Have reviews ever discouraged you from watching an anime or playing a video game? They have for me and not necessarily because their assessment of the product was negative. Many moons ago I was perusing Steam for a new visual novel to read when I came across a kinetic book titled Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet. The buyer comments section was brimming with thumbs up, but I gave the game a pass as many remarks mentioned that the narrative was laced with feels. No thanks, I thought, why subject myself to depression? Jump ahead two years and news reaches me that Planetarian has been adapted into an anime. Oh what the heck, let’s give it a watch. My tear ducts could use some exercise and thanks to Funimation’s dub I needn’t worry about waterworks in my eyes blurring out the text.
Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume is set in the not too distant future, were Earth is reeling from the effects of atomic war, over population and a lack of natural resources. See! I knew electing Hilary Clinton/Donald Trump (amend after November eighth’s polls) to the Oval Office would end in disaster! The story begins with a junker named Kuzuya infiltrating the confines of Sarcophagus City in search of technology, booze and weapons that he can salvage for cash. After a run in with some hostile sentry bots, Kuzuya is forced to flee into a dilapidated department store where he encounters a blue haired female android named Hoshino Yumemi. The adorable automaton incessantly pesters Kuzuya to visit the building’s rooftop planetarium, which three decades ago she was programmed to maintain.
Apart from a few minor characters, Planetarian has a modest cast of two people. Kuzuya is presented as a gruff survivalist who somehow can subsist on a daily diet of just one biscuit. Initially he finds Yumemi’s babbling to be a pain, but an overnight stay at the planetarium makes him warm up to her. In recompense for sheltering him, Kuzuya even agrees to repair the establishment’s busted projector. Yumemi is delighted by the starlight projector’s restoration, as her sole purpose in life is to teach humans about the cosmos. The fact that Sarcophagus City is now rubble and that no customers have visited her in thirty years hasn’t wavered Yumemi’s passion for astronomy lessons. Yumemi’s brain is a fountain of knowledge, although her mechanical body is weak. Any strenuous activity causes her to trip and overheat… in a way she’s like a walking Xbox 360!
My rating for Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume is, no pun intended, four and a half “stars.” It’s a nice story that manages to concisely tell its tale in just five parts. The creators resisted padding out the short visual novel into a cour long show and in most cases the episodes don’t even reach the twenty-minute mark. Aside from the likable characters I was impressed with Planetarian’s artwork. David Production has put a lot of effort into the visuals, for what is an original net animation. When compared to a clunky looking web series like RWBY, Planetarian is leaps ahead in terms of aesthetics (time to activate the flame shield because angry Rooster Teeth commenters are incoming.) The finale that pits Kuzuya against an autonomous tank stood out in particular. Said scene wouldn’t have looked out of place in something like Ghost in the Shell.
One complaint that could be levied at Planetarian is that the script is emotionally manipulative. Viewers should however go into the show expecting this, as the series is based on a ten-year-old Key visual novel. Since the late nineties that company has been breaking our hearts with bittersweet tragedies featuring big eyed cute waifus. These are the guys after all who worked on tearjerkers such as Clannad and Angel Beats. Planetarian doesn’t deviate from the established Key formula, which may be a plus or a minus depending on your tastes. If you enjoyed Planetarian be aware that a similar visual novel named Harmonia was released on Steam a month ago. Will I be buying it? After reading the reviews, probably not. My sensitive feelings can only withstand so many “onion cutting simulators” per year.