Never has the future felt so alive or believable as it does in Planetes. 2001 feels like a distant memory when I absorb myself into the world as forseen by this manga. For a complete and utter Science fiction nerd like me, this series is to be praised, not only for its general science accuracy, incredibly detailed and believable environments, but for the sheer scale of the science fiction world that has been created here.
Planetes is set in the year 2074 (a damn good starting point with the date I think). At this time, mankind has been on the path to permanently living in space for over 30 years. The moon has a base to mine the precious Helium-3 (for those not scientifically gifted, it’s highly useful for Nuclear Fusion reactions) and world wars have been fought and lost over the dwindling resources on Earth. The developed nations of the world have teamed up to conquer the space around the Earth, building massive space-stations, defences, industrial complexes, all of which creates pollution, and debris. Hachirota Hoshino is a debris collector, a rubbish collector in space if you will. The debris hurtling around the space at tens of thousands of miles per hour will cause incredible damage if it collides with orbital facilities, and it’s his, and the duty of the crew of the DS-12 Toybox, to collect this debris to prevent the further loss of human life. Their job is critical to the future of space exploration and yet, is the least respected.
The story doesn’t begin and end with collecting debris. Each and every crew member has their aspirations, their dreams which is all developed and explored in turn. Hachirota’s dream to own and operate his own spaceship blossoms into a lust to become a member of the first human piloted spaceship to reach the Jovian system on the Von Braun. Yuri, Fee, Tanabe, each of them, become knotted in a major political and emotional struggle for the control of space, love blossoms, relationships flounder, and, bah, there truly is so much happening in this series, it’s hard to describe without going into too much detail. Ill put it this way, the anime Planetes, is based on the manga. As far as I can gather, the series as it stands, a complete 26 episodes, covers the first three out of five volumes of the manga series.
As the manga stands, I think it’s a truly excellent series. But I find that it is missing a certain something. I feel that sometimes in the early volumes, the reader is treated like they should already be familiar with the characters, with how they behave and who they are. Although the first volume does lead in nicely with the story of how Yuri’s wife perished, and why he is a debris collector, it does feel like the other characters are not getting much of a look in at this moment. A simple explanation on the characters would make all the difference here.
As each volume passes, the focus does change from character to character, with each chapter progressing the understanding of each character a bit further. This style does work for this series and does help a lot in the development of the plot as a whole. An extra volume or two just expanding on some issues with the plot and the characters could improve my understanding and liking of this series just that bit more to give it a nice perfect score.
I originally bought this manga due to the sheer fact that I am a fan of the anime series spawned from its pages. As with most mangas, you cannot really judge by a review. If you are a fan of nice hardcore science fiction or a fan of the anime series, then this is simply the manga for you to pick up. The series has now been published in its entirety, with the final volume being 4 Part 2. For such a compelling story, the price is right, and cheap, which makes it, in my opinion, a manga the self respecting science fiction nerd must have.
Price: £6.50 - Travelling Man
Writer/Artist: Makoto Yukimura