Key, the studio who brought us both Angel Beats and Charlotte, are back with another visual novel adaptation. This time they’re bringing the beauty of ‘Planetarian’ to anime lovers everywhere. Planetarian is the story of a nameless ‘junker’ in a post-apocalyptic world. Junkers are people who scavenge the dangerous machine-infested cities of the world for material goods for a living.
Our junker makes a trip into the city and, after a brief encounter with some of the automated war-machines, takes shelter within the fictional Flowercrest Mall where he discovers a planetarium that has power for 1 week (168 hours) out of every year. Stumbling inside to rest, he meets its robotic attendant Yumemi Hoshino who treats him as if he were just another customer coming for a visit to the planetarium.
Planetarian is a very intriguing little story. They manage to take a nameless character and make him somehow more real, more believable, than a lot of characters in far longer series. Our junker is forced by his interaction with Yumemi to feel again, and it is incredible to watch. The world has become a cold, dangerous place… and this robot in a broken planetarium is what brings a touch of humanity back to a closed heart.
The show features some of my favourite visual spectacles of the year. The overall show is relatively standard anime fair for the most part, but there are moments where things simply look spectacular. It also has relatively good musical design overall, which was a pleasure to hear.
The show did have a few pacing issues, with one of its episodes – for example – being spent almost entirely on character exposition. After that episode, as we watched the credits and looked at the time, we realized that Planetarian is not in fact a standard anime. It’s a miniseries of episodes of varying length, and I think this is the cause of its pacing issues. When you have an entire 11 minute episode of an anime devoted to little more than bland character exposition, it feels boring. If you take those same 11 minutes, and put them in the middle of a short movie… it feels more like normal character development.
Planetarian’s total running time is just over an hour, and I strongly recommend you watch it all in one sitting… perhaps even skipping the opening/ending most of the time. It paces a lot better without the breaks, and I think it works exceptionally well when consumed in that fashion.