Anime of the Week: Planet With
You like mechs? You like smart shows with mechs? You like smart shows with mechs that pretend to be dumb shows with mechs? You like CATS? If all of these weirdly specific interests (especially the last one) are what you’re looking for in a show, Planet With is the anime for you! Written by Satoshi Mizukami and animated by JC Staff, Planet With went somewhat under the radar during last year’s Summer 2018 season. The only influential anime presence to really talk about this show for an extended period (in this reviewer’s limited and biased perspective) was Mother’s Basement, but this article is here to give Planet With a second shot at the limelight. Let’s see how it goes!
Plot: One day, giant and mysterious ships belonging to an alien race known as the Nebulans start appearing on the Japanese coast. The Nebulan ships come down from the sky as these weird, malformed mascot characters. Then, anyone that comes near the ships (usually in an aircraft) will have their mind psychically entrapped inside a vision of that person’s paradise while their body becomes a smiling, subservient husk. Who are the Nebulans, and what are they trying to do to the people of Japan and Earth? That’s what the seven heroes of Grand Paladin are here to find out! Their job at Grand Paladin is to defend the earth from any kind of weird (and somewhat tacky) alien threat with their psychically infused battle mechs.
To add even more mystery and confusion into the mix, none of that conflict has anything to do with our amnesia-stricken protagonist, Soya Kuroi. Soya is a normal high school kid who lives with Ginko, a vegetarian girl in a maid outfit, and Sensei, a giant, bipedal cat that looks up the skirts of anime figures. But one day, Ginko and Sensei instruct Soya to do an impossible task: not to help the members of Grand Paladin defend Japan and Earth, but to surprisingly defeat them in combat and steal their transformation items! What in the world of Planet With is going on? It’s a three-way brawl between the Nebulans with their strange agenda to pacify the people of Earth, the members of Grand Paladin that want to defend their home and keep it safe no matter what the cost, and one tiny boy who has to fight both parties in order to find out what actually happened in his past. And, what does any of this have to do with a giant space dragon?!
One of the characters is a giant cat that meows in an extremely deep voice and looks up the skirts of anime figures. That’s all you need to know about this show, really. Kidding aside, every single character in Planet With is a dumb and trope-y mess, and the show wants you to know it. You got an edgy amnesiac protagonist, a green-haired maid cosplayer, a wacky purple mascot, and that’s only just the protagonists! With the members of Grand Paladin, there’s a stereotypical chuunibyo character, a horny old man, a guy who likely would’ve been the real shonen protagonist under different circumstances, and many more. Planet With tries to cater to the common denominator with all these stereotype characters, and yet, there’s more hidden underneath.
At the core of every single one of these dumb characters belies a real person with actual emotions, feelings, and issues. The chuunibyo has trouble talking and interacting with people in the real world, so he pretends to live as a cool fantasy hero and hang out with the protagonist at his high school (despite having graduated). And as a result of all these fantasies and rejection of reality, the chuunibyo is in the most danger when it comes to facing the Nebulan’s mind tricks. The horny old man acts that lively as a mere façade so that his son, the commander of Grand Paladin, doesn’t have to worry about him after the recent departing of his wife. And that’s just the side characters. We’re not even talking about Sensei the giant talking purple cat yet.
References: You like mecha anime? You like references to mecha anime? You think this bit’s getting old? Well, Planet With’s got all of that for you (except for the last one)! Grand Paladin functions the same as a power ranger or super sentai team, with a leading commander, an archetypical hero, a home base, etc. Later in the show, the weird psychic mechs that the members of Grand Paladin (and Soya, the actual protagonist; please don’t forget about him) receive start to become as big, stupid, and complicated as the type of headface mechs that are in Gurren Lagann. One arc is ripped straight out of the Human Instrumentality event in Neon Genesis Evangelion. The major theme of Planet With revolves around the destructive capabilities of war, just like a certain other famous anime franchise that starts with G and ends in undam. This show is a beautiful omage to all the famous mech shows that came before it. There’s also reference to previous works from the writer of this show, Satoshi Mizukami. I mean, the anime figure whose skirt Sensei is Asahina Samidare, the protagonist of Mizukami’s first major work: Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer.
Themes: What constitutes violence and nonviolence? Is it what the Nebulans are trying to do, by psychically entrapping people and forcibly pacifying them, although technically hurting a single person? Is it the methods of Grand Paladin, whose members for the sake of justice, yet are willing to cause as much destruction as they’re trying to prevent? These are the types of questions that Planet With is trying to answer. This show twists the archetypical shonen and mech narratives by asking its viewers what the right tactic is when it comes to conflict and war, if there even is one at all.
Another amazing thing about this show is, again, how it handles its characters (but this time, in how they service the theme). No one in Planet With is a bad person. Not the Nebulans, who the shows tries to characterize when they show who’s sending down the weird and tacky ships. Not the extremely evil-looking chief who looks like he could be the final villain in any other show. Not even Soya, who starts the show by going all Shadow the Hedgehog and steal the chaos emeralds transformations in Grand Paladin’s hands. No one is truly evil, only misguided. It’s all about perspective. And talking cats.
Final Thoughts: I guess, if I were to spout any negative for this show, I would say that the art and sound direction for Planet With isn’t really anything to get excited about. It doesn’t have the highest budget and is somewhat banking on the fact that a lot of people know who the writer is and that there are psychic mech fights. Honestly, the mech fights aren’t the greatest either, but I was there because of Satoshi Mizukami. And his writing delivered, because everything I’ve been talking about until now? That’s only the first arc of the story, maybe a little more than episode one. That’s nowhere near the whole story. But it’s up to you to keep watching and find out the rest of what’s going on. Meow.
Rating: 9/10 Confikeys