The feels are thick with this one.
Plenatarian is a story hard-core Visual Arts fans have been clamoring to see adapted for a long time. Released in 2004, it was the fourth Key VN released (in-between Clannad and Little Busters) and in most respects, the most unique. It’s considered a “kinetic” novel, since there are no choices for the player, and no alternate routes. It was written by Suzumoto Yuuichi and drawn by Komatsu Eeiji (one of only two Key releases where that’s the case). It’s also receiving a somewhat unusual treatment – a 5-episode ONA followed by a movie. Key fans are notorious for bitching rather than appreciating what they have, so we’ll see what the reaction is to finally having their Planetarian anime after all this time
For me, the first episode of the ONA was a solid hit. The magic of Key, I suppose, happens when you can be aware you’re being emotionally manipulated but you’re swept up anyway. And Planetarian definitely has that quality for me. At heart this seems to be a very simple story, but there’s an obvious poignancy to it that’s difficult not to be impacted by.
There are two major characters in Planetarian, the first being a department store robot named Hoshino Yumemi (Suzuki Keiko). She was designed to be the hostess of a rooftop planetarium show, but when war strikes her creators are forced to abandon her. That war leaves Tokyo a “sarcophagus city”, wrecked and desolate, but Hoshino remains on duty – her systems starting to fail, utterly alone. After almost 30 years “Junker” (Ono Daisuke) arrives hunting for food and weapons in the dystopian city, dodging drone soldiers and eventually taking refuge in the department store. Stunned to find electricity in such a place, he stumbles on Hoshino. And she pretty much never stops talking after that.
In a sense, Hoshino’s endless rambling dialogue and Junker’s reactions could be taken as comedy. But they’re much more tragedy, because the reality of the situation is forever pressing down on us as we watch. Junker is desperate, wary and bone-weary – he just wants to be left alone, but Hoshino is desperate to be useful in some capacity. She tries to get Junker to watch the star show – even lying and telling him he’s the 2,500,000th customer at first – but the projector (“Miss Jena“) is unsurprisingly in even worse shape than she is.
Again, this is a very simple story, but there’s no little emotional impact to it. The question of our responsibility to the artificial intelligences we create is hardly a new one to science-fiction or anime, but this is a very personal and visceral take on it. And Junker, for all his wary impatience, is clearly not unaware of this. Sometimes it’s the simplest stories that can be the most profound, and my hope is that Planetarian sticks to the basic template it established in this premiere – I don’t need to see a grander plot to be satisfied. This is a story that seems well-suited to a short-form adaptation, and I’m anxious to see whether it can fulfill the promise of the first episode.