This past weekend saw the premiere of the first three episodes of Key’s newest anime, the five episode net anime Planetarian. And where more appropriate to show an anime about a planetarium than in a planetarium?
Planetarian is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is on the brink of extinction. Killer robots left over from wars long gone roam the streets and a never-ending rain falls from the clouds of a looming nuclear winter. The few survivors move throughout the ruins looking for anything useful. It truly looks to be the last days of humanity.
The story follows an unnamed soldier who stumbles across the ruins of a planetarium. But more surprising is that its attendant, a pre-war android, is still functional and doing her job of greeting customers, even though none will ever come. Yet when Yumemi, the android, attempts to show the reluctant soldier the wonders of the stars, she finds the projector broken from disuse. Despite being on the edge of starvation and in the middle of a hostile area, the soldier finds himself unable to abandon the innocent android and agrees to try to repair the projector.
Planetarian is a small, emotional story set in a large and hopeless world. It is not a story of a triumphant hero bringing humanity back from the brink. There are no huge stakes and no world-changing events. Instead, it is a tale of a normal man, an android from the past, and the peaceful time they spend together in the ruins of the old world.
More than that, it is a story about rediscovering a sense of wonder. The unnamed soldier has spent his life focused on nothing but survival. He fights, he loots, he eats, and little else. The planetarium gives him a chance to do something he’s likely never done before—to fix something. Not for survival, but simply to create something wonderful. And through his time with Yumemi, he learns that there is more to life, that dreaming is just as important as surviving.
Honestly, the weakest point of the whole experience was seeing it in the planetarium itself. Now don’t get me wrong, the scenes of the anime set inside the planetarium were almost surreal with an Inception-like quality.
But while the idea was incredibly cool, the fact that the anime was not made to be projected on a curved surface caused some unexpected side effects. Simple panning shots were vertigo-inducing to the point where I felt a bit nauseated. Likewise, more complex movements of the camera made me just want to shut my eyes till they were over. However, even with that, I never once thought about leaving–the story had me captured far too well for that to even cross my mind.
The first three episodes of Planetarian build a bittersweet tale in the twilight of humanity. It is exactly the type of story you’d expect from the game studio behind Clannad, Air, Kanon, and Angel Beats and is easily on par with those more famous works.
Now for the hard part, waiting a month for the final two episodes to air even as the game the anime is based on calls out to me seductively.