by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Planet With ?
I'm very happy to see Planet With gaining some more traction with fans lately, because this show just keeps getting better and better. After Benika failed to enact the Sealing Faction's vision of justice last week, poor old Yosuke is left behind to pick up the slack. To his credit he gets father than anyone else, by which I mean he totally wins and seals the entire planet. When Torai arrived to do battle, joined by a revitalized Miu and Harumi, I thought this episode might end up being an action-heavy bout that would lead us into this second arc's final hours, but Yosuke makes quick work of our heroes, and it doesn't take him long to wrap the entire earth in his melancholy embrace, draining the planet of its colors and sounds as all of humanity sinks into the same peaceful visions that have gripped Benika and all the others, at least falling victim to the Sealing Faction's powers.
Except for Soya, of course. He remains unaffected, and the herald of the People of Paradise shows up again to inform our reluctant protagonist that he must regain his fighting spirit and do battle with the dragon that lurks behind the moon, or else all hope will be lost for the planet he's come to care about. Outside of the brief action beats we get at the beginning and end of the episode (which are well done in their own right), the crux of “Messenger of Awakening” is not a physical battle, but one that tests the strength of Soya's mind and soul. The whole series up until this point has been about him trying to find a reason to fight that's more meaningful than simple revenge, and this is where the line in the sand gets drawn. Either Soya chooses the path of the hero for himself, or the rest of the world will be lost.
In many ways, this is a simple rehashing of the “Reality vs. Self-Delusion” conflict that anime has been dwelling on for decades, perhaps most famously in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Given PW's more modest ambitions, I don't mind seeing it return to such a familiar well, and it works well within Planet With's larger discussions about power and the consequences of wielding it. For Yosuke and Benika, the painful and difficult road ahead for humanity is simply too fraught with uncertainty to trust; Benika has no faith in mankind's ability to responsibly wield its power, and Yosuke has become so dependent on his relationship with Benika that he will stop at nothing to make sure that the planet is sealed as per her wishes. Planet With has always excelled at creating sympathy for its entire cast, even within the restricted confines of its own speedy pacing, and it's easy to see why Benika and Yosuke have chosen this path, even if we know they must eventually be proven wrong in the wake of Soya's heroic turn.
And what a turn it is! There have been a lot of excellent moments throughout this entire series, but I was really cheering when Soya finally took the plunge into full-on classic heroism. After reflecting on the relationships and experiences he's had that bonded him to this planet (especially with Nozomi), not only does he use the power of empathy to will literally everyone on Earth back from the supposedly irreversible sealing process, but he, Sensei, and Ginko all go out to kick Yosuke's but in a shiny new giant Sensei-bot too. The music, the strong direction, and the impactful storyboarding all combine to make the final moments of the episode simply sublime; Generalissimo is wagging his tail by the end of it, because even the antagonists of Planet With are down for a good old fashioned heroic showdown.
With the immediate threat of the Sealing Faction put aside for now, it seems like the final three episodes of Planet With are going to focus on Soya doing battle with the dragon. I'd also wager that the rest of the Grand Paladins will take up arms to join the fight, including Benika, Yosuke, and Takezo. I don't necessarily expect any twists or turns in the upcoming narrative to be especially mind-blowing, but that doesn't bother me all that much. I'm sure that whatever Planet With delivers next will live up to the lofty standards the show has set for itself. My one hope is that more people get on board the Planet With hype train before the season is done, since this show is my top pick for the best hidden gem of the summer season.
Planet With is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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