Sunday 8 July 2018

First Impressions: Planet With

Planet With
Planet With is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

A new anime season is upon us once again, and for the first time in ages I seem to have found myself without any clear choices on what to follow for the next 12 or so weeks. So when all else fails I do the first thing that usually comes to mind - scour the list of newly airing anime and pick out the ones with a giant robot in the promo image. And it's this exact tactic that brought me to Planet With, the first anime work from popular mangaka Satoshi Mizukami (whose previous works include Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Psycho Staff and Spirit Circle) and animated by studio J.C. Staff. Of course, for those (like me) unfamiliar with Mizukami's previous works these are just names. But don't let that put you off Planet With, because boy is this show a trip.

After losing his parents in a terrible accident, high school student Soya Kuroi wakes in a strange new household with no memory of these events. His new guardians are a strange woman in a maid costume named Ginko and a giant talking cat named Sensei. Despite this rather unorthodox living arrangement, Soya seems to continue living a relatively ordinary life.

That is until a UFO drops from the sky and is subsequently defeated by a team of seven superheroes. Soya is urged by his carers to join in the fight, but it's not the UFOs he's after. Faint glimmers of Soya's past reveal that these superheroes were somehow involved in his parents' deaths, and together with Sensei and Ginko he's going to take them down one by one until he discovers the truth!

Have you ever started watching a show based on one promotional image and then come out of the first episode somehow knowing less than what you did when you started?

That's exactly what Planet With is.

Of course there's every possibility that those familiar with Satoshi Mizukami's work might have a better sense of what exactly is going on with this premiere - or at the very least an idea of what kind of direction it's going in development-wise. But for the rest of us who are coming in completely blind Planet With's first 20 minutes drop you in right at the deep end, leaving you to admire what is clearly a very distinct style of storytelling but have little clue as to how you got here and where you are going. Explanations aren't what's key here - it's providing that hook that'll keep you wanting to watch for the coming weeks. It's bold in it's absurdity and likely to deter a fair portion of those who give it a try, but you can't help but admire a show that's not going to do things the easy way.

Soya's amnesia and the events surrounding his parents' death act as the core of what are Planet With's many questions, and these are what seem to be driving the series as one of questionable morality. We know enough to deduce that the "seven tokusatsu heroes" were somehow involved in this event, but the episode cleverly frames these scenes from two points of view that questions whether they were trying prevent their deaths or if they were the ones to cause them in the first place.

Outside of that there are just so many other things going on in Planet With to boggle the mind as well, many of which are supplemented by some pretty crazy visuals as well. The most obvious of these if of course just who the hell are Soya's new guardians, and why exactly one of them is a humanoid cat that can turn into a giant robot. Then there's also the question of the rather surreal alien lifeform carrying around a misspelt "Peace" banner, and the seven heroes who came out of nowhere to fight it off. Even little tidbits like why Soya is seemingly kept on an all-vegetable diet seem speculative when the show is being this tight-lipped about what's going on. It certainly helps that even in all this confusion Planet With is a pretty great show to look at, with CGI additions that blend in rather nicely with the colourful 2D world and nicely designed characters.

Planet With's first episode can only best be described as an experience, and one that will undoubtedly alienate just as many viewers as it allures. But this intriguing first episode, filled with striking visuals and a never ending list of questions, shows the promise of a series that holds its cards close to its chest and will eventually reveal itself to those who are prepared to put the time in. Satoshi Mizukami is a mangaka that's held in extremely high regard and as a project that's apparently been four years in the making the show definitely feels like it'll be a labour of love no matter how the end result turns out. If you're down for a wildcard show this season, Planet With could be exactly the one you're looking for.

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