Of all of the different ways people go in their lives, perhaps one of the most omnipresent similarities they will share is the same captivity that comes from looking above. Through all things good and bad across all time on Earth, the stars shine and inspire awe wherever they are seen. Such is the premise of the destroyed world of Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet.
With today, 23 September 2016, marking the release date of the next Key novel Harmonia, I had to talk of the great 2004 Key story that snuck its way out the same year as Clannad did and the stellar ONA that was released this year for it.
Despite all of the flak they sometimes get for their stories, I am absolutely in love with the various anime based off of visual novels by Key. Everything from Kanon (2006) to last year’s turbulent Charlotte have a spot in my heart fonder than how orange soda made Kel. No matter how much I love their work, even I can admit Key has a tendency to throw some pretty predictable twists the way of the viewer (or worse, just twist things so hard that it is debatable if the writers had any idea where they were taking it) that can pull the viewers out of things. With the latter mentioned title, critics called for something less formulaic with the anime adaptations. Somehow, it took this long for the very answer to the critics to be adapted into an anime (ONA specifically)- a kinetic novel.
Truthfully, kinetic novels being adapted into full animations was kind of a foreign concept to me, but Planetarian became the first and only one I need to see to be convinced of the potential they have. A kinetic novel, for those who do not know, is like a visual novel without any choices or multiple endings. On the surface, that sounds lazy and short, but given their low asking price and attention to detail, they end up being a terrific short experience for anyone on a short amount of time (if you don’t want to spend fifty to sixty two hours playing a Key novel). They are kind of a novelty, but KNs belong somewhere in the fray- something that was experimented with the David Production adaptation back in July.
Set in a war-torn Earth, Planetarian tells a brief tale of a (insert prefered robot term) by the name of Yumemi Hoshino and her desire to share her programmed presentation of a planetarium to a closed off scavenger named Kuzuya. What starts as a man just disregarding the machine for its helpless self, Kuzuya decides to fix a star projector to help Yumemi with her show. Rather than the hard hitting plot twists Key is known for, warm feelings of wonder for the solace found above fill the atmosphere of the anime. Almost symbolic of the simple joys of life, a post apocalyptic world is pushed aside in the warmth of a run down department store’s star gazing feature. The lovely dream consumes Kuzuya and he sets a plan for taking his newfound friend outside the department store in place. Quickly, reality sets in and the man’s idealistic future with his steel companion comes crashing down.
Where this deviates from the normal Key tale (or, with exception to a few others, one could say this precedes them) is how things are just so bittersweet. Most of the haymakers thrown in the stories come back and end well for the cast. Planetarian doesn’t simply drop the ceiling over the viewer, however, as it blends the shock with the warm fuzzies star gazing gives all in the same one-two barrage. It seems so basic and uninspired, but the way that a damaged man can find happiness in his unfortunate life from something right in front of him is moving in its own right. In an era of “do it now”, we can really find simplistic joy from connecting consolations (no matter how cheesy the notion).
The fact that there are only five (eighteen minute) episodes could be polarizing at first, but this twelve year old tale is a shooting star even with an adaptation as late as this. If you can, get the kinetic novel, but at least give the ONA a shot.
Do you have a kinetic novel that sticks out to you? Any ONAs on your radar? Let me know!
As always, thanks for reading, and I really hope you have a wonderful day!