Episode 5

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 5 of
planetarian (ONA) ?

If last week's episode was a direct volley at this show's thematic center, this finale was aimed at the emotional jugular. After a brief, desperate battle with the mech, the Junker is saved by Yumemi, who sacrifices herself in an attempt to shut down the robot. Then the rest of the episode played out in classic tragedy form, with the Junker holding Yumemi in his arms as she counts down her final wishes.

But before that, the initial battle with the mech definitely deserves notice. For a show that's exhibited somewhat limited aesthetic strengths so far, this was a remarkably composed action sequence. The animation still wasn't phenomenal, but fluid mechanical animation likely wouldn't have done much to serve this sequence's goals; the mech isn't supposed to come across as “awesome,” it's supposed to be huge and inhuman and gracelessly lumbering, a relic of an older time just like everything else in planetarian. In the absence of fluid animation, the other elements of the execution felt even more prominently well-realized.

The sound design was likely the highlight of this sequence. The initial railgun shot at the Junker was followed by a lengthy sequence where the only sound was rain, which naturally built up the tension leading to the reveal that he was still alive. Later on, the audience was tethered to the Junker's position when a second shot made him temporarily deaf - and at the end, Yumemi's movements towards the robot were matched by an urgent piano melody that matched the dramatic rise and fall of her approach.

This sequence also worked hard to establish the underlying dramatic mechanics of the fight with almost no direct exposition. Junker's offhand remarks set the stakes when necessary (“I only have two shots left,” “it'll shift to suppressing fire”), but there was also some smart visual storytelling here, like when a point-of-view shot from the robot's perspective made its attack patterns clear, thus making sense of the Junker's own staggered movements. All in all, it was a surprisingly effective action scene.

But most of this episode was dedicated to Yumemi's goodbye, and as far as that goes, it pretty much hit every beat without too much overselling. It was always clear this show would end in tragedy, and that the Junker would likely have to carry on Yumemi's legacy, but the execution of this telegraphed turn was perfectly reasonable. I liked the reveal that the reason she thought she was broken was because she kept arriving at the conclusion that no humans would ever come back - being unable to accept that conclusion, and instead assuming there must have been something wrong with her circuitry, was a neat expression of how Yumemi somewhat represents hope itself. And it was legitimately tragic to see Yumemi briefly acknowledge the world as it had become, as she scanned the wreckage and quietly wondered “why did everything break?”

There were a couple moments that I felt perhaps crossed the line; in particular, Yumemi's “if I could cry, I would be crying right now,” followed by the rain washing past her eyes, felt like a little much. But on the whole, I felt this was a reasonably tasteful and well-earned dramatic conclusion, perfectly closed off by the Junker's decision to leave her with his old symbol of hope, replacing it with her memory chip around his neck.

Overall, this was a fine conclusion to a nicely composed and reasonably affecting tragedy. Planetarian strikes me as a show with reserve and dignity - it has a clear story it wants to tell, it doesn't get distracted by any loose ideas, and it delivers on exactly what it promises. While I've had minor complaints here and there, I have nothing but respect for this show's solid construction and fundamentally poignant perspective. I enjoyed my visit to the planetarium.

Overall: A-

planetarian is currently streaming on Funimation.

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

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