by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 4 of
planetarian (ONA) ?
Planetarian really laid out all of its cards in this episode. Of course, the show has always been a very in-your-face sort of drama - after all, the base concept of a lonely robot waiting to show someone her presentation seems designed to tilt the pathos meter as far as it can go. But after three episodes of the Junker getting to know Yumemi, this episode used their walk to the Junker's “car” as an opportunity to directly articulate what each of these characters represents.
The first half of this episode was fairly slow even by Planetarian standards, as the Junker and his robotic friend chatted their way through most of the three kilometers to safety. Yumemi ended up being outrageously underqualified for this trip; not only did she repeatedly trip and fall (which the show got some tragically comic mileage out of by holding a long shot of her falling, lying there, and very slowly picking herself up), but her legs also repeatedly overheated under the strain of walking, making a theoretically brief journey stretch out over hours. There was some legitimate tension when the Junker came across a bombed-out liquor store, but for the most part, this segment mainly just highlighted more of the same incidental conversations that have been the series' central substance so far.
The move to an outdoor environment did make Planetarian's visual limitations a little more apparent. Planetarian has never been a beautiful show - its direction is mostly just functional, it repeats a lot of shots, and its environments have mostly consisted of a couple rooms in a department store. On top of that, Yumemi's overdesigned costume and generic face, paired with the show's general lack of animation or dynamic framing, have at times failed to elevate Planetarian over the level of a dramatic script reading. Moving the characters out into the city only exacerbated these issues, because it became even more clear how much this show has to skimp on creating new background art. Conversations stuck to a couple of repeated close-up angles, often failing to take advantage of the natural tragedy of contrasting Yumemi's positive spirit with the city's hollow environments.
But those complaints became less relevant in the episode's second half, as the show got very direct in its contrast of these two characters' attitudes. After Yumemi articulated her wish that humans and robots share a heaven, the Junker found himself seriously considering that hope, wondering whether he might be able to convince her to leave the city. He quickly realized that these thoughts were reflective of an emotional “drunkenness” Yumemi had inspired in him - both a fondness for her specifically and a kind of sentimentalism that life in this world doesn't allow. Even allowing her to accompany him this far reflects a clear change in his personality; her presence here is an obvious danger to him, but he still waits for her motors to cool and carries her bouquet.
In their last conversation, the Junker made his final case for her to leave. The city is dead, the power is gone, she's seen this all herself, and “there's no need for you or your projector here.” The Junker's argument was all pragmatism, and by contrast, Yumemi's programmed “loyalty” to her job acted as a kind of faith. “Jena and I are willing to wait until the end of time,” she said, and though the Junker went as far as saying that helping humans would require leaving the city, he was unable to outright state that he wanted her to come.
There's a real bitter irony in their parting. The Junker wants to get her out, but in order to do so, he needs to destroy one more robot - so he orders her to stay, saying he'll shortly return. The Junker's actions seem to overtly reflect his natural pragmatism, but his frustration with Yumemi's hesitance is undercut by the fact that she's the one who's been here before. Yumemi's parting with her own creators proceeded much like this, and though they've disappeared over time, Yumemi and her faith in new customers has survived and ultimately been rewarded. The Junker's pragmatism is necessary for survival, but his final actions are prompted by a drunken hope that Yumemi inspired. The Junker might not survive this adventure, but Yumemi's faith will almost certainly live on.
This was another solid episode of Planetarian, its thematic bite only somewhat softened by the show's consistently mediocre visual execution. Everything is moving toward a satisfying and well-composed conclusion.
planetarian is currently streaming on Funimation.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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