by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Planet With ?
After spending its second and third episodes rushing through action scenes so as to better flesh out its plot and characters, episode four of Planet With dials the action and drama back up while moving the story in some surprising new directions. We pick right up with the destruction of last week's Nebula Weapon, though this time we see the vision that Nezuya was trapped in, which consists of almost every cliché otaku fantasy you can imagine being thrust upon him in a veritable flood of adoring classmates and big-breasted step-sisters. Apparently this is so much for Nezuya to process that he actually succumbs to the vision and remains asleep even when Haru destroys the Nebula Weapon.
The conclusion of that fight brings us into the central action of this week, which sees Haru rushing off on her own to challenge Soya to a fight to avenge Miu. A large portion of this episode is simply Planet With rolling up its sleeves and devoting as much time and attention as possible to this fight, and the results are pretty satisfying. There's a certain muddiness to the CG models, and their stocky shapes and limited range of movement are always evident, but this battle is more evenly shot and cleanly choreographed than the show's previous action scenes; it's much easier to make out the individual manuevers, and both Soya and Haru are able to deliver powerful blows that add to the drama of the scene well. Haru is easily the most powerful fighter that Soya has faced thus far, so it's good to see that Planet With is able to follow through with the appropriate level of visual panache.
However, it's the latter half of this fight that really kicks things up a notch, when Miu accidentally distracts Haru long enough for Soya to sneak in a knockout blow. Haru's desperation and anger are strong enough to transform her Photon Armor into a dragon, presumably because of the Grand Paladin's use of the dragon energy that destroyed Soya's home planet. Haru completely loses control, lashing out with so much rage that she starts to destroy the city, and given that neither Soya's crew nor the other Paladins are actually bad guys (save maybe for Takashi), the two opposing forces team up to try and get Haru under control. It's a well animated and storyboarded escalation that's entertaining and exciting in equal measure; we even get a wonderfully silly powerup for Soya in the form of an “adult energy drink”, which upgrades the Sensei-Mecha but also curses them both with a nasty hangover in the morning.It's a thrilling change of pace from the usual formula, and it also complicates the Paladin's relationship with their own Photon Armor. If there's one thing Planet With has proven itself to be remarkably good at over the past few weeks, it's the naturalistic balance between key storytelling beats and surreal or fantastical set pieces. Within the span of these two “Avenger” episodes, we see Soya's blossoming personal life and Nezuya's friendship tossing a wrinkle into the whole conflict, and Haru going berserk forces Soya, Ginko, Sensei, and the Grand Paladins to put their differences aside to work together.
This teamup has some surprisingly drastic consequences for the story, seeing as we're only about a quarter through the series' run. First off is Haru and Miu's emotional reunion, which releases Haru from her berserker rage in the kind of conclusion you'd only find in a ridiculous action anime, as Torai puts it. Not only does this victory mean that both Haru and Miu are out of the Grand Paladin business for now, but Benika's interactions with Soya and Ginko have also given her reason to suspect Takashi's ultimate plans for the Grand Paladins. Sure enough, Takashi admits that once the Nebula Forces are defeated, his plan is to force the world into peace and prosperity under his own personal rule, by any means necessary. Thankfully, Benika isn't down with magical-mecha-fueled fascism, so the episode ends with her storming out and a panicked Yosuke following close behind.
It wasn't hard to predict either Takashi being the antagonist or the other Paladins turning against him, but I would have expected these developments to be saved at least until the halfway point of the series. Pushing Takashi's heel turn to the fourth episode gives Planet With even more room to flesh out the Grand Paladins' personalities and enable more interesting interactions with Soya and Ginko. None of these characters are revolutionary in personality so far, but they're the kind of archetypes that work well enough if they're likable and have good chemistry with each other, which most of our protagonists do by now. Given how fun and charming the story has been, and with the plot moving at such an assured clip, it's easy to just sit back and enjoy the simple aesthetic pleasures that Planet With offers on a weekly basis right now.
Planet With is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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