Secrets abound in Planetes’ tenth episode. There is one secret we know of, and that is being consciously held by Tanabe – Mr. Gigalt’s failing health, which he asked Tanabe not to share with Hachi. There is one secret who even its holder isn’t aware of: Hachi’s shifting feelings for Tanabe, a truth he is unwilling to admit to himself. And there is one new secret, the secret of Yuri’s past, which is slowly unspooled across the course of one more melancholy adventure.
These secrets fill the air between these characters, making honest conversation almost impossible. The episode opens with everyone holding back their true feelings – Tanabe hiding her concerns from Fee, Hachi holding back his questions for Yuri, and Yuri simply staring out into space, reflecting on all the nothing he can see.
Yuri’s words here are carefully chosen, and will recur later on. As the episode continues, “nothing” becomes something of a theme for the veteran junk hauler, as his boss scolds him for never taking any vacation days. There seems to be nothing on earth or the moon for Yuri to visit, and no place he’d rather be than hauling debris. Mysterious details only present more questions – a shipment of flowers, and a preoccupation with the Records division. And all the while, Tanabe and Hachi struggle to deal with their own problems.
Tanabe’s situation is the most clear-cut – she can’t tell Hachi about his mentor’s sickness, but because she’s Tanabe, struggling to hold that in means she can barely communicate with him at all. And so she distances herself, and acts preoccupied, and finally lets her lack of focus distract her on the job, almost getting Hachi seriously hurt.
That failure leads to an explosion from Hachi, one that seems at least slightly out of proportion to Tanabe’s offense. But his anger here isn’t just based in Tanabe’s mistake – he’s bleeding out several sources of anger at once, letting his predictable rage take over when his words and feelings won’t suffice.
In an immediate sense, Hachi is frustrated that Tanabe is unwilling to talk to him. As Planetes has progressed, the two of them have grown closer, but their relationship has been defined by uneven give and take. Tanabe is always willing to outright state her feelings; she’s straightforward to a fault, something that everyone around her is well aware of. In contrast, Hachi generally holds his feelings close to the vest, and actually resents Tanabe partially because she often states the feelings he’s unwilling to admit.
In this episode, Tanabe’s secret means their positions are reversed. Hachi knows Tanabe well enough to realize something’s wrong, but without her being willing to outright state her feelings, his position in their relationship doesn’t allow for him to bridge the gap. On top of that, Yuri’s own distance has been agitating his nerves, making him feel like all the people he assumed he was close to are actually further away. And on top of that, Hachi is hiding his own core secret – his feelings for Tanabe, something he’s unwilling to admit even to himself.
All of those frustrations come through in Hachi’s dressing down of his kohai (to the point where he even essentially blames her for other people being romantically interested in her), and the only person who’s not in a position to realize he’s projecting is Tanabe herself. And so she hides away even further, retreating into the Toy Box to console herself in what’s essentially the family home.
It’s there that Yuri finds her, as he heads in to dress their ship in white carnations. There, Tanabe confesses the nature of her feelings, and Yuri responds with a confession of his own. The nothing Yuri sees in space ultimately echoes the nothing he feels; looking out into that darkness, he sees only his own reflection. Yuri’s response to grief was to feel nothing, and just carry out his days in a mechanical stasis. There is a moment Yuri can neither move past nor let go, and so he idles there, chasing debris and the memory of love.
It turns out Yuri was actually married to the woman who died in that tragic debris accident that opened the series, and that he has since been working to find a lost talisman of his love – a literal compass to guide him. In this episode’s dramatic finale, Yuri’s attempts to regain that compass nearly see him sacrifice his own life, but he is saved by both his wife’s memory and the family he has found.
Hachi and Tanabe do not ultimately confess their secrets to each other here. In fact, their distance is somewhat validated, as Hachi wonders whether “it’s because we’re comrades that we need some secrets.” It’s a melancholy conclusion to a melancholy episode, another in a string of episodes marked by stirring visual imagery and space defined as the cradle of loss. It’s a dark and endless night out there on the astral plane. It feels almost a comfort to look through that window and see yourself, reflected back in the glass.
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