Satoshi Mizukami’s ‘Planet With’ is an exciting action-packed anime filled with aspects of comedy, drama, a little bit of romance and heavy action-packed mayhem. The story centers around Sōya Kuroi (Atsushi Abe), an amnesiac middle-school student who lives with a cat-like creature named ‘Sensei’ (Rikiya Koyama) and a maid named Gingko Kuroi (Shiori Izawa). One day, the town where Sōya lives in is attacked by a strange alien beast mech who is invulnerable to conventional weaponry. Just when the military gives up hope, a strange group of men and women called the ‘Grand Paladins’ arrive and transform into their own giant armoured beasts called ‘Psycho Photon Armors.’ Led by their leader Hideo Torai (Yūichirō Umehara), they destroy the beast mech.
Simple right. However, as Sōya arrives home after watching the battle, his maid, Gingko and Sensei drop a bomb on Sōya by requesting that he fight the heroes who saved the town. Forcing Sōya to adorn a mask and be swallowed by Sensei who transforms into a giant cat mecha, the trio then confront Hideo and ask for his source of power. Naturally, Hideo refuses and they fight. After defeating Hideo and stealing his source of power (which is a little bottle filled with sand), Sōya regains his former memories and recalls that he is a ‘Siriusian,’ a survivor from the planet ‘Sirius’ whose homeland was destroyed by a dragon. Realizing, that the source of power for the heroes has the same power as the dragon, Sōya becomes resolved to fight the heroes and get revenge on the dragon who killed his friends. The anime then continues with Sōya fighting each of the members in a attempt to get the keys to their powers and stop the dragon from being reborn.
Now, what sets Planet With apart from most mecha shows, is that rather than focusing on making complicated plots, the animation and characterization of its characters is the strongest aspect of the show. In terms of animation, the mix of 2D and 3D animation completed by the animation staff was well done and of excellent quality, especially with the fluidity of the high packed action fighting sequences in Episode 6 and 10. There were a couple of episodes where it suffered a little, but it wasn’t very noticeable. The mecha designs for the Nebula Warrior Beast Mechs, the Photon Armors and the Sealing Devices was definitely the most fascinating and well-drawn aspects of the animation. You could tell that the animators put a lot and effort into each of the mechs designs and it definitely added a surprising twist especially for fans watching the first episode, without having seen the trailers. The animal-like designs of the mechas were very intriguing and Sōya’s mech was incredibly detailed especially in the lines within its eyes. Sensei and the Generalissimo’s spaceships being more gigantic versions of themselves was incredibly shocking in a exciting way. If you were a fan of the Nyaboron School Festival arc in Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo , then you will definitely love the animation in this series.
In Planet With, the characterization of the characters are all set out in their first appearance. Upon first viewing of the series, viewers can easily tell just from looking at the character’s design and how the characters present themselves, who each character is are and what kind of person they are. All of the characters have their own varied quirks, but they also have their own unique personalities and traits with no two characters acting the same. While some characters are definitely more eccentric than others like Judgment (Seigi) Nezuya (Shinsuke Sugawara) , what defines these characters is not only how they present themselves in their daily lives, but also in their interactions with others. The characters are also made all the more memorable because they have their own predefined goals and ambitions, with some of the characters especially the Grand Paladins having relatable personal issues and turmoils that viewers can understand, which stem from the society around them.
One of the strongest characterizations in Planet With is in the growth of the main protagonist, Sōya who is definitely not your stereotypical mecha hero. No, rather than being a hot-blooded hero of justice, he is initially an angry youth who fights out of a intense desire for revenge and plays an almost anti-hero or villainous role for the first half of the series, which is what excited most fans after viewing the first episode. However, after losing his purpose after claiming the last bottle and inadvertently killing the commander of the Grand Paladins, Takashi Ryūzōji (Kenji Nomura), Sōya is then forced to find a new purpose in life and by the end of the series becomes a much more maturer and kinder adult. Sōya’s comrades, Gingko and Sensei too, are also interesting fan favorites in themselves too. Sensei for one, is an alien cat who regularly rarely speaks unless he has to and often communicates with Gingko telepathically, relying on her to speak for him whenever he has something to say to Sōya. However, when Sensei finally does speak, his words are deep and meaningful, often having a deep sense of honor and honed sensible morals imbued in them. Gingko herself (who is one of my favorites) is also an eccentric but lovable psychic who despite putting on a calm and cool devil may care attitude, actually can be silly and has some deep rooted darkness in her past as she also relates to Sōya in the fact that they have both lost their home worlds in the past.
Then there’s Sōya’s best friend and love interest, Nozomi Takamagahara played by Sayaka Harada (or ‘Glasses’ as Sōya likes to call her). Despite being the best friend and love interest, she isn’t one of those active terrible characters who repeatedly cries after the main character. Instead, she’s quite passive, sweet, down to earth and is a good friend who knows how to be there for Sōya when he is really distressed or really needs help; making it hard to say anything bad about her. She even becomes a stronger character by the end of the series and is useful during the final battle.
As for the Grand Paladin heroes which Sōya fights against, all of them are typically normal people who have been granted powers. What sets them apart from the other characters is that all of the Grand Paladins come from different backgrounds and ages as well as their own unique problems. The positive aspects that Mizukami imbues into these characters is that all of the heroes on the team are generally kind, likable people who despite having different backgrounds and motivations, all have normal relatable social issues and problems which stem from society in general. Even their reason for fighting isn’t so much out of a sense of justice, but rather an attempt to escape from their own terrible problems and pasts. For example, one of the Grand Paladins, Miu Inaba (Hitomi Ōwada), is a young pink-haired girl who desires power because she hates being physically small and weak. Miu also admires her best friend and fellow Paladin, Harumi Kumashiro (Mai Fuchigami) for being physically tall and strong, despite the fact that Harumi hates herself because she is constantly being teased for her strength by her classmates. Then there’s Hideo who is a former firefighter who lost his mother during a fire when he was 15 years old and Takashi’s father, Takezō Ryūzōji (Motomu Kiyokawa) who just wanted to save his son from himself. Their desire for power comes a feeling of self-loathing, and by becoming heroes they hope to make up for that sin or weakness.
Now, while the writers did indeed put excellent effort in bringing the characters to life, the main weakness of this show definitely lies in its plot. In terms of the plot’s writing and pacing, I felt that while the show’s staff and crew did a great job overall in the 13 episodes that they were allotted and that the comedy aspects of the show were well-written, with regards to the first half of the series. But, it genuinely felt like the battle with the Grand Paladins in the first half of the series could have been drawn out a bit more, it would’ve helped to have at least had one episode showing how the Grand Paladins met with one another or explain more about the Generalissimo’s relationship with Sensei. But, definitely, one of the weakest, but strongest parts of the show was in the mid-series climax in Episode 6, where there was this stunning sense of “What now?” when you didn’t know what would happen next after Sōya had beaten Takashi Ryūzōji and claimed the last jar, fulfilling his goal. It’s a weakness in that the plot felt like it had just flat-stopped then, however, it also felt that this also better helped to build up the excitement for the second half of the series exactly because the viewer didn’t know what was going to happen next. There were also some terms which I felt could’ve been explained better like what made a race, an “evolution of love” or an “evolution of violence,” because while the writers simplified it, it didn’t feel like we got complete answer about it and some of the alien names were incredibly hard to pronounce.
Thematically-wise, I think that the writers achieved in what they wanted to say. The messages of you don’t need powers to make a difference in your life, people are full of potential and even the big moral fight over whether or not to seal earth did heavily substantiate and cement the idea that no matter what side a person is on, there is a no right answer in how to solve a problem and that it is only by forgiving and understanding each other and working together that you’ll attain anything. The voice acting was exhilarating and you could really hear the emotion and passion in the seiyu’s acting especially Abe’s and Umehara’s acting. Hats off, especially goes to Umehara who was battling an autoimmune disease at the time of recording. His Torai was very mature and level-headed and even when he was beating himself up, Umehara’s acting brought Torai’s character especially through. Abe’s acting especially during Sōya’s message in encouraging everyone to wake up scene was very moving and the music worked well in setting the mood for those scenes.
So, finally to wrap up my first review for this site, despite suffering from some weaknesses in its writing, Planet With is definitely an anime to watch! It was one of the best shows of the last quarter in my mind and fans of the action and mecha genres will definitely love it. The comedy parts of the show are definitely funny and the emotional parts really engages, connects and excites the audience. So, overall, I give this anime a huge 8 out of 10!