Planetes – Episode 24

The minutes tick by, SDF agents steering humanity’s “future” towards the Sea of Tranquility City. Suspended in darkness between the earth and moon, the Von Braun has never looked so fragile. At a time like this, it’s easy to forget the human cost of such a grand, breathtaking achievement. A million lives lost is a crime too vast for us to conceive of, while monuments are easy to believe in. A symbol can mean more than any number of innocents.

The SDF understand this. Their frustration is built on this understanding, and their actions respect its significance. That’s why they plan to destroy both the Von Braun and the city. They can’t just destroy the Von Braun, a replaceable object – they have to make the people who the Von Braun’s financiers cater to feel that space development is dangerous, and should be pursued more slowly. And that requires a symbolic gesture that even the uncaring first world can recognize.

As episode twenty four begins, we’re reminded once again that the actual winners of this society aren’t thinking in terms of the human costs. Informed of Colin’s presence on the ship, the chairman of INTO responds that “the children I had by Milly are nothing but spares.” And of course, Colin feels the same way about his father, framing his own danger as a wasted opportunity to leech more of his father’s success. And the man of the hour, Locksmith, is the same as ever – “as long as I survive, the Von Braun can be rebuilt.” The men who steer the ship have long ago accepted the philosophy of selfish dreams.

These cynical perspectives are all slotted in just before we arrive at Hachi, still grappling with Hakim. The juxtaposition is important – by placing those thoughts first, Planetes emphasizes the petty, meaningless nature of his own feud. Colin and Locksmith don’t give a damn about the Von Braun itself, or about Hachi’s loyalty to the mission. And Hachi’s own feelings are based in insecurity, not corporate loyalty or belief in the Jupiter voyage. Hakim robbed Hachi of certainty when he betrayed his expectations, and so now Hachi’s found new purpose in “defeating” Hakim. Defeating this terrorist feels like “what a man must do” – this is something heroic, something true. Hachimaki is still the scared little boy he’s always been.

Given Hachi’s current state, Hakim’s attempts to reason with him are unsurprisingly ineffective. The two are talking in fundamentally different languages – Hachi sees this conflict in terms of proving his identity and “defeating evil,” while Hakim is contradicting what Hachi’s whole upbringing have taught him defines good and evil. Hakim rightly points out that Hachi’s the one with incoherent beliefs, running on faith – while Hakim has clear goals he believes this mission will fulfill, Hachi has never been led by anything more defined than a general love of space.

The two are imperfect foils, but that’s how life goes. Hachi isn’t the opponent Hakim wants – Hachi is just an ignorant symptom, a guy so muddled by the expectations of his society that he’s willing to throw his life away for nothing. And Hakim can’t be what Hachi wants, because Hachi wants a certainty his social framework will never grant him. Life doesn’t grant us the clear enemies we desire, and so Hakim and Hachi both make do with what they have. Wrestling the gun free at last, Hachi points it at Hakim and acknowledges what it means. To follow his heroes on to Jupiter means to embrace the capitalist assumptions of his world, and literally kill those who would seek another way. Feeling himself abandoned by the world, Hachi seems to find that a reasonable price to pay.

While Hachi fights for his vague dreams and INTO brokers a deal with the SDF, Tanabe finds herself waging another war down on the lunar surface. Having rescued a comatose Claire and exited via escape pod, she’s now stranded 1200km from the city with no certainty of rescue. While the first half of this episode hinges on the individual struggles of Hachi and Hakim, the second casts Tanabe against Planetes’ greatest antagonist, the hostile oblivion of space.

Unlike Hakim, Claire isn’t really interested in negotiating with the enemy. Tanabe represents so much of what Claire hates, in such a frustrating package – kind and considerate in an immediate sense, but thoughtlessly oblivious to all of the consequences of her assumptions. Tanabe’s instinctive praise of love and kindness feels like a great hypocrisy – Tanabe only has the privilege of such simplistic good morals because the world has never truly betrayed her. And now, with her mission failed and life near its end, here’s Tanabe again, making plucky small talk about how Claire needs to share her dieting tips.

But Claire is too busy dying to put up much of a fight, and she doesn’t need to. With some unknown number of kilometers separating them from any hope of survival, Tanabe’s belief in “love” seems like it’s being tested against the very nature of the universe. Lonely shots dwarf Tanabe and Claire against the lunar sky, or frame the ground as if it’s rising up to swallow them. Claire’s world makes no sense to Tanabe, but as the moon continues to stretch on, a sequence of flashbacks reminds her that no-one’s world has ever made sense to her.

Her physical and emotional isolation rise in tandem, until she ultimately realizes that even Hachi was never truly close to her. He didn’t love her – he loved his own fantasy, his belief in his own potential. If her belief in love was mistaken, what is there? Doesn’t that just make those who take what they want right, no matter who gets hurt? With her oxygen failing and Claire lying helpless on the ground, Tanabe is presented with the same choice as Hachimaki. If there is no justice in this world, then perhaps survival is all she should hope for. If there is no justice in this world, only this cold darkness is true.

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