Back during the season premieres, I checked out the first episode of planetarian: Reverie of a Little Planet and reported back that it was good, but suffered from distribution being limited to only four countries. Since then, it has been picked up for much wider free distribution and has finished its run of five episodes, and your correspondent has gone on a road trip which will keep me from commenting on simulcasts this week.
So, instead of the usual, I’ll give you a minimally spoilery review of the whole of planetarian. Normal service will resume next week with a double helping of commentary.
Nearly thirty years after a terrible war, an unnamed city sits quarantined and abandoned. The only people who brave the walls and guard robots are Junkers, who sneak in to try to salvage useful goods and bits of technology.
One young man pursuing this trade gets far more than he bargained for when he finds his way into a planetarium sitting atop a megastore. Through a mixture of luck and good engineering, it’s still nearly functioning, as is its hostess, Yumemi Hoshino.
Yumemi (whose name in Japanese order sounds like hoshi no yumemi, “dreaming of stars”) is a customer-service android specially programmed to talk to kids about astronomy. War bringing about the end of modern civilization is beyond her comprehension. When the Junker tries explaining that the main power isn’t coming back on, for instance, she seems to accept this for a moment, but then wants to know whether things will be working in time for tomorrow morning’s show.
At times these conversations lead to deep thoughts (Yumemi knows the folklore of the constellations, so she understands the concepts of gods and heaven), and at other times it’s like a person arguing with an automated phone tree. But Yumemi is earnest and endearing, and the Junker finds he can’t just ignore her and move on with his search.
As far as Yumemi is concerned, her visitor is a customer, and by golly he’s going to get a planetarium show one way or another. The best parts of planetarian are Yumemi practicing her craft and how that opportunity comes about. Japanese SF is, by and large, incredibly optimistic about space, and the feeling is infectious here.
Unfortunately, the last couple of episodes head down a well-worn path to a predictable fate for the main characters. There is a stab at philosophizing about the situation, but it leads to nothing terribly original within SF.
planetarian isn’t a can’t-miss show, but its short length and high points make it worth watching. If you’ve been feeling cynical, here’s a way to let a little sense of wonder into your life.