Haunted by a space flight accident that claimed the life of his beloved wife, Yuri finds himself six years later as part of a team of debris cleaners on a vessel called the Toy Box charged with clearing space junk from space flight paths. The team consists of Hachimaki, a hot shot debris-man with a sailor's affinity for the orbital ocean; Fee, a chain-smoking tomboy beauty with an abrasive edge; and Pops, a veteran orbital mechanic whose avuncular presence soothes the stress of the job.
Planetes was first published in English by Tokyopop from October 7, 2003 to February 8, 2005. Their release contained 5 volumes as they had split volume 4 into two books. Dark Horse Manga republised the series in two omnibuses from December 22, 2015 to May 3, 2016. The series was also published in Brazilian Portuguese by Panini Comics/Planet Manga from May 2015 to November 2015.
In the sci-fi genre, there are few books that can generate excitement for the real possibilities of space travel. They reach into your chest and pull out something small and glowing that many of us felt during our childhoods while watching space shuttles go into orbit or seeing stock footage of men on the moon. These books draw out this pure sense of wonder that makes you want to put them down and look at the stars for a few moments. And as we remember the anniversary of man's first steps on the moon, they become more poignant-almost painful. Something catches in your throat, and your head starts to buzz.
Well, that's how I react, anyway.
Planets is one of those books, and one of the best.
After reading Planetes I got the urge to change majors and learn rocketry. It's that good.
Planetes is in a genre of science fiction called "hard sci-fi" (I know some sci-fi fans are going to kill me for not calling it "SF", or speculative fiction...well, whatever.). Hard sci-fi series are categorized by an almost scholarly dedication to scientific accuracy. Typically, there isn't any FTL (faster than light, not for the lose, smartasses) travel, there aren't giant charged-particle cannons, giant robots, beam sabers...
Starting to sound boring, huh? Well, a lot of hard SF novels *are* boring, or at least dry and didactic, and some (like Ben Bova's Mars, which I highly recommend, as it is otherwise excellent) waste too much time dwelling on political drama in an attempt to make the story more presentable. Planetes avoids this problem altogether, even though it's science fiction at its diamond-level hardest.
Being a manga, it manages to maintain some lightheartedness; for instance, Hachi's dad Goro peppers him with porn to snap him out of a nervous breakdown, and a lot of humor is played off of Ai Tanabe's cluelessness. Thankfully, the humor doesn't go as far as atmosphere-destroying face-faults and huge sweat drops...often. The human stories that play out are so interesting that space seems more like a backdrop for the exploration of themes rather than new sources of energy. However, the writer balances the drama and the sci-fi so deftly you'd think he was a musician, and he plays with the metaphysical while he's at it. The inky black expanse of space (and a few more hospitable locations on earth) serve as a backdrop for Planetes' bread and butter: a love story to existence.
Planetes is deep without feeling pretentious. It tackles some subjects even harder than its science: war and peace, environmentalism and economic disparity, and racism. As in real life, there are no simple answers; characters struggle to find the right thing to do, because even though the "right thing" might be apparent, it's never easy, and the consequences for their mistakes have real weight. Yes, I know what this sounds like, but it's all very accessible. The writer doesn't waste words or space; like a spacecraft in itself, the manga series runs at only 4.5 volumes and expresses its themes with imagery rather than huge blocks of text. The rare soliloquy is short, punchy, and leaves you with something for your head to chew on. When the main character, Hachimachi, talks to god (in the form of a white cat) they share only a few paragraphs, but they have power behind them. I also commend Takimura for looking at the world (and the universe) through a more international lens, rather than one that's wholly Japanese. One of the more touching background stories was about the uncle of Toybox's black female captain (wha? Foreign characters that aren't painful stereotypes, or fanciful half-Japanese hybrids?) Fee, and their summers in the Mississippi forests. It has everything and nothing to do about space and its development at the same time, and it's all the more richer because of that.
It's almost impossible to describe some of the scenes in Planetes with mere words. Sure, you can describe the objects in them: the space debris, an astronaut slowly floating back towards the fragile safety of his spacecraft, and a rose drifting behind him, embraced in an ethereal halo of light with the earth looking silently on in the background... But the image speaks so much more by itself. It's a two-page splash with absolutely no text, and it evokes the presence of sounds by the very absence of them. There's this raw emotion slowly flowing behind the ink on the page, and reading all that went on until that point... It's amazing.
Where other hard sci-fi books fall flat and dull- with their lengthy descriptions of plain white spaceships and speculative technology, Planetes entrances. You don't just read about the hull of the Toybox, you *see* it, and that seeing cuts to your insides instead of rattling in your head. It goes past the limitations of text that novelists face, and Yukimura's technical and detailed art does an excellent job in showcasing the power of comics as a medium. You can tell a lot of work went into crafting the future the books present, and it amounts to much more than typical sci-fi fluff. The characters themselves are very simple-looking (I confused Fee and Ai a few times) but they serve their purpose, emote when they have to, and do it well...sometimes too well. While the characterizations are solid, far too many of them wore on my nerves, such as Ai Tanabe's grating naivete and Hachimachi's harsh personality. Despite their flaws, you'll end up rooting for them all in the end.
What I took away from Planetes was a better understanding of how the universe worked, a better appreciation for it, and a desire to see humanity push deeper into her, and to expand its understanding along with our reach into the stars. I desperately want our governments to spend less money on weapons development and more on exploring Mars, and for our people to turn their ambition away from the dirt and towards the sky. At the same time, Planetes reminded me that even if I never leave earth myself, I'm already in space. We're *all* already in space together, on a spaceship called "Earth". Everything is within space: the blue skies, sandy beaches, icy wilderness, the people and animals and trees and buildings...it's all hurtling through space at frightening speeds. And I should be thankful for being able to experience that much.
I’ve always been into Space. I’m a big fan of Star Wars, I’ve done a work about Space for school and when I was younger I wanted to by an Astronaut. But later I’ve seen the Movie Apollo 13, and realized that Space isn’t as friendly as it seems. It’s quite scary. And the Human being wasn’t meant to go to Space. But the Human being wasn’t meant to fly either, and we’ve defied Nature and today Flying is as normal for some people as taking a walk. And so again we’ve defied Nature and send Yuri Gagarin on the 12th of April 1961 to Space. After that day Space was at the reach of Mankind. And until today, evolution has brought Mankind and Space even closer. As of Today, you can already book a flight to Space in Virgin Galatics.
Planetes sets in 2075, in a World where Space flights are ordinary, people live in the Moon and Work in Space. So for me Planetes was quite appealing, but before I’d just heard of the Anime. So when I found out that the Anime was an adaptation of a Sci-fi Manga written by Makoto Yukimura I was delighted (especially because I know Makoto Yukimura from his more recent work Vinland Saga). So I picked it up and read it in one week-end. And at the end, I couldn’t believe how good it was. For me, it was too good to be true. It was the first Manga I’d read, that I really felt that it was a Masterpiece, perfect in every aspect, and which should be read by everyone who is into Space and ,more importantly, psychology.
Planetes Story is quite straightforward. In the Universe of Planetes, Space Debris has been a serious issue. So to prevent the accumulation of Debris in Orbits around the Earth and the Moon, there are the so-called “Garbage Men” who clean up Space. Planetes follow a 3-men (later 4, with Ai Tanabe) Crew, who clean up Space. Simultaneously engineer Werner Locksmith is working on a Space ship called Von Braun, which will have a 7-year mission of taking the first Humans to Jupiter, a Gold mine of Helium-3, the Fuel of 2075. Hachirota Hoshino, the most ambitious of the Crew members decide that he will do anything to take part in the greatest Mission in Space History, and to board the Van Braun.
The Characters in Makoto’s Manga are, in my opinion, the Strongest Element of Planetes. Each Character has an amazing depth, and Makoto explores this depth by putting them through the extreme experiences that Space has to offer. Makoto uses the Space to expose the feelings of the Characters, and for doing so he shows the reader how dark Space can be. In Planetes there are four Main Characters, among which you could depict Hachirota for the most important character, and all these Characters are amazingly built. Each Character has a background story linked to him, which connects the reader to each Character. And so the reader begins to understand the actions and feelings of each single Character. What is amazing about all this is that none of the Characters is perfect. Each one of them has flaws, and their actions are dubious most of the times. This can annoy some readers, but it only shows that they all are human. And with all the complexity that the reader is given about the each one of the Characters on Planetes, he starts to find the reason behind those actions, and this is the major reason why Planetes is a Masterpiece.
Already with Vinland Saga, I’m amazed with Makoto’s art. I must say that I love the characters drawn by Makoto. But what shocks me the most is the detail of the Backgrounds. They are nothing less than paintings. And Planetes Art is everything and even more that I was expecting. The Characters don’t change from Planetes to Vinland Saga, and the Backgrounds are just stunning. Each Spaceship is drawn with full detail, and looks perfect. What is also very interesting is that this Work is considered to be Hard Sci-fi, so realism is most important, and the Art totally matches up.
Makoto also uses extremely well his Art, to show the darkness and void of the Space. Large Panels, filled up by Darkness really give the reader the feeling of loneliness. And so again Makoto manages to input the characters feelings to the reader, showing how talented he is in both storytelling and Art.
Me, as a reader, felt everything as the Characters in Planetes. There were lots of Negative feelings but when I ended the Manga I couldn’t feel anything less then just pure joy. I can’t describe why I enjoy this Manga so much, so I really recommend for you to read it, and sense all the feelings that Planetes has to offer.
When I discovered that the Manga existed, I was surprised that it had only 4 Volumes. So I didn’t expect much from it. And now I must say that this Manga has more than some Mangas have in 10, 20 Volumes. For me a Manga like this just comes out every 10 years. But I understand that some people may not like the Manga or just prefer the Anime (which in my opinion is a total distortion of Planetes). This is a Seinen Manga, which for me personally is about Space, but above all it’s about the "Human being", and it couldn’t deliver this theme any better. read more
Who hasn't dreamt once about going into space, or yearned to know what there is beyond Earth? Or even imagined living in space? Space travel for not only a select few people will become, sooner or later, a reality, be it in the next 50 years or even more than a century. Planetes is a psychological sci-fi manga that covers the story of a crew of space garbage man, cleaning Earth's outer space of space debris. The story doesn't seem interesting at first glance, but in reality it has so much more to offer, making it for anyone with a slight interest in space a must read.
The story of Planetes is set in the year 2075, where working and travelling in space has become common. It revolves around the garbage man crew of Toy Box, Yuri Mihalkov, who lost his wife due to a space accident, Fee Carmichael, a chain smoker and mother, and finally Hachitora Hoshino who wants to have his own spaceship to travel in space. Later on a new crew member, Ai Tanabe, will join the crew, that will play an important role.
The plot doesn't just revolve about cleaning out the debris, which of course is a serious matter and problem for space travel. The individual lives of the crew members and goals are shown. Take for example Hachitora or "Hachi" in short: he will do anything he can to be part of the Jupiter mission on the spaceship "Van Braun" to gather the fuel of 2075, Helium-3.
One thing that struck me was how realistic Planetes was; all problems that occurs are all very well displayed and explained, the different methods of travelling, as well as the different equipment and machines. Yukimura goes as far to explain in detail why some changes were made to current space equipment standards.
Some humor is to be found as well; this is however well-balanced with the drama and is great for the story as it keeps it fresh. It's not all just about space, it also touches subjects like space environmentalist trying to halt space exploration, the economy, and it even deals with racism.
The addition of the background stories of some of the characters is very heartwarming and a nice change to the story. It is narrated and displayed magnificently. This will be helpful later on to understand the characters decisions. Take the example of Fee, who tries to smoke but just can't do it to numerous problems that surges; it just makes you feel really sorry for her.
The realistic aspect of Planetes isn't achievable with only the story: without the realistic and well presented characters it would be impossible. The characters presented are all very well thought out. Each character has its own background story and its own flaws, making them have a realistic feel. Some of the characters actions may become annoying over time, but the reader will find himself rooting for those characters over time.
Character development in Planetes is impressive too. With help of the background story, goals and interactions with other people, the main characters undergo transformations that later will mark their path; in addition it makes the reader reflect over on the choices the characters makes.
The variety of characters is satisfying as well. There are people of all nationalities, rusians, indians, japanese and even black people. By narrating the story of Fee's uncle, it simultaneously displays the issues of racism and how it helped Fee's character to develop.
The art of Planetes is impressive. The display of the different panels, how everything is drawn is done masterfully. The most impressive thing are the backgrounds. These are done in such detail that you could just stare at it to find all those little details. The vastness of space is represented very well: it induces and displays the loneliness living in space can be.
There is nevertheless an issue with the drawings of the main characters. These are done quite simplistic and makes it for the reader quite difficult to tell sometimes some characters apart from each other. However, the secondary characters are drawn well and are varied. One thing to note is how well some character expressions are drawn, conveying to the reader how the character feels or tries to say without the need of dialogue.
Planetes was without doubt a very good read that is very enjoyable from the beginning to the end with the impressive realistic story, the background stories as well as the side stories, and of course the characters. I personally found that story could continue and focus a bit more on how Yukimura expected humanity to be in 2075, as well as the Jupiter mission, but this is a very small drawback.
If infinite was the limit to mankind, what would it be there left for us?
This manga is very well grounded on a "human" sense, despite being futurist it remains consistent about the human behavior, there isn't a destopya and we aren't a police state.
You could think of planetes as a slice-of-life manga WITH SPACESHIPS! and you'll be totally right, not that there isn't a delicious sci-fi atmosphere that just makes you want to live forever to explore the Solar System.
But this isn't about that, it's about the people, it'll always be about the people.
Even in the future we haven't changed, we challenge the authority, we are impulsive, hot-blooded, sappy, indecisive, loving and many other things that define us as humans.
In the end what the author wants us to know is that; as long as there are humans there is love.
Accompanied with a wonderful art, in every sense, Yukimura guides us through very well crafted spaceships, satellites, spacial garbage, astonishing sunsets, cute dogs, cosmic panoramas, intense gunfights, and many other things. There isn't a thing this guy can not portray vividly.
While character design may not be appealing for everyone and there might be an abuse of shading, the art is just a few steps below perfection, everything fits in its right place.
We all enjoy looking up at the night sky, and watching the stars. And quite often we wonder what exactly is going on...out there in deep space. Fortunately, there's a ton of excellent space anime which will clue us in and make our imaginations run wild!