by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Planet With ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Planet With ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
Planet With ?
Planet With provided one of the most entertaining and delightfully weird premieres of the summer, managing to pull off the tricky balancing of keeping its plot vague and mysterious while still being compelling to watch. We've gotten two more episodes of the series to contend with since then, and I'm pleased to say that Planet With is shaping up nicely, maintaining its willful weirdness and rollicking action sequences while putting in the work to flesh out its narrative and make sure these characters are worth following for the long haul. I'm almost surprised at how well Planet With is doling out its plot, since there's a lot going on here, with enough interplanetary war factions and overwrought jargon to make your head spin, even if it's just another facet of the show's sense of humor to some extent.
As of episodes 2 and 3, here's what we've learned. The magical robot Sentai force is known as the “Citizens' Safety Center Special Defense Section: 'Grand Paladin'”, and they use their Psychokinetic Mega-God Photon Armor to fight their war against the Nebula, the race of aliens that's been sending those bizarre plushie monstrosities down to Earth. With his amnesia having been cleared up, Suyo's role in this conflict has also been explained in a way that both clarifies and complicates the story; it turns out that he isn't even human, and that his home planet of Sirius was destroyed by the same cosmic dragon that Grand Paladin gets its power from, which makes his desire to shut down Grand Paladin for good understandable. What's more, it turns out that both Ginko and Sensei belong to a splinter group of Nebulans known as the Pacifist Faction, who are trying to usher humanity toward choosing the evolutionary path of Love, whereas the rest of the Nebula Forces belong to the Sealing Faction, who fear mankind will choose the Evolution of Power, so they work to seal away the species' capacity for growth entirely. Naturally, the Sealing Faction is led by a cute anthropomorphic dog known as Sealer of Fastidious White.
This is a lot of plot and worldbuilding to digest in only a few episodes, but Planet With does an admirable job of doling out exposition in small chunks, nestled comfortably between funny gags and moments for every character to breathe a little. Episode 2 properly introduces us to the entire grand Paladin team, and while they're all the characteristically simplistic personalities you might usually find in this kind of superhero team, they're also likable enough to keep things moving at a quick clip, and their leader Takashi serves as an appropriately ambiguous antagonistic force for the Pacifist Faction, as a man who craves power for both mankind and himself above all else.
The second and third episodes also continue the formula established in the premiere with Torai's story. The feisty Miu and her vengeful best friend Haru serve as the episodes' respective focuses, and their brief reflective encounters with the Nebula forces do well enough to establish who these girls are and why they would fight so hard for each other; Miu is a small girl who wants to prove that she can be just as strong as her friend, while Haru has a vision of being dressed as a princess while being rescued by a princely Miu that definitely speaks for itself. Neither of these sequences are as affecting as Haru's longer and more emotional flashback, but given just how much ground Planet With has to cover in these two follow-up episodes, I can understand the show opting for brevity when it can.
This kind of classic formula is all well and good on the surface, but Planet With's most interesting feature is that its main character is technically one of the antagonists of the story. This makes it even more interesting when Suyo makes friends with one of the Paladins, Nezuya, when he joins Nozomi's Occult Club at school in episode 3. It's a cute scene, giving Suyo more humanity and some normal kids to play off while also highlighting his endearing fascination with cryptozoology. Nezuya is one of the Grand Paladin's more flamboyant personalities: a high-school graduate with constantly sparkling eyes and a book in his hand at all times who also has a penchant for flipping his hair dramatically. He's the kind of affable weirdo who hangs out with his young nerdy alumni too much, but only because the club has all of the occult and conspiracy tomes he's obsessed with. I'm glad that Planet With is getting Suyo more directly involved with his enemies' lives as soon as possible, since it gives the show more time to play with the dramatic consequences of its hero beginning to empathize with the people he's fighting week after week.
Planet With also does an excellent job of keeping its production values dynamic and engaging. The CG used to animate both the Photon Armor and Suyo's own Cat Armor looks pretty good for the most part, and each of the episode's fight scenes are well directed and storyboarded. Series' author Satoshi Mizukami has apparently spent years drawing thousands of storyboards for this series on his own, which is incredibly impressive and explains a lot about the consistency of Planet With's visuals and storytelling. If I have any complaint to make, it would be that some shots of the nighttime battle sequences make things hard to parse, since Suyo and the Paladin's armor are shaded rather darkly and tend to get overwhelmed by the rainbow lights shooting out of the robots at all times.
Overall, I'm incredibly pleased with what Planet With has managed to accomplish in this opening volley of episodes. The story is still unfolding, so time will tell if the series has any deep or meaningful thematic statements hiding behind all of its spectacle, but I would be perfectly happy even if Planet With decides to stick with being a fun and compelling science-fiction romp. This is clearly a labor of love for Mizukami and the rest of J.C. Staff, and this kind of expertly crafted popcorn entertainment is exactly what I'm looking forward to indulging in this summer.
Planet With is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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