Planet With
Episode 5

by James Beckett,

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Planet With continues to barrel through its plot points with peak speed and efficiency this week, further demonstrating the show's deftness at marrying its wacky visuals and motifs with clear and direct storytelling. “Paladin Break 1” is in many ways a place-setting episode, doling out a lot of clarifications and plot developments in an effort to ramp up the conflict to its next major stage. The Grand Paladins now only consist of Yosuke, Takezo, Takashi, along with Shiraishi's support. The latest Nebula Weapon is a massive tower consisting of a giant tortoise that's holding up a handful of elephants who cradle a giant bowl labeled “Universe”, which itself contains a snake, a bunch of rice, and a single cherry tomato (a neat shout-out to the fantasy works of the late Terry Pratchett). Meanwhile, Soya is reckoning with the cost of this war against the Sealing Faction and his own role in it.

The series' core strengths are on full display this week, even if we're in a phase of the story that's more rising action than climax. Takezo opens the episode by using his goofy comic-book origin story for Takashi to mess with Yosuke, which is a great example of how Planet With uses small snippets of character interactions to endear us to its cast, and Takezo remains the central focus of the episode. The vision he must wrestle with when he enters the Nebula Weapon's core is a predictable orgy of sexy women, liquor, and beef skewers, though we finally get a little more insight into the old man beyond his gimmicky meat addiction when he's forced to confront a vision of his deceased wife. Takezo always knew that the Grand Paladins would fall apart, but ultimately he's determined to stand by his son to the end. It's a succinct emotional beat that earns the pathos it squeezes out of a character who has mostly been a joke up until now, and it explains why Takezo so eagerly goes to cut down Suyo, even though he and Sensei jumped into the fray to destroy the remaining Nebula weapon.

This turn in Soya's approach to the fight against the Nebula forces is predictable but satisfying; ever since he started making friends with other humans, Nozomi and Nezuya especially, it was obvious that his bonds with Earth would lead him to fight more fervently against the Sealing Faction. Nezuya's failure to withstand the Nebula Weapon's vision has left him docile, his edges sanded down and the fire that drove his eccentricities dampened. I thought that Ginko's info-dump about the Sealing Faction's goals and strategies here was a bit too on the nose, but it served its narrative purpose by showing Soya that he can't simply ignore the Sealing Faction in pursuit of his own revenge; sooner or later he'll need to take a more active role in this war.

What continues to be surprising about Planet With's plot is just how speedily it's moved through beats you might expect to fill up an entire season's worth of anime. We haven't even hit this series' halfway point, but the Grand Paladins have been whittled down to the bone. The former members of the squad have gone through their share of turmoil and development, and Soya has grown close enough to Nozomi to spill the beans about his alien origins, the interstellar war he's caught up in, and his own antihero alter ego. We even end the episode with the reveal that Shiraishi has been working with the Sealing Faction all along, and their canine commander, adorably codenamed “Generalissimo”, swallows her into a mech-suit just like Sensei's as Takashi prepares to battle them for the fate of the world. The truth of Shiraishi's allegiance isn't so shocking as a twist, but it certainly works as setup for the game-changing battle. The only thing left to wonder is where could things possibly be headed over the next seven weeks, given how far we've come already.

Rating: B+

Planet With is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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