Hey folks, and welcome back to Why It Works. With the summer season basically over at this point, I’ve had some time to think about the summer as a whole -- and in the end, I can’t say any show impressed me nearly as much as Planet With. In a season full of titans like My Hero Academia and, er, the actual Attack on Titan, Planet With was the scrappy little engine that could, offering heartrending drama and colossal battles in a lean twelve episode frame. And yet, I never really saw that much buzz for Planet With around the internet, and feel the show still hasn’t quite broken through in the fandom’s eyes. So as the season ends, I offer my final recommendation for what I feel might be a genuine classic, and is either way absolutely worth your time. The things this show accomplishes in just one season are truly staggering, and if you haven't devoured it yet, you should count yourself very lucky. Please watch Planet With if you like...
Stories with an Epic Scale. Planet With opens with earth under attack, as our hero Soya is forced to juggle regaining his memories with dealing with the invaders. Or rather, collaborating with the invaders -- as it turns out, Soya’s faction isn’t exactly aligned with the earthlings, and the earthlings may themselves be harnessing a power no living creature should possess. As factions and philosophies cross and Soya is forced to consistently reassess the morality of his own choices, Planet With rises in scale and gallops through full narratives. Soya essentially “defeats” the show’s first antagonists within the first half-dozen episodes, but the nature of Planet With’s conflicts mean there’s always a new threat on the horizon. By the end, all the forces of the universe are drawn into a war that echoes Gurren Lagann in both scale and intensity, all within a tightly written twelve episode package.
Stories with Great Characters. As the faction-flipping of that prior paragraph might imply, morality is not a simple thing in Planet With. Characters fight for what they believe in, but what they believe in is often subject to change, and Planet With’s stars gain tremendous texture as people over the course of their battles. Soya’s relationship with his allies eventually blossoms into a heartwarming found family drama, while many of the show’s human warriors demonstrate fallibility, empathy, courage, despair, and much else through the course of their journeys. From their quirkiness to their compassion, Planet With’s stars are brimming with qualities that set each of them apart, and make all of them worth rooting for.
Stories with a Dash of Absurdity. As you might have already noticed, Soya’s principle allies in Planet With are a green-haired girl in a maid outfit and a giant, terrifying human-shaped cat. Planet With’s author Satoshi Mizukami has always loved contrasting the deeply felt and poignant against the obviously absurd, and details ranging from Planet With’s bizarre designs to its warm sense of humor all reflect Mizukami’s unique sensibilities. Though these qualities may seem to clash, just like in something like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Planet With’s absurdity ultimately contributes greatly to its bombastic tone, elevating its wild climaxes even higher. Planet With understands anime don’t need utter tonal self-seriousness to make you cry.
Stories with a Lot to Say. Planet With is ultimately a story about the power of empathy and forgiveness to overcome hate and difference, but it barrels through all manner of thoughtful and poignant insights on its way there. The question of what it is to be human, and whether individual brilliance and success demands a sort of personal selfishness, is built into the show’s debate between sealing humanity or letting it flourish. How aspirational fiction can inspire us to better than ourselves, the nature of happiness, what parents owe to their children, what it means to be a family or community -- all of these questions are handled with intelligence and empathy, resulting in a story that offers at least one inspiring, heartfelt declaration per episode. Planet With is as smart as it is passionate, demonstrating that giant mega punches and philosophical debate are obviously meant to be together.
Stories with a Beating Heart. It is clear in Planet With’s every character, every plot turn, and every titanic clash that Satoshi Mizukami absolutely loves this story. The characters are illustrated with such sympathy, the turns executed with such grace, and the fights with such enthusiasm that it’s almost impossible not to be carried along. There is not a cynical bone in Planet With’s body, but that is not the same thing as being ignorant or naive -- the show understands there is a great deal of suffering and unfairness in the world, but like its own strongest characters, it wants to believe in the best of us. Planet With opens with tragedies unmeasurable, and concludes with forgiveness inconceivable, demonstrating a spirit of community and compassion that I find truly inspiring. It is a scrappy and strange show, but its story left me breathless again and again, leaving me with characters I still love and plenty else to think about. Please give Planet With a shot.