Planetes’ penultimate episode is called “The Lost,” and opens with the voice of our friend Locksmith reading off a list of unfamiliar names. Given the title, I initially figured these were the people lost in the battle against the SDF. But as it turns out, we don’t really care about those names – instead, this was the list of crewmates who’d actually made the cut. Six months after the SDF’s attack, Hachimaki has succeeded in his dream, and is one of the final eighteen headed to Jupiter. But instead of exulting in victory, Hachimaki seems distant. Empty.
The fight with Hakim seems to have fundamentally changed Hachi. Shipping down to the moon for a final pre-flight vacation, he retraces the same trip he once made with Nono, out onto the lunar surface that she once called her home. But Hachi finds no solace in the stars, and just continues to walk – and walk, and walk. After two days, he’s picked up by the Von Braun’s emergency systems, and Goro decides to take him back to earth.
It’s a weird thing, seeing Goro try to be an actual father to Hachi. Goro wasn’t intentionally, maliciously negligent, but his values and absence have deeply impacted his son. As I’ve discussed before, Hachi was forced to develop a value system framed around his father’s absence, but Goro was simply a very selfish man. Lacking any kind of strong role model, Hachi absorbed the influences of the toxic society surrounding him. That’s not truly Goro’s “fault,” but it does make his attempts to buddy-buddy with his broken son ring a little false.
This episode puts us intimately back in Hachi’s perspective, as he rambles through the moon, Technora, and the earth in search of purpose. Shaky perspective shots strap us directly into his headspace, and his dulled eyes are omnipresent. Stopping in briefly at the debris section, he learns Tanabe has gone back to earth, and the episode’s midpoint arrives with shimmering earth sunsets. Our home planet has never looked more beautiful than in that moment, tied to Tanabe’s return trip.
After spacing out around his family, Hachi finds himself investigating the will Tanabe sent down, and receives a shock. In spite of her old words about love and family, her will is empty, just like his. Provoked at last by a tangible emotion, Hachi jumps onto his bike, and drives off through shots echoing old memories with Tanabe. Actual echoes of Tanabe’s words dance in his head, offering more legitimate motivation than he’s felt in months. And after one more visit by his internal space traveler, he again acknowledges the one fundamental truth of his chosen path – that we are all, all of us alone. The camera pulls back, emphasizing Hachi’s isolation beneath the sea of stars. Space only makes it more clear what’s already readily seen on the surface. We are all dots in the blackness.
Of course, even dots in the blackness are something. Hachi’s distraction ultimately sends him careening into the ocean, and down below the waves, he finally experiences true loneliness. Loneliness isn’t a sea of stars at all, it’s the utter absence of light. Returning once again to that moment with Hakim, we relive Hachi’s psychological breaking point. If he shoots, he accepts Locksmith’s philosophy – that loneliness and self-interest are the way of the world, and that we can only find happiness and eternity in the monuments we dedicate to ourselves. Be it through a ship like the Von Braun or a name in a history book, the only solace a man like Locksmith can seek is the certainty of his own identity, the only person he ever loved.
But Hachi isn’t that man, or at least he doesn’t want to be. Driven into a corner, he’s willing to shoot – but that’s a reflection of his pain and weakness, not his fundamental nature. A hostile environment can make monsters of any of us, and it’s good of Planetes to acknowledge that even a person who pulls the trigger is still a product of their environment, not some eternally damned category of person. Hachi isn’t saved from his situation because his fundamental goodness somehow makes him better than Hakim, or Claire, or the millions of others who choose violence in response to an untenable world. He’s saved because the gun jams.
Acknowledging he didn’t want to pull the trigger is the key. From there, his anxiety and isolation shift to an open hand, one overlapping another in an endless chain. In one of Planetes’ more on-the-nose visual metaphors, Hachi realizes that Tanabe and all the other people he’ve met are still there, still connected to him, arrayed like the endless stars of the night sky. Embracing space doesn’t have to mean enduring the isolation of great and terrible men. We are all a part of a greater picture.
Rising from the water, Hachimaki runs directly into Tanabe, who’s still fighting her own battle. Tanabe was stronger than Hachi, for what it’s worth – not only did she never sacrifice Claire, but her incredibly charitable spirit resulted in her sustaining serious nerve damage. And Tanabe’s time in space hurt her in more ways than that; crippled by following her own values and abandoned by Hachimaki, she found herself unable to write any words of encouragement in her own will. Like Hachi, Tanabe is just a person – she may believe in strongly empathetic values, but she’s as fragile as the rest of us. Even the best of us can be deeply hurt.
Fortunately, Hachimaki is at last willing to shoulder some of her load. He freely admits that his “idea of space was too small,” and that his theoretically “big dreams” were small-minded in their own ways. There’s nothing that isn’t a part of space, even down on the boring old earth. “Everything in this world is connected. And the thing binding it together is…”
Hachi frankly doesn’t deserve a girl as great as Tanabe. He’s selfish and insecure and immature, and his outright neglect of her over the course of the Von Braun saga should have gotten him dumped long ago. But Tanabe is a bigger person than him, and she’s simply happy to hear him come around at last. Hachi wouldn’t have made it without Tanabe, and it seems like Tanabe possibly wouldn’t have made it without him, either. They join hands under a lonely streetlamp, the sky overhead brimming with distant stars. The stars care nothing for our pain, but we don’t have to face them alone.
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