This post is the fifth of my 12 essays for the 2016 edition of 12 Days of Anime, a joint project between many anibloggers. For more info about the project, check out appropriant’s introductory post here, and check out the full blog spreadsheet here if you’re interested in the work of everyone participating!
This post also implies spoilers for the ending of Planetarian, but as I discuss in my writing below these spoilers are more or less irrelevant for this series.
The story of Planetarian was never hard to predict. From the moment we first saw the ruined landscape, threads of a story began to form in our minds: a post-apocalyptic life, humanity desperate to stay alive to the next hazy dawn. The tale of the battle-hardened Junker and the cheerful Yumemi Hoshino is a plotline that feels familiar amidst the myriad of stories we open our hearts to. When the Junker and Yumemi first meet, it feels inevitable that the Junker’s heart will ultimately be touched by her words; when we learn that Yumemi’s functionality won’t last forever, we know that her final moments are fast approaching.
Within these thoughts, we ask ourselves whether stories like these have value – if we know how a story will end without even needing to read a spoiler, what do we gain from experiencing that story ourselves? But just like how the stars in a planetarium can’t possibly compare to the wonder of the real night sky, the emotions from knowing the path of a story can’t stand as a substitute for walking that path ourselves.
And by walking that path, we see that in a world of ruin, Planetarian quietly encourages us to cherish the beauty of what remains around us. A life post-apocalypse has no need, no space for caring about anything besides the essentials – and yet Planetarian believes that we must leave room in our lives for the metal bouquets offered to us. This ideal is something the Junker knows himself, worn around his neck from the very beginning of the series; but his time with Yumemi is what moves him to acknowledge it at the close of the series with the title of “starteller”. Our hearts are lifted by the time shared between the Junker and Yumemi, even as that time is all too brief. Their quiet moments together are spent in awe of the stars in the sky, and on what lies beyond endless rainclouds. To sit in these moments with these characters, to gaze in wonder at a cloud-covered sky and yet see the stars in our imagination, these are things we cannot gain from simply knowing the path that this story takes. It is something that we can only understand from taking those steps ourselves, and the heart of Planetarian is encouraging us to embrace the value of those moments, of those treasures.
Planetarian is ultimately a known quantity. It is a story that we know, with themes we have felt before and characters we understand. It is not an expansive epic, or a complex character drama. But it is so valuable for the emotions it makes us feel, for the connection between the Junker and Yumemi that we cherish, for the quiet, starry sky that it so yearns to show us. By letting Planetarian into our hearts, we are able to cherish the beauty of the story it tells, of a man who embraced the light of the stars in a world with no need for them and was better for it. And if the day ever comes where we can no longer see light and beauty in our world, Planetarian will remind us to keep the memory of those things close in our hearts.
“When you are lost in the dark and can no longer see the stars in the sky, please remember what you have seen here today. This is… my little reverie.”