. Is it an obvious, even corny symbol of rebirth and renewal? Absolutely, but Planet With doesn't have an ounce of shame in its earnest and steadfast belief in the power of positive thinking, so it completely fits the moment nonetheless. And thus the story ends, with the Pacifists marveling over their newest little miracle, the Generalissimo and the others showing up to bring them home to Earth, and the music playing triumphantly as the credits roll.
What else is there to say at this point? Over the course of just twelve episodes, Planet With was able to deliver a tightly-paced, action-packed, and emotionally powerful science-fiction saga. The plot was dense but never confusing, the action was almost always on point, thanks in part to Mizukami's stellar storyboarding, and it was just so much fun to visit this world and spend time with these heroes every week. Perhaps most importantly, this was an unapologetically earnest expression of love, empathy, and compassion in times where such ideals feel in short supply. I think I'll leave off with Sensei's final words for the dragon, which sums things up better than I could:
“Change your perspective with love, and behold, the universe is filled with blessings.”
That really is a lovely thought, isn't it?
Planet With is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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