Planet With is the first original anime project written by beloved manga author Satoshi Mizukami, and it's been absurd and exciting from the start to its shocking halfway point cliffhanger. This week, Nick and Jacob try to make sense of this mecha action rollercoaster.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read our weekly coverage of Planet With here!
Hey Nick, we're halfway through the summer anime season and frankly
Yeah, it's been a lukewarm season to be sure. Unless you're super into anime comedies or big jello-filled anime tiddy it's been slim pickings tbh.
Well, comprehensibility aside, I think Planet With is quickly becoming one of my favorite shows of the season. And I'm even kinda starting to understand what's going on!
okay, most of what's going on
Well it's very simple, Jake. You see, our amnesiac orphan protagonist is actually the lone survivor of an alien race annihilated by a giant dragon. Said dragon was actually a rogue weapon created by a Galactic Federation of weird animal mascot aliens, and when it died, it was reincarnated as a powerful psychic on Earth, who passed along his powers to a team of do-gooders to combat the aforementioned mascot aliens' plan to subdue humanity through granting their heart's deepest wishes.
VERY SERIOUS ROBOT ANIME
I don't know much about series creator Satoshi Mizukami, but I appreciate his dedication to telling The Weirdest mecha anime story in recent memory as Straightforwardly As Possible. (He's not only writing the show, but storyboarding the whole thing too! Talk about a passion project.) This show has a captivating sense of contrast that I keep re-evaluating with every new episode.
Well I am familiar with Mizukami, and just having his name attached was enough for me to get excited for Planet With when it was announced. Spirit Circle is one of my all-time favorite manga, and Lucifer & The Biscuit Hammer is no slouch either, so I was totally looking forward to whatever he had up his sleeve.
I'll admit that I wasn't expecting this awful cat though.
WHAT IS IT? WHY IS IT? You don't have long to ask before so many other questions present themselves.
It's a weird show, but that weirdness is mostly there to show that the exact mechanics and lore of this universe aren't all that important, which I appreciate because trying to explain every little detail of an alien conspiracy would get in the way of all the cool stuff we get instead.
Yeah, I feign confusion, but this is literally a "give peas a chance" joke the aliens are deploying.
Because in this story, there's a dichotomy between white and black, peace and aggression, veggies and meat, that gets dished out in a consistently metaphorical fashion to sort of explain why people are fighting in any given scene without wasting any time on exposition. The amount of action and silliness packed into these six episodes is kind of insane, and yet the story doesn't feel rushed or confusing.
It's tongue-in-cheek and extremely direct all at the same time, and I kinda dig the hell out of it, even if it leaves me boggled over where the story is taking any of this navel-gazing whimsy.
That's kind of a habit of Mizukami. He can construct totally cohesive universe mechanics for his stories, but his main focus in any story is about communicating characters' motivations. So the exact how of Soya fighting in an energy-drink-powered Cat Mech is barely there, but the important part is the why. He's initially just following orders from his weird overseers, but after regaining his memories he decides to reclaim the Dragon Power from the earthlings to put a stop to the remnants of the thing that destroyed his life.
I really like that Soya is self-aware about his situation from the get-go. He knows that he's being used, but he doesn't know what else to do about it until he spends five more episodes interacting with the "enemy."
If I had to take a stab at what the themes of the story are so far, I think the idea is that empathy toward others is the key to finding the balance between ambition (black, aggression, meat, etc.) and passivity (white, peace, veggies, etc.) If you understand how others come to their own convictions in that balance, it helps you contextualize your own, and so forth, to reach what's best for the greatest number of people...? OR SOMETHING...? (But then episode 6 went and resolved the whole Humans vs Aliens conflict as we knew it thus far so uh IDK)
I think you've hit the nail on the head. Perspective and empathy are huge recurring themes in Mizukami's catalog, and already the show's managed to introduce a ton of characters and get me invested in all of their reasons for fighting.
Most of the Earthling characters' backstories are simple and pretty mundane, to be sure. Hideo wants to save people to make up for losing his mom. Miu wants to be strong like her (girl)friend. Harumi doesn't want people to be scared of her. But they're all delivered with a sense of empathy that makes you want to root for them anyway.
(And also root for them to kiss.)
They are extremely adorable together yes. And even though the characterizations and conflicts are basic, that also makes them more relatable, so you can blow through everyone's story at the show's requisite rapid pace and still get a strong shot of emotional satisfaction out of the exchange.
This little moment at the end of episode 1 is what hooked me on the show:
And Torai hasn't had much to do since then! But it was enough to make me care about him. The execution of this show's simple yet satisfying little stories reminds me of the best super-sentai-type material.
It was a really surprising emotional beat for a character who's mostly stayed in the background, and in general the show is littered with these tiny touches that make these characters feel authentic even as they're clearly built on familiar archetypes.
Like I love the scene in ep 4 where Miu decides to go back and save Harumi even though she's de-powered, and Torai tries to quip about it being cliche.
There does seem to be an affectionate barb aimed at otaku media vs. more family-style manga in Mizukami's evaluation of each character's spiritual strength. Nezuya is lovable in classic chuunibyou fashion, but he's also the only warrior to succumb to Alien Pacification, and I can't help but feel that was a deliberate choice.
"You know, even if escapism is harmless, maybe lay off the doujin a little and find something that inspires or impassions you in a productive direction too?"
Nezuya is a simple boy with simple tastes, okay.
HOW CAN YOU ENJOY YER VEGGIES IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANY MEAT?
Of course, the opposite problem leads us to the climax of episode 6, where Kuroi has to take down the Human Leader, who's really a megalomaniacal psychic dragon reborn who wants to enforce peace through world domination.
There's a lot of things I like about Planet With, but so far my favorite part was the fight between (what were) our most obvious antagonists.
Yeah, this kind of monologuing works because it's far from the first time we've been introduced to these ideas. The first five episodes were spent reinforcing more simple and universal versions of this dichotomy (peace vs. conflict), so by the time these two blowhards start bloviating about their political philosophies, your brain is already connecting them to those established Black vs. White themes and going "oh, this is relevant to the real world too, isn't it?"
It's fascinating because usually with these kinds of fights, the villain has a clearly broken ideology that gets shattered by the hero, but here you see two clashing perspectives that are both framed as wrong - or at least incomplete - but have a coherent logic to them. You can understand why Generalissimo is convinced he's wielding responsible authority, and why Takashi sees their creed as hypocrisy.
And by the end of the episode, both figures have been completely defused by Kuroi so uh WHERE ARE WE GOING FOR THE OTHER HALF OF THE STORY? I'm stoked to find out, but damn, this show moves fast.
I have no god damn clue myself. We've somehow shuffled through an entire Super Robot Show in like 10% of the time, so we could go just about anywhere. My guess is we're gonna spend the back half re-evaluating this whole story. Something Mizukami really loves doing is shifting perspective to make us question the decisions of our characters, and I have a feeling there's more to Soya's and Ginko's stories than we've been led to believe.
Well, consider me a new fan! I really wanna check out his manga work now.
READ SPIRIT CIRCLE
In a genre that can get way too convoluted and confusing for its own good (philosomech I like to call it), I'm glad Mizukami finds such a happy medium between surreal absurdity and cohesion. The show does demand you pay attention like all good philosomech stuff, but he sets out to answer every goofy question Planet With raises, and I applaud him for it.
If nothing else, we have to find out why Ginko has the voice of Heybot.