Shows You Might have Missed: Planetarian (ONA)

Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet is a 5-episode ONA based on developer KEY's fourth visual novel of the same name release more than a decade ago in 2004. To be precise, Planetarian was a kinetic novel, which plays out roughly the same as a normal visual novel sans any sort of player involvement beyond progressing the story. A short game at 3-4 hours, its a brief in comparison with KEY's other gargantuan 40-60 hour long titles such as Air, Kanon, and Clannad. 

Planetarian's core concept is simple, the robot Hoshino Yumemi works as the guide and host of a planetarium on the roof of the department store. Unfortunately for the ever perky Yumemi the planetarium has seen a serious downturn in the recent decades as what was essentially World War 3 had turned her city into a ghost town after a biological attack. Abandoned but apparently none-the-wiser, she advertises daily to an audience of dust and radioactive rain. Into this world stumbles the nameless Junker, who is attempting to scavenge from the remains of the desolate city and walks into the planetarium. More than a little surprised by the chirpy robot and latter very annoyed by her incessant attempts to make him watch her show, he eventually relents to stay and help her repair the planetarium's projector.

Not gonna lie, the base concept of a robot abandoned in what amounts to a living tomb, waiting for someone, anyone to watch her show is as in your face as far as pathos-inducing goes (it is a KEY work, yes). But, to the shows great credit, it never oversells itself with any excessively overt tragedy while hitting most of its thematic emotional beats effectively. Like its source material, iclearly understands its small narrative scope and is laser-focused on exploring its own core concepts at a rather lax pace.

Yumemi and the Junker are essentially the only actual characters in the show, and personally I rather liked the oddly charming character dynamics between the two. A self proclaim pragmatist, the Junker is initially more than a little annoyed at the incessant (and I mean incessant) talking of the robot, but eventually warms up to her and against his better judgement, decide to stay and help her repair the planetarium. Alot of his action belies his pragmatic outlook of his dystopian world. Him wanting stay in the planetarian, wanting to see the stars, and later wanting to take Yumemi with him is the sort of sentimentality that this world clearly does not allow. Yumemi has somehow inspired him, giving him longings of hopes and dreams in an otherwise dead world.

Production-wise, Planetarian's visuals and soundwork are up to the task, but nothing more. It is more than enough to convey its central drama while giving a reasonably dystopian atmosphere to the empty planetarium and the crumbling city it is in.

Overall, Planetarian is an nice and short tale that I'd easily recommend given its 5 episode runtime. The show is confident in its source material and executes it strongly with an understated grace. Its a sad robot story, but a sad robot story told with care and purpose.


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