Given how the concept for Planetarian started, it feels appropriate that the anime for this story has been created in 2016. It began as a visual novel by Key (or rather a “kinetic novel”) which was released in 2004. Over ten years later, now is the time apparently for this to be adapted into an anime ONA. It may not have been quite the intention of the creators, but the gap between the start of the visual novel until the airing of the animated series feels as if it is a reference to the concepts of the story itself. It’s a reminder to not forget past, and look positively towards the future. Planeterian is simple, but it’s also a poignant and melancholy science fiction tale.
The premise and plot for Planetarian are most certainly not as striking as one would hope for, but that’s okay in this case. The main character is a man with no name that scavenges a post-apocalyptic world and one day comes across a planetarium. When exploring, he meets a robot named Yumemi , designed specifically to be a young girl who gives tours at the planetarium. She may not be truly sentient, but she is eager to do her job and bring happiness to visitors, which is in strict contrast to the cold and emotionless demeanor of the man who resides as the protagonist. It’s the classic science fiction question that uses a robot as comparison to ask what it really means to be a human.
Planetarian could have spent too much time on this concept, but it doesn’t really. It is more about the interaction between these two characters and how Yumemi is able to bring hope to a rightfully jaded man. During his visits to the planetarium he helps fix up the mechanical struggles that prevent the projector from working. He does this for Yumemi despite that in theory there is no reason considering she has no emotions and that it would only serve as inconvenience to him. Of course, this isn’t necessarily the case as the viewer can presume. When the projector begins to work, the room becomes illuminated by a star-filled sky with Yumemi’s commentary surprisingly bleak and fanciful at the same time. She is the ray of light in a world that has otherwise become wilted. We also see through her memories she has kept showing the world before it went to hell, a time where everyone seemed so much happier. This brings out the prioritizing message that Planterian has to offer, that as long as we can remember that we once had happiness, it is something we can create once again.
Planetarian isn’t an action packed show, and the setting seems to be held back by the writers from becoming a frivolous array of empty never-ending mechanical battles. It does have a scene with a tachikoma-like robot coming in to cause trouble to our two leads, but it’s not a scene that’s dragged out through action, but through words. Being an ONA (the new OVA apparently) the animation seems decent, although it’s hard to tell if it really is any better than the average television series because, other than one prominent action sequence, most of this is talking heads, not a surprise considering the story the visual novel seems to cover (although I have not “played” the original myself). The anime series is only five episodes, but it’s a relief, as pulling out thirteen episodes from this story would have been a stretch.
As expected based off of the premise, tone, and other works by Key, the ending for Planetarian is sad. The resolution is something that seemed inevitable from the first episode. However the viewer will certainly come away from this anime with something important. It looks at themes we have seen before many times, most obviously in science fiction, but it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder every now and then.