Planetes’ final episode is one long goodbye to all the people we’ve come to know. There’s virtually no conflict in this episode – as a series of arrivals and departures and long-awaited meetings, it feels more like a family reunion than a space drama. It’s bittersweet, as everything in life tends to be. It offers as much hope as a show like Planetes could hope to give.
Things turn out well for Hachimaki, at least. In the opening scene, we see him writing a letter to Tanabe regarding the rigorous preparations for the Von Braun expedition. He seems to have regained his passion for the mission, and even repaired his relationship with his father. Meanwhile, Tanabe is still stuck on earth, working on her muscle rehabilitation every day. It’s a little hard to feel happy about this outcome – Tanabe was essentially punished for her compassionate nature, while Hachi was rewarded for the time he spent being callous and self-obsessed. But life doesn’t give us the endings we’ve earned.
The episode’s first major sequence is a clear reflection of that, as the three Technora recruits Hachi, Cheng-shin, and Claire meet for the first time in a year. It’s been quite a year for all of them; Hachi is now a celebrity astronaut, Cheng-shin has returned to his pilot track, and Claire is… facing ten years in prison. Claire doesn’t deserve this ending, and frankly, I don’t think any of her choices at any point were really wrong. Though she frames this as her just punishment, her words put the lie to that. “I wanted to become a member of society. To be recognized as a person. I wanted to believe that I deserved to be here.” None of those are unreasonable requests, but Claire was denied all of them. The fundamental nature of the world she was born into led to her sitting on one side of the bulletproof glass, while her eager young coworkers from first world homes sit with bright futures ahead of them.
Planetes can’t claim that Claire will eventually be paid back for her suffering, or that the things which held her down will one day be made right. Hachimaki and Cheng-shin can only comfort her from the personal angle – both of them clearly still care about her, and as Cheng-shin notes, it’s clear she and Tanabe care about each other as well. Tanabe’s view of love will never save the world, it’s true. But it saved Claire, and Claire found herself working to save Tanabe in turn. Claire’s new goal seems to embody that more personal view of love – instead of working to change Technora or secure her own future, she’s going to rebuild her country’s education system. More suffering will come, as it always does. But Claire won’t be a part of it anymore.
We also return to Hakim this episode, for the first time since his confrontation with Hachimaki. Badly injured and barely lucid, his clear-headed plans to shift the course of history have crashed on the rocks of his own near powerlessness. Hakim assumes the visage of a simple villain here, waving a dangerous weapon at an ignorant child – but his anger and appearance are important in their own way. Hakim’s fight was a righteous one, but righteous fights against impossible odds wear down anyone. In the grip of a system which crushes all that defies it, we can’t always be our best, most thoughtful, most compassionate and high-minded selves. The news would happily run non-stop features on Hakim’s terrible actions and terrifying face, but everything he might inflict on the world is just a rechanneling of the violence the world has inflicted on him.
In this case, Hakim is saved from violence, as Nono says just the thing to calm him down. While Hakim mutters vengefully on the violence of earth’s provinces, Nono states that “I’m a Lunarian. I was born and raised here. So I never saw any of those ‘country’ things.” In an echo of what may well be Planetes’ best episode, Nono reveals to Hakim what Temara once saw. The reality of space development is violence in action – the violence of all capitalist development, as the few countries with the resources to get a head start monopolize all future resources, expanding the distance between their own power and the destitution of those behind them. But the promise of space development is the earth as seen from the moon – a beautiful, continuous orb, a shining beacon featuring no countries or borders. As long as that vision stands undivided, there may yet be some hope.
The final partings continue as Hachi and Tanabe reunite aboard Seven, and visit the old debris section. Hachimaki gets to be the bigshot he never really cared to be, signing autographs for the people who once laughed at his dreams. And the remaining crew let the pair of them board the Toy Box once more, and take a last look at the earth from behind one fragile mask. It’s still beautiful, after all they’ve been through. It still inspires them. It still pushes them forward, giving them the strength to become the people they hope to be.
The fortunes of all of Planetes’ other players are visited in brief, accompanied by one last somber song. Some people find happiness in this world; others don’t. Some people get lucky; others don’t. Many cruel or selfish people do very well for themselves, while many charitable or innocent people aren’t rewarded. Even those who find success are still struggling; there are no clean endings in life. But Planetes’ focus offers some direction as to its own views. The very fact that it revisits all these characters means it acknowledges their lives as meaningful – the fact that it ends on gentle family squabbles while the TV drones on about “the course of human history” reflects the one thing it believes we can control. It’s a harsh world out there, defined by systems as cold and unflinching as the distance between the stars. All we truly have to bear it is the love we give to each other, and the faith we hold for ourselves.
This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.