Planet With
Episode 6

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Planet With ?

By and large, I'd say that the stories found in Planet With's first five episodes tended to land within a comfortable ratio of equal parts spectacle and plot, where little nuggets of character development and world-building would be carefully doled out in between pockets of CG-fueled robot battles. “Paladin Break 2” is almost entirely spectacle, serving not only as a climax to this two-part story arc but to the entire first half of Planet With. Over the course of a blistering twenty minutes, we see Soya take on Takezo while Shiraishi and Generalissimo wage an epic battle with the emboldened Takashi, which all ends up culminating in a showdown between Soya and Takashi that would have felt worthy of a season finale if it didn't come at the story's halfway point.

None of this is to say that Planet With's storytelling suffers at all for the rush, because despite the deluge of action, the show remains as committed as ever to its frank and clear-cut narrative style. Soya and Takezo's fight may seem brief given the dramatic note that last episode's cliffhanger left us on, but Soya's relatively easy victory is a reminder that his grudge against the Grand Paladins was never the show's real central conflict. Not only does Takezo take his loss in stride, but Yosuke hands over the last of the Paladin's vials without any fuss whatsoever, explaining that he was only holding on to it so he could rescue Takezo after Soya beat him. With the last vestiges of the show's original hook out of the way, the rest of the episode is given enough room to allow the former Paladins and Soya's crew to address Takashi's increasingly fraught battle with the Sealing Faction, which is the real focus of “Paladin Break 2's” opening half. This kind of mercenary plotting may not make for especially revolutionary storytelling, but it manages to be both entertaining and efficient.

Besides, Takashi's fight against Shiraishi and Generalissimo more than makes up for the other bout's briefness. This episode sees Planet With operating at its aesthetic best across the board; there's some strong storyboarding on display here, which is complemented by the episode's exemplary direction. The 2-D animation is about as fluid as it's always been, but it looks much better when paired with this episode's particularly focused cinematography. The camera isn't as hyperactive as it's been in past fights, so we get to appreciate every blow traded between the robots, aliens, and dragons that clash this week. Even the CG models look better defined, which goes a long way toward addressing the chief weaknesses of Planet With's action beats, giving both of this episode's climactic fights the weight they deserve.

Outside of providing an entertaining battle, the Generalissimo/Takashi conflict also explores the larger conflict at work in Planet With's story – The Sealing Faction doesn't necessarily want to subjugate mankind; from their perspective, the dominant Nebulan force simply recognizes the potentially dangerous next evolutionary step that mankind will reach, so they're taking a reactionary response to it. To their credit, Takashi does indeed exemplify the worst side of human nature, taking the gift of his psychic power and using it to enact his will through force. It's a stock science-fiction conflict in many ways, but it works well for Planet With's narrative ambitions, especially since we have the Pacifist Faction for extra contrast.

As far as we've seen, Soya fits snugly into a heroic mold we've seen many times before: a strong-willed and incredibly powerful young man who has suffered great loss and initially begins his journey on the more selfish path of revenge, before eventually realizing that he has a great capacity for heroism and selflessness. The brief glimpses we've seen of Soya's dead brother show us that he has a role model to strive for, and that he does want to be the kind of man who will fight to protect innocent people from the destructive forces that threaten his home. Planet With has framed this ancient archetype as the ideal counterpoint for Takashi's autocratic pursuit of peace and order, the Evolution of Love that allows humans to move toward a future that doesn't need the kind of heroism the Grand Paladins used to offer.

This simple but effective conflict is what makes Soya and Takashi's final fight so effective – we understand the stakes of the fight on both a micro and macro-level, so we really care about who wins. Again, this isn't the kind of writing that will win awards for originality, but it does allow Planet With to race to this first arc's conclusion without having to sacrifice much in the way of coherence or cohesion. It's a good old-fashioned Good Guy vs. Bad Guy fight, and it's a heck of a lot of fun watching Soya, Ginko, and Sensei push themselves to the limit to defeat their toughest foe yet. Plus, Soya strikes the final blow by smacking Takashi in the face with a clog, which is just awesome.

The episode even ends on a surprisingly emotional note, with Soya presenting Takezo's final lesson in his typical rough-around-the-edges way, telling the withering Takashi that his old man says “Something about enduring something being better than justice, or something.” Takashi is incredulous at the message's vagueness, which is pretty funny, but things become much more somber when Soya watches the life drain from Takashi's eyes, before his entire body crumbles into dust. Soya's shocked and tearful reaction is really well-handled, communicating to the audience that Soya is grappling with the gravity of killing a man without having to oversell the moment. Another final vision of his dead brother makes the ending feel even more ambiguous, since neither we nor Soya are completely sure if this is the kind of legacy he would have wanted to leave behind. It's a conclusion that doesn't give us many leads to go on as to the show's future, but it feels right all the same. Whatever Planet With decides to do with its remaining six weeks, episodes like this one have me confident that we won't be disappointed.

Rating: A

Planet With is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James also believes that Soya's clog is better than Justice. You can find him on Twitter and his his blog.


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