Early on in this episode, Tanabe challenges Hachimaki on his dreams of finding love, asking “why are all your fantasies like something out of a comic book?” It’s a funny line coming from her, considering their usual relationship – while Hachi is fundamentally a dreamer, he buries that nature under years of defensive cynicism. Tanabe, on the other hand, is all optimism and love and roses – she might think she’s more practical and mature than her lazy teammate, but her confidence and drive lack the tempering of experience. She is in Optimism Stage One, optimism untested by the harshness of the adult vacuum. And in this episode, that optimism runs up against one more frank reality of adult living – the fact that everyone dies.
It’s insurance season in Planetes, meaning the whole cast is beset with waves of desperate insurance salesmen. Insurance season is brought on by the annual rewriting of employee wills, and experiencing this assignment for the first time, Tanabe is conflicted on what she really wants to leave behind. The one thing she does know is that she doesn’t want to be like Hachi. Tasked with deciding on the one message he’ll bequeath to his loved ones, Hachimaki first just doodles a spaceship, and when Tanabe complains about that, he scrawls out a giant “GOOD LUCK.”
It’s a strong scene that plays to the compelling differences and similarities between these two characters. Tanabe thinks she’s more of an adult than Hachimaki, because her demeanor and feelings correlate more to her ideal of “adult-like behavior.” She can’t believe that he might have gone through her perspective and then emerged into his own, because that would require both admitting her own identity is something of a naive phase and giving up on her ideals of what proper behavior is like. To her credit, Hachimaki does behave like a kid – but just because he’s childish doesn’t mean he hasn’t considered the things she’s considering. In fact, given the very direct contrast drawn between the two in the second episode, Tanabe likely annoys him partially because she reminds him of his younger self.
But Tanabe really is a kid, and the rest of the team knows it. While she yells at Hachimaki for not taking his will seriously (something that’s understandable for him, given his unhappiness grappling with long-term career prospects), she herself treats her will like some kind of birthday present, a gift she’s determined to hand-make. The answer she finally arrives at is “love,” an answer so juvenile that it actually scares off an insurance saleswoman. The fact that the saleswoman is eager to sign Hachi and also immediate in giving up on Tanabe would maybe clue Tanabe in to her issues, if she weren’t so incapable of thinking outside of her own perspective.
Tanabe’s confidence moves beyond juvenile and into overtly intrusive in the episode’s second half. When Hachimaki says he doesn’t want to speak with his father, Tanabe responds with “shouldn’t you have outgrown your rebellious phase by now,” a shockingly presumptuous intrusion into his family life. Real adults don’t mock their coworkers for having bad relationships with their family – real adults understand that everyone’s circumstances are different, and that no one has the right to assign their own perspectives on family to the lives of others.
But in spite of her aggressive presumption, the episode’s climax ends up somewhat vindicating Tanabe’s perspective. Tasked with disposing of a human corpse given a space burial decades back, Tanabe refuses to let the cargo go. The views of both Tanabe and Hachi are put in sharp relief here, as being forced to stare directly at the nature of mortality puts each of them on the edge.
Hachimaki sees himself in that casket, saying “he must have wanted to reach the edge of the universe, but he couldn’t break free of gravity.” It’s a poignant line that speaks to the fundamental contradiction of Planetes as a whole. In the context of spaceflight and limitless possibility, human lives are still human lives – we work, we sleep, we die. Reaching into space didn’t suddenly let Hachi or Tanabe realize their lofty dreams; instead, things are much the same, just with a little less gravity. Though Hachi claims to have come to terms with this, he still has dreams, and that’s precisely why he wants to get rid of this body. Hachi can’t look straight on at his own mortality, and acknowledge the path between himself and his end doesn’t currently hold glory in its grasp.
In contrast, Tanabe is wholly confident in her own perspective, one that romanticizes both life and its end. Her confidence is so total that she even chastises the dead man’s daughter, saying “you’re his family, he should be with you!” Hachi counters her words with the very appropriate “don’t ignore the man’s wishes and force your own dreams on him,” but in the end, this particular case ends in a sentimental victory for Tanabe. “Space is too big to face all alone,” she says – and for now, the universe lets her hold onto that idealism. Both Tanabe and Hachimaki are right and wrong, but their perspectives are in flux, born of hopes and bitterness that will surely be tested in time.
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