Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated webseries series (2016), also known as Planetarian Chiisana Hoshi no Yume. David Production. Based on the Visual Novel/Videogame developed by Key and the Light Novel written by Yūichi Suzumoto. Directed by Naokatsu Tsuda. Written by Naokatsu Tsuda and Shogo Yasukawa. Voice cast includes Daisuke Ono and Keiko Suzuki. Five episodes of 14-24 minutes. Colour.

Escaping killer Machines in a deserted, ruined future City by diving into a building, a scavenger or "Junka" (Ono) is welcomed by the Robot Yumemi Hoshino (Suzuki), who congratulates him on being the two and a half millionth customer to the "rooftop planetarium of the Flowercrest Department Store".

Yumeni performs a set daily routine, despite the planetarium's projector being broken, no customers for thirty years and the building's War damage: she is able to acknowledge these conditions, but not to adjust her behaviour to take them into account. Yumemi admits she might be a little bit broken, including using "verbose conversation patterns that do not take time into consideration". After the Junka repairs the projector, Yumeni narrates over scenes covering Astronomy and Space Flight, hoping that the human race will eventually cease conflict and reach for the Stars: the irony of this is not lost on the viewer, who has already realized this is a Post-Holocaust world, with the stars permanently hidden by rainclouds. Though the last of the building's power expires halfway through, the Junka insists she continues her narration.

Next day Yumeni escorts the Junka to his car: they are attacked by a military robot, whereupon the Junka tells Yumemi to hide, but she goes to tell the robot it should not attack humans. She is fired upon, leaving her a mess of cables and wires from the waist down. The Junka destroys the robot then berates her for disobeying him, but she explains "there was an older promise I had to keep: I must not knowingly allow any human to come to harm" (see Laws of Robotics). Yumemi, clearly dying, acknowledges that it wasn't her that was broken, but the world. After playing recordings from her memory card of customers and work colleagues (who clearly loved her), she asks the Junka to leave a message too: he says he is going to take her to a place where her colleagues were waiting, at another planetarium with many customers. She dies, he removes the card.

Though a "bargain model", Yumemi is clearly a conscious AI: so her final prayer that God not separate robots from humans in Heaven, as she wants to work for humans forever, conveys a discomforting subservience. This may or may not be intentional: Yumeni's beliefs (see Religion) are one of the story's recurring themes. Yumemi is a charming protagonist, whose prolonged death scene is perhaps a little manipulative, reaching for the tear ducts and not letting go; nonetheless, this is a memorable and moving Anime.

A film, Planetarian: Storyteller of the Stars (2016; also known as Planetarian: Hoshi no Hito), was released soon after. This uses the episodes as flashbacks, with new material focusing on the Junka's subsequent history as a "Stargazer", travelling the world performing a simplified version of Yumemi's show. [SP]

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