Episode 3

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 3 of
planetarian (ONA) ?

This week's Planetarian was very appropriately called "Yumemi's Projection." After one episode of introductions and another of tinkering and fixing, the stage was finally set for Yumemi to present her special feature to the Junker. And so she began with an appropriately cheesy and thematically appropriate joke: “Rainy days can make us feel down. But don't worry - in here, we can summon the sun whenever we wish.”

That introduction led into a monologue that essentially took up two-thirds of the episode, broken only by a switch from fully projected images to the Junker's own imagining of the stories Yumemi described. In a narrative sense, this segment was fairly slow; it really did seem like the kind of stargazing lesson you'd hear at your average planetarium, and Yumemi's special anniversary presentation turned out to just be a history of mankind's relationship with the stars. But Planetarian's pacing has always been very sedate, and many of Yumemi's lines echoed the ambiguous thematic concerns of the series overall.

The title of Yumemi's special presentation was “Mankind Spreading Its Wings,” a title that should have rung with bitter irony even without the literal image of Icarus falling from the sky. Her presentation talked of mankind's ambition as she stood in a darkened auditorium, the failure of mankind's machines leaving only her voice and the Junker's imagination to visualize humanity's old dreams. Yumemi's hope that “Mankind will solve its problems, and then they will reach out to the world of the stars” was sharply undercut by the circumstances of her speech - having failed to solve its petty problems, she spoke in the ruins of the civilization that stood as the furthest distance mankind reached before self-destruction cut short the scope of its grasp.

And yet, the cynicism of this episode's fundamental concept was tempered by the hope of Yumemi and the Junker's words. When the projector initially shuts off (signaling the death of the backup power, something that likely means even Yumemi will no longer be able to wake up), Yumemi seems helpless to solve anything. The camera actually takes her perspective at this point, echoing the helplessness of her first appearance - but then the Junker states that her words are enough. Later on, Yumemi ends her projection with “when you are lost in the dark and can no longer see the stars in the sky, remember what you saw here today.” Our species' petty failures are contrasted against our unquenchable hopes, and our inter-generational triumphs are exemplified through Yumemi herself. Our ambitions create machines like Yumemi and Jena, and those machines inspire future ambition. As Yumemi's words are played against the Junker cradling his mother's pendant, the scientific ambition of mankind becomes a direct metaphor for how we pass the torch of hope and ambition on to our children.

This episode's execution was roughly on the level of the previous episodes, though the show did let loose with a few strong arcing shots that spun around Yumemi and Jena. The music was also light and appropriate; gentle piano keys for Yumemi's projection and slightly more urgent strings for the Junker's memory. The show is wise to be confident in its base material; almost everything that makes Planetarian strong is implicit in its premise, so nothing is oversold by melodramatic execution. Overall, Planetarian continues to tell a small but poignant story with understated grace.

Overall: B+

planetarian is currently streaming on Funimation.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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