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.
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
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.
Yukimura Makoto's Planetes is, as I've seen, hailed as a space odyssey that keeps itself grounded by its human elements. That much may be true, but the crucial point which prevents this manga from being great is that very element lauded as its strongest: Planetes is a manga which clearly prides itself on Moments, but which lacks the wherewithal necessary between those to make the Moments impactful. This highlights a pattern in Makoto's work (of which I've now read all, barring some more recent chapters of Vinland Saga) which I would call a fear of subtlety, a fear manifesting most strongly in his character development
Hachimaki: lead protagonist, loud, brash, myopic in terms of desires, unthinking in terms of the desires of others; essentially the archetypal shounen hero. I should note that this archetype doesn't automatically inhibit how great a manga can be — for instance, One Piece’s Monkey D. Luffy is just about the most cookie-cutter a shounen protagonist can get, yet I find little reason to criticize Eiichiro Oda's choice in making him that way. Primarily because One Piece is a manga driven more by its sense of unbounded adventure: keeping the main characters practically unchanging doesn't matter much when it's the setting and world which constantly changes around them. In other words, something has to change in a story for it to be compelling, and if it isn't the characters then it has to be something else.
Planetes of course follows this rule of change: the setting arguably never changes (what with the manga's very interesting assertion that even the planet Earth is in space — one I find very important in a society increasingly globalized by the very technology Planetes easily integrates into its prototypical space-crazed future), but the characters, particularly Hachimaki, usually do. However, Makoto fears his audience will be unable to follow the transitions characters undergo, and thus the character archetypes. Hachimaki is not the only brash, loud, overly charismatic cast member in this brief series, but as he's the most prominent, he is the most susceptible to analysis. So let's trace his character arc and see where Makoto faltered.
For one, this will have spoilers (but I don't think that necessarily matters: how can I really recommend or discuss this manga without divulging what about it I specifically like/dislike?), and for two, I want to preface that in terms of broad strokes Hachimaki's character progression is brilliant. But the steps between which connect Hachimaki in chapter 3 to Hachimaki in chapter 26 are quite erratic.
To begin, Hachimaki is, as stated, loud and brash, and happy enough simply being in space working as a glorified garbage collector (not to disparage garbage collectors -- I'm simply paraphrasing the manga itself, in that many of its characters seem to believe that just because a job is less desirable it automatically makes it less important or admirable). But, after an debris-sweep wherein he was incredibly lucky to survive at all, he comes to the conclusion that "Space loves [him]," and so decides that he'll become a true astronaut by putting thousands of hours of real spatial experience under his belt on joining a 7-year manned mission to Jupiter, so that he can purchase his own vessel and be truly free under the stars. Following this are various crises of character and realizations regarding the consequences his dreams have on others: he comes to understand his own weaknesses, what he means to others and what others mean to him, and finally to see the interconnectedness of humanity even when some of its members fly hundreds of millions of miles away from their birthing port.
This probably sounds like a great story, and that's because it is. But even the greatest stories can be shot by their execution. In this one, Makoto's presentation of Hachimaki's progression completely undercuts its inherent sublimity. Chapter 5, where Hachimaki undergoes testing for “deep-space disorder” by seeing how long he can last in a sensory deprivation chamber, more or less emblematizes the poor execution of this entire manga. He enters the chamber confident of himself, believing he can last just fine because he “knows what space feels like,” but it is found that based on the recent traumatic episode which landed him in hospital had some deeper psychological ripples: even after two weeks worth of attempts, the maximum time he lasts is twenty minutes, where to be an E.V.A. (the job he already has), he has to be able to last 6 hours straight through.
Obviously this would be frustrating: one being unable to do what one could do perfectly fine before. It would therefore be wrong of me to say that Hachimaki’s anger — at having the dream he’d just laid out be undercut — was illogical. It follows logic, but along a caricatural course. Hachimaki, embodying that classic case of over(tly)-expressive, young male protagonist, explodes at this news, and his idea of conquering his newfound phobia is to fight it tooth and nail — almost literally. In the sensory deprivation chamber, he hallucinates a version of himself which embodies all the pessimistic outlooks he bottles up and buries: not only does he scream at it, he headbutts it. When out of the chamber, he’s constantly dialed up to an 11 — the problem being he was already an 11 before, so where does that mean he can go?
The answer is that his base reactions can go nowhere, because from the beginning, due to the byline establishment of his being an archetypal shounen protagonist, he is already naturally inclined toward overreaction. In which case, how can his reactions toward genuine problems feel genuine? There’s no further way for his character to react, no way to escalate.
Following this chapter, Hachimaki falls into Dark Days. Shifting from happy-go-lucky everyman to brooding and self-centered (that is: space-gazing, misanthropic), we descend into the chapters wherein he trains and applies for a position on the Jupiter mission, distancing himself from friends and humanity in the process. And, physically, he earns it. But as a character, he has not earned this new groove of brood, something which settles by chapter 8 upon meeting new coworker Tanabe. That’s because he started at an 11, and when his character needs it most, he can’t go any higher. In fact, from Planetes to Vinland Saga, Makoto has a problem with actually regressing characters: soon enough Hachimaki sees the fault in his aggressively pro-exploration anti-caring ways, and very — I emphasize — very quickly dials back, recanting not only his anger but also any outward expression of passion he demonstrated as a youth. You see this also in Vinland Saga’s Thorfinn: I don’t disagree that characters can calm themselves as they mature, but when the bulk of your story regards the characters being suddenly closer to their state of maturity than their immature beginnings, that bulk better be good. And Hachimaki’s simply isn’t: the situations are set up perfectly, but because his character is created via the outlines of others (Naruto being perhaps a prime example), Makoto jumps the gun in bringing his character to the conclusion he wants.
Here’s to bring in an outside example, a manga which began curiously enough a mere two months after Planetes: Takehiko Inoue’s samurai epic, Vagabond. Vagabond traces roughly the same character arc: Musashi Miyamoto transitions from a hothead, nihilistic duelist looking for nothing more than to be the Strongest Swordsman, to a philosopher killer-turning-pacifist contemplating the very meaning of swordsmanship. Similarly also, Vagabond’s motif revolves around Musashi, lone-ronin, discovering not only his place and importance in the world, but specifically the consequences of his decisions on all the people around him. But Takehiko pulls Musashi to this conclusion with patience and poise, components Makoto is evidently deficient in. The two primary contrasts Vagabond has with Planetes: one, Vagabond is one of the greatest manga of all time (if unfortunately incomplete), and two, Vagabond is set in Edo-period Japan rather than Earth’s orbit.
Perhaps then the problems regarding Planete’s character arcs boil down also to an issue of manga length: Planetes finished its run at only 26 chapters, whereas Vagabond is a hefty and ongoing 300+. 300 chapters (primarily) following a single character allows much, much more room for nuance. But I can also think of manga of similar length and core-character-count that achieve nuance and poignance on a level far, far deeper than Planetes has (Solanin at 28 chapters; Buddha at “66” chapters; Pluto at 65 chapters — keep in mind that Planetes has 50-page chapters, whereas I believe all but Buddha have the usual 20). So it comes down more to something I said way up near the top: Planetes prides itself on Moments.
Moments don’t have a terribly strict definition, but if I were to give one colloquially, it would be “epic panels.” Panels, or, more frequently, full pages (and sometimes scenes spanning a few pages within a chapter), which enamor one with a sense of awe, signal the manga’s je ne sais quoi, encapsulate the manga’s entire meaning in single frames: cinematic moments. Full pages of Moments fill the chapters of Planetes, and part of that is because the manga is semi-episodic, with each new chapter usually holding its own separate three-act structure and characters unlikely to return to the foray in later chapters, but keeping the substructure of the story focused on the progression of its main characters (namely, Hachimaki). So just about every chapter you get undeniably brilliant and beautiful panels or pages which more or less summarize the manga as a whole: a character, bedecked in their bulky E.V.A. suit, staring wistfully to the stars beyond; foregrounded in this vast tapestry yet verily not the true focus, as Makoto clearly sees humans not as exploring space but exploring a whole (the universe — or maybe, more, the solar system) of which they make a small but important part just as those distant and ostensibly small dots have their own import. Those are Page Moments. Then there’s Scene Moments: more abstract concepts brought to the forefront of (usually) Hachimaki’s conscious mind via subconscious-attempting-to-tell-him-something-important, for instance chapter 14 which focuses on a Hachimaki’s strange recurring dream regarding an alien creature and him jointly musing at the Milky Way.
In concept, indeed in execution also, I love both these types of Moments. They’re either beautifully contemplative, strange and thought-provoking in their strangeness, or both. But does Planetes earn panels and scenes like these with the story and characters it pushes? No. They’re the saving graces of a manga that would otherwise likely by and by be considered subpar, because they’re the quiet moments desperately needed in a story too loud and in-your-face for the good of its own communal message. These Moments lack significance because they lack the context needed to be significant. The manga visibly eschews subtlety throughout, so adding it in in this manner feels, unfortunately, very forced. My guess is that maybe Makoto thought of all these panels and pages like those separately, individuals gazing into the breadth and depth of the world surrounding them, then structured the entire manga around them, and simply didn’t know how to adequately connect those important points them without rushing. And that’s a shame, because if he didn’t rush this (or, also, Vinland Saga — again a similar character arc for Thorfinn) I could very well see it matching up to the likes of Vagabond. But it doesn’t even come close. I’d wonder if it would fare better if it simply had the muted, nigh-dialogueless storytelling style of “Blame!”
I say that because of the visual presentation of space, interplanetary flight, smokers in a smoke-shunning biome, E.V.A. equipment, politics and anti-politicking, and so on with everything else. The majority of my review may seem negative, but that’s because I’m disappointed: this manga in many respects had clear and powerful potential.
For one, Makoto’s research chops regarding space travel is amazing. Even if the people in this manga don’t feel real, everything around them absolutely does. It’s an attention to detail that reminds me heavily of the recent novel (and recently film-adapted) The Martian. If Makoto had relied less on character archetypes and caricature, rushed less in terms of character progression, then exhibiting the way they so smoothly live in this future world would land phenomenally. Adding to that, his ability to crisply draw high-velocity motion in a world that measures itself in km/s means that when he isn’t focused on making his cast philosophic mountebanks in terms of countenance — I’m not a fan of how he draws people, as he has a tendency for facial non-diversity (compare: eyes, eyebrows, nose) and a penchant for making overreactions overreactive — you can bet that the equipment you see on each panel looks and moves very naturally (or seemingly so; I’m no astronaut).
For a popular culture so hellbent on nail-biting over technological dystopia — the West having that capitalistic fear of economic castration by machine-replacement — Planetes is a breath of optimistic fresh air. Manned interplanetary flight is an inevitability, along with interplanetary economy, transit, family, technology, culture — at this rate. Having all that potential rooted by people, just regular people, and how they’d live in Earth’s orbit in 2075, is something we need. Planetes is something we need: but it’s an idea that can be evolved on, and, especially in terms of characters, improved.
Set in an alternate future where the government spends more on space exploration instead of military hardware, Planetes explores a different genre of the manga community where the slice-of –life invaders have not yet reached. Categorised as hard sci-fi, Planetes which offers a bulk of information, presents it in an enjoyable format and leaves you hungry for more.
The story revolves around the crew of Toy Box, a ship which collects debris revolving around the earth. (Take a minute to appreciate how imaginative this concept is.) It tackles the life of the crew (Garbage men) and their struggles with space and themselves. Presented with a scholar’s
panache, this sci-fi is based on realism of the space industry and gives us a peek into the expertise of these explorers. Not everything though is about the vast universe, the manga talks of finding yourself, being true to your feelings, overcoming your own limitations. It brushes with racism, environmentalism and politics. Planetes balances between individual conflict and larger than life questions with the grace of a figure skater. Although the story is not as juicy as Makato Yukimura’s recent, Vinland Saga, I found the scientific backup of Planetes more appealing than the mythological inventions of the Vinland Saga.
The strongest suit of the manga is the characters. It’s important to acknowledge how the characters are NOT divided and labelled into their generic roles, i.e. the potential love interest, the goofy protagonist or the tsundere. This manga depicts the best female characters I’ve ever seen. For example Fee Carmichael, who might appear to be just a hot tomboy at first but these misgivings are decimated with swift development. Fee is debris collector and a mother, while she works in space her husband takes care of their child back on earth. Fee struggles with her world view and steps up to what she believes. The manga brilliantly touches her struggle with racism. In short Fee is a BAMF who rides a hog, provides for her child and fights the system.
Although the bane of hard sci-fi is its rigorousness, the comic relief provided by Planetes balances it out. The artwork is commendable. Skilful depiction of movements is awe-inspiring. The details in artwork along with detailed story make the manga enjoyable and easy to digest. Planetes manga makes you sonder. You forget about your worries in comparison to this incomprehensible universe.
Planetes is probably one of the most impressive debut works in the manga world thus far. Yukimura nailed it with the art and intriguing cast of characters, creating compelling drama out of a somewhat vague premise about debris collecting in space. Vague it may be but since I’ve always been highly interested in space exploration and space physics, Planetes caught my attention faster than hysterical feminists offering me a free blowjob.
The story is fairly basic and straight forward – we follow a crew of space debris collectors amounting to 4 main characters and many well characterised secondary characters. Planetes is very much a character
driven manga. The struggles these characters go through, their philosophies and motivations are the staple sources of drama. Yukimura specialises in expressing human emotions like no other, whether it’d be through the art or dialogue. The obstacles Hachimaki in particular faces throughout his attempt to achieve his goal are compelling. He started off as a very unlikeable, stubborn fellow but he along with the rest of the crew grew into more revised personalities by the end. Fee in particular is my favourite character. Her flashback was touching (I cried) and her past experiences greatly affected her way of thinking. Outside of the realistically accurate technicalities depicted in the story regarding space travel, manning spaceships and what not, the personal lives of the characters add a more grounded feel to a manga which revolves around lifting your filthy ass off the ground into orbit. While all this may seem to paint Planetes in a very serious tone, it’s far from that. Character interactions tend to be very light hearted with very good comedy thrown in every now and then. They all seem to bounce off one another effortlessly. While most of the characters are fairly likeable for the readers, one individual in particular is portrayed as an asshole. Those who read the manga probably know who I’m talking about (he wears a suit usually). His actions may seem selfish but even someone like him has his own ideals and reasons for doing what he does. This goes to show how well thought out and developed the characters are.
The most impressive aspect for me aren’t the characters however, but the number of themes this manga touches on in such a short run-time of 27 chapters. The cast being multiracial, holding different beliefs and ideologies, one would think racism would be the last thing that’s explored in the story. Well, it is looked upon and it’s done very nicely. A lot of socio-political commentary is present, which helps add another layer of tension and importance to on-going plot events; uncommon for a slice of life type of narrative. The science and space related scraps forming the setting and premise tend to be more background noise with characters being at the forefront. Yukimura also seems to fancy writing about questioning the existence of god quite promptly, a theme he explores in his other work Vinland Saga too. These are just a few examples of the vast array of thematic narration found in Planetes.
The art is another notable part of the manga that improves with each chapter. The first couple of chapters are average and the art comes off as sketchy but after a while the artwork becomes one of the strong points of Planetes. Some wonderful 2-page spreads are to be found. Unlike other sci-fi works of similar nature, Planetes isn’t very descriptive with the technology the story is centred on as the art and illustrations do most of the explaining. Fear not, you won’t be burdened with 4 pages of text informing you on how astronauts piss or shit in space, just one or two panels showing Tanabe making a few stupid noises in the bathroom is enough.
The best way to describe Planetes as a whole is that it’s short and succinct. No chapter is wasted, every page is used to add some sort of characterisation with engaging dialogue and good art.
Planetes by Makoto Yukimura is one of the more underrated manga I've read. It is by the same creator as Vinland Saga, so it is often overshadowed by the more popular work. However, Planetes displays Yukimura's talents just as well as Vinland Saga. The art is incredible, the characters are very vivid and believable, and it is obvious that a lot of thought and research went into creating the setting. When it comes to Sci-Fi and Fantasy, world building is very important. Planetes has some of the best world-building I've ever seen in a Sci-Fi series. It feels like this really could be what
life is like in the near future.
The story is very unimportant. This is the case with most slice-of-life series. The driving force of this manga is the character growth. The main character we follow is Hachimaki, but we follow the other crewmates as well. There are life lessons to be learned from each character's story, and they all come together to create a beautiful tale.
Creating brilliant and believable characters is one of Makoto Yukimura's strong suits. Planetes is no exception. All of the characters are dynamic, unique, and wonderfully human. The different personalities come together to create an interesting group dynamic. Everyone that reads this is sure to find at least one character they can connect with.
P.S. Hachimaki's character growth strongly parallels Thorfinn's in Vinland Saga. I assume that fundamental story is something very personal for Yukimura.
The art is nothing short of amazing. Yukimura excels at drawing people and fluid action sequences. But since this is a sci-fi set in space, it wouldn't work if the technology was drawn poorly. It is drawn very well. He even goes into detail on some of the technology to show that it is scientifically accurate. Very impressive as always from Yukimura.
I love how Planetes talks about a future that could be real. A future without heroism, incredible missions or fights. But just something that could most likely happen in 2075.
The story, fluent and interesting, revolves around four main characters, it manages to explore deeply their personality, behaviours and actions. They all work as part of a team of debris cleaners on a space ship called the Toy Box, to clean the orbit from space debris produced by humans in order to keep spaceship's paths clean and avoid catastrophic collisions.
My impression while reading Planetes was that the plot's main aim is to develop characters: they
pursue their dreams or they try to repair past mistakes, helped by the development of the manga. Planetes takes inspiration from characters' issues to talk about major themes like the mysterious relationship between man and space, the Kessler syndrome or astronauts' issues with their families when they stay in space for long periods of time due to their jobs.
Hachirota Hoshino, Ai Tanabe, Fee Carmichael and Yuri Mihalkov are the characters that are explored the most. Hachirota dreams to buy his own spaceship to become a free space explorer; Ai is an innocent girl that believes in love (her name, Ai, means love) and respect between people; Fee understands step by step the value of kindness and love by the complicated relationship between her, her son and the whole earth; Yuri dedicates himself to clean space from debris after his wife has been killed by a space flight accident caused by the impact with a debris. There aren't random characters, they all have their past, their story to narrate, a goal. This is what intrigued me the most.
The art is very detailed and realistic, especially when it comes to spaceships and landscapes, but I didn't like that much the representation of the characters. Usually they are very simple and similar to each other and you tend to confuse them, especially when they are wearing space suits, and this complicates things quite a bit since there are many jumps between various characters during the story.
It's a very original show, at least for what I've seen/read until now, that mixes realism with funny parts, all together to create a really nice sci-fi manga. It takes time to read, since some parts are pretty heavy, and tends to give the reader many informations at the same time, but it's definitely worth it. The most of sci-fi fans will surely like Planetes if they don't consider sci-fi only a sequence of space fights and big advanced weapons.
I loved these volumes so much I wrote a review especially to put on one of the manga shelves at work. It went something like this:
Planetes is a riveting, beautifully depicted piece of sci-fi realism that is, at its heart, a love letter to humanity in space.
Focusing on the crew of spaceship 'Toy Box,' a debris-collecting vehicle roaming the dark and cluttered space skies, we are introduced to a vast world filled with all sorts of mysteries and conspiracies, terrorists and dreamers in a world where space is a part of everyday life. We follow Commander Fee, Yuri, Ai and Hachirota as they
deal with the qualms of being in such an environment, along with their own personal issues.
Planetes is an undeniable treasure and classic which had me in awe at the loveability of the characters and the relatability of each of their personalities. It's a significant thing when a series focused on the loneliness of space is filled with enough warmth and radiance to leave you with nothing but hope for the future. Each character has their share of doubts and tragedy--Yuri, for example, has dedicated his life to cleaning debris after the cluster of which impacted a spaceship and killed his wife--yet unity and love once again triumphs, even over the most hopeless and determined dreamers. I especially enjoyed the philosophical debates Yukimura raises throughout, particularly the difficulty of accepting ones dreams even if such a thing means leaving family behind.
Overall the most pertinent question I had while reading Planetes was whether or not I would finish it believing humanity could truly find a place in space. While I still haven't come to a complete conclusion, I think Planetes above all gives us hope, which I think is the most important lesson to be learnt here. I loved this series a lot and my thoughts are everywhere.
Planetes is a seinen, science-fiction manga series that is written and illustrated by Makoto Yukimura (Vinland Saga). It follows a small group of astronauts who are tasked with keeping near-Earth’s orbit clean of debris. In the four volumes of the series, or two omnibus editions, we get familiarised with the individuals who are doing the disgusting jobs no one else wants to do. We see them as professionals in their trade, and as regular human beings with everyday, normal problems in their personal lives as well.
The chapters within Planetes tend to be very episodic in nature, with a few of these “episodes” spanning multiple chapters
depending on the arc that is currently being examined. This works superbly because it allows the reader to get to know each of the characters individually. We do see all five to six of these folks working together, but the ultimate focus of each arc falls on a specific person at a time.
Even though it’s categorised in such a means, the writing is extraordinary. As someone who understands complex and difficult sciences rather well, I understand that being an astronaut and doing this mundane occupation of “trash gathering” is actually extremely dangerous and intricate. You have to be absolutely brilliant with many, many subjects in order to be able to complete the tasks assigned to them safely and successfully. While we learn about each person, it’s done in a highly intimate manner. The reasons that everyone has for wanting to have a career out in the void of space is uniquely personal to them. Some of those reasons as terribly emotional, while others are as simple as mere curiosity. This creates a dynamic for diverse personalities and unpredictable storytelling. Each crew member’s plight in various forms, no matter how subtle or forthright, helps to create a much bigger picture: the family they have all become. Every aspect is tied together by one piece of thread or another. So yeah, the chapters are episodic, but the narrative is quite cohesive in the grand scheme of things.
In addition to being highly character-rich, the examination of space-life is fantastically realistic. Some motifs include political strife; emotional, physiological, and psychological stresses; and the families of the astronauts who are being affected by their prolonged absences from Earthly lives. This in turn evokes an array of emotions. There were at least three times while reading this manga serial where I had to take a break because I began to cry. The focus on family is so heart-wrenchingly relatable. Everyone has a dysfunctional home-life. But it’s still a home, a place they’ve left behind that is filled with warmth and love. It was beautiful. As well as crying, there were many moments where I was completely awed by the physics, astronomy, and engineering that went into creating the bulk of the what the astronauts are charged with doing.
The manga is sensationally smart and profoundly intelligent, not to mention meticulously technical, in regards to living in space. This includes dealing with gravity within a space station, the affects of cigarette smoke within space communes, settling on a planet for mining, etc. My brain felt so wonderfully invigorated and completely immersed; it was a very interactive type of reading experience for me. All of it is further amplified by the masterful illustrations.
To say that Planetes is one of the most breathtaking manga series’ that I have ever read would be, quite frankly, one hell of an understatement. I’ve read a lot of gorgeous manga, and comics, but nothing on a scale that can truly compare to this seinen story. One of the most terrifying parts of being in space, whether you reside there or are exploring its depths, is how overwhelmingly vast and empty it is. It’s a black void filled with trillions of stars and other gaseous creations. There’s no oxygen, no light, no sound, etc. It is fucking frightening how lonely space truly and utterly is. The mangaka does an exceptional job of bringing this horrifying concept to life with his drawings. When I look at a page that is nothing but a single man standing on a planet, looking out at the blackness before him, I get chills. I can feel the anxiety and panic of it all seeping into my bones. It’s an all-encompassing sort of mastery that creates a strong foundation for the series. Without the art, Planetes would have been lost to its potential. But it wasn’t and I’m so damn grateful for it.
Speaking of being grateful, while there are a myriad number of motifs that are exhibited in Planetes, my favourites are the ones that have to do with life being what you make of it and the people that you share it with. No matter who you are, or what your trade consists of, a life without these two distinct qualities isn’t really a life worth living. It’s a notion that I know I have taken for granted and have forgotten on my journey thus far, and it feels marvellous and comforting to be reminded of it every now and again.
In conclusion, if you like hard science-fiction, and you are a fan of technically, complex narratives that concentrate on being in space, then I recommend this manga series to you. It’s positively brilliant.
I found Planetes by chance at the library, and [it] being a manga with a space man on the cover, I had no choice but to crack it open. I was immediately hooked by the premise as described by the back cover, and What I discovered was a series rich with world building, captivating characters, and a delightful art.
As much as I would have been happy for Planetes to be a story just about space, it is ultimately a story about people in space, which necessitates interesting characters. Our main characters are simple yet powerful, while many side characters are used as episodic catalysts for
the main cast. I found Hachimaki (Or Hachirota, or Hoshino-san, or just Hachi) remarkably relatable with his steadfast dedication to outer space, and determination to do whatever it takes to fulfill his dreams. His drive is all in hopes of one day saving enough money to buy his own spaceship and experience true freedom, and who doesn't yearn for that feeling? Part of the main conflict is how much of his humanity he is willing to subdue in pursuit of his goals. Of course, it would be a boring story if Hachi remained the same throughout, and so other characters are used to influence him and shift his thinking. Around half way he undergoes a pretty drastic change in personality, and lands at a nice, soft spot by the end of the story.
The rest of our main cast of debris-collectors--Fee, Yuri, and Tanabe--receive nearly equal screen time (Page time?), except for poor Yuri. He's never focused on much after the beginning of the story. Fee illustrates the struggle between childlike aspirations and resignation to adulthood. The story takes time to focus more on her personal life and how her actions play into the main plot in the second half. Tanabe's belief in the power of love and sometimes clueless demeanor creates a perfect counterpoint to Hachi's irreverent attitude. The plethora of side characters serve as avenues to preset Hachi and the audience alike with lessons and messages about different aspects of life. All of the characters have families, they meet new coworkers and colleagues, an encounter numerous others that challenge the way they think about the world.
The overarching plot is one of significant intrigue to me, and ought be to anyone excited by the prospect of humans expanding into outer space. The hints of hard science contained within can allow one to infer the real knowledge of the author. This is someone who thinks about space as much as I do (Probably more). The purpose of our crew's job is to help prevent the onset of Kessler Syndrome, wherein excessive debris begins to destroy other spacecraft, starting a vicious cycle that ends with Earth's orbit too densely packed with dangerous scrap for any ship to pass through. With this as our setup, the stakes are effectively humanity's entire future, because failure to prevent a Kessler disaster will confine terrestrial humans to the Earth, and sever spacenoids from it.
Yukimura-sensei explores numerous themes related to the human condition. From the beginning he tackles life and death in space, and humanity's relationship with the Earth. Through various characters we're shown how these people cope with their dreams and the sacrifices they make for them, how they interact with authority or rebel against it, and find themselves alienated from a larger picture. The one that drives everything home, however, is love. All of the character relationships and struggles are built on an unconditional love and appreciation for mankind.
Planetes does showcase a somewhat peculiar narrative structure. While it largely follows the endeavors of Hachi, Yukimura is never afraid to divert your attention to another character for a time. Around the midpoint there is a distinct shift, after which a bulk of the remainder is spent with characters who had been pushed out of focus for a while, but in the end it all ties back to Hachi's adventures and development as an individual.
As it was his debut work, Yukimura-sensei grew into his art style throughout the series. It begins with more realistic people, but by the end the characters have developed more enlarged, cartoony facial features. This shift tends to make the characters more expressive and emotive, but fortunately doesn't contrast with the consistently rigid and detailed scenery and vehicles. The mechanical artwork, I must say, is impeccable. The story framework and art alike don't stretch the imagination by any large amount. Everything feels real, and plausible for the year 2070 (Provided corporations actually gain the sense to develop resources in space).
This is one of the most cinematic comics I've ever read. The panel composition combined with the sound effects and extra bits of dialogue crammed into exchanges give the impression of a living, moving piece. Every view of space or celestial bodies is well framed to showcase its vastness compared to our insignificant stature. There are plentiful color pages, and Yukimura's art is only enhanced by the extra dimension of detail.
Walking away from this series, I was fully satisfied despite a somewhat low energy climax. Planetes uses its powerful character stories to tell a larger story about the future, and I would recommend Planetes to anybody with an interest in sci-fi, actual science, outer space, or well written slice of life manga. In space.
In the later half of the 21st century, humans have colonized the moon and Mars, and are on the cusp of colonizing Jupiter. The mission is met with controversy, from shady government officials, terrorist groups, to our main characters who just want to do their job.
Planetes is a beautiful slice-of-life that uses outer space as a backdrop in order to examine humanity. The series covers a wide range of life questions, from love, to what it means to “grow up.” It asks if humans have a right to explore outer space, or if the colonization of other planets is trespassing.
Planetes is episodic, often jumping across
several months or years each chapter. In the first half of the series, most of the chapters are short, self-contained stories. It feels like Yakimura is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with the series, and is overall weaker. When the story finds focus in the Jupiter mission, the series starts to get really good, to the point where the reader doesn’t want it to end. Although the series ends at a good point, I wish it didn’t end so soon.
We follow the cast over several years, and it shows. Each character comes to term with their insecurities and lack of maturity, and gain a strong sense of who they are. Our species is just a spec in the universe, and separation from the trivial problems on Earth allows for some real introspection on what really matters.
tl;dr: A manga with some pretty interesting concepts and that looks at some pretty interesting issues, but doesn’t really do much with them in the end.
I found this manga pretty unfocused and while I think it did a lot of things decently, I didn’t think it did anything particularly well. I believe one of the key aspects of this manga was diving into space exploration, and looking at some of the less looked at aspects of such, mainly debris collecting and groups that oppose such on principle. I think that if it focused on that entirely and went more in depth into that, it could
have been a better story because the aspects related to that were interesting, but just as important was the flight to Jupiter, which was a much more standard story and not executed that well. The story threads that popped up never felt like they had proper endings, but rather the plot just moved from one to the next in a pretty disjointed way. I suppose that isn’t too much of an issue, as in general, especially when it got to the second half, this didn’t feel like a heavily plot oriented manga, and there weren’t a lot of moments with a suspense or that made you really wonder what would happen next. Rather, the focus seemed to be more on the characters and their psychological state. It explored a lot of different things, humanity feeling small compared to the rest of existence, why astronauts feel compelled to give their lives for something so far away, the feelings of people willing to give up anything in order to complete their grand goals, and ultimately what it is that drives people in general. All of these were somewhat interesting, but all in all I don’t think any of these were explored in that much depth, certainly not enough to hold up the manga, and to a pretty large degree it didn’t feel that most of these had a point. There were a lot of moments where topics like these would be brought up, and as a result Hachimaki would change mindsets, but it wasn’t entirely clear to me how this was occurring, and so it felt pretty random to me and the character development not really justified. Especially the ending, with the line on love just feeling kind of generic and cheesy.
Well, when I first looked at Planetes, I imagined what kind sci-fi story could be made in just 4 volumes. The slice of life style surprised me when I noted it by the second volume. That's original, huh? I think there's nothing better than a sci-fi background to explore the human nuances. Sci-fi is the most human thing ever. It's man being God, it's a Second Creation, it's an extension of the humankind.
In this case, space. The true focus of Planetes are people. However, the information and how the technology works in space looked very accurate to me, showing the understanding of the author about
them. After all, it's a sci-fi-based background, isn't it? It's important to build the atmosphere, since a lot of thoughts are based on ideas of loneliness, infinity and dreams.
All the manga's characters, supporters or main, had a reason to be there. They represented, they meant something. An emotion. A thought. A dream. A pain. While reading, I suddenly would stop and think "What was the author wanting to mean with this? How does this match my reality? And if it doesn't, how can I understand the feelings of this char?" These questions often come to me when I read something able to absorb me. It has to be a good reading. And Planetes is really and deeply good.
Planetes' characters are charismatic in a different way. They aren't cool or flashy. They are... Human. I read their stories and their minds, and a smile always escaped, unconsciously. Those guys looked so nice. The kind of person that I really would love to talk with for hours. I felt so close to them, and we're not even in the same reality. My favorite was probably the calm and light Yuri, with his wandering and melancholic existence, but everyone grew on me someway. They look unique among the characters that I usually like. I think that's incredible. The four main characters had their own ways of seeing the world, and the development and question about them were inspiring and beautiful. You could think with them on your own way. "What would I do?". Fee and Hachi were the most special cases. In the end, even the bratty Tanabe had my cherishing. Each one grew as people, mainly Hachi, because of his great change of his point of view about life.
And even the matters outside of the human psychology have their shine in Planetes. Man and nature, war, terrorism, social unorthodoxy. Simply and powerfully, the manga relates these themes with the characters, bringing out the best of both. The realism is superb in Planetes. The outstanding art did a lot. The character design had me, and the backgrounds were nothing less than amazing. That's where Yukimura's style really shines.
For me, this manga's message is: humankind has an essence. A lot of things are in it. Hatred, ignorance, greed. But, two assured things are love and willpower. We only evolve because of all qualities and flaws of ourselves, that's our true form. What we really and naturally are. And, despite the humankind's eternal wish to achieve bigger and bigger horizons in outer space, we should never forget that we are also a part of the Universe. So, besides the outer universe, we should never forget about the inner universe of each one of us.