Manga Quick Information

Title: Planetes #2
Original vintage: 2003
Author: Makoto Yukimura
Published by: TokyoPop
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Material length: 268 pages

Raz112's review

Raz112 scored this with 9/10.

Love is a curious thing. It is often romanticised as the ultimate goal of humanity; the most wonderful of emotions, allowing pure enlightenment and happiness. It has the power to conquer all fears and any adversity. However, Love also has the power to destroy souls as one endlessly yearns for companionship, never quite attaining it. This dependence on others can therefore be seen as a weakness, a sentiment that Hachimaki agrees upon. A sentiment that Hachimaki is determined not to succumb to, risking it getting in the way of his dream to fly to Jupiter, become a great astronaut and own a spaceship one day.

The first chapter of this book shows the power that ambition can have on people, and the consequences of letting ambition dominate your life. Hachimaki seems to be blinded by it, intent on making the Jupiter Mission by ensuring nothing gets in the way. However, his old man - the world famous genius engineer Goro Hoshino - has no desire to be part of this journey to further humanity's exploration and existence in space. His ambition has subsided, and he is now content with finally going back home to his persevering wife and other son. Yet another genius engineer and architect of the Tandem Mirror Engine, Werner Locksmith, is trying to recruit Goro for the Jupiter Mission. He abandons his search temporarily to address an incident that occurs on the Moon which costs the lives of many, and does so in a startlingly inhuman fashion; a consequence of possessing such ambition and power. By the end of the chapter, Goro changes his mind as he finds Locksmith exciting, and in doing so comes to the realisation that he, Locksmith, and perhaps Hachimaki are the same type of person - 'simple, selfish bastards'. Hachimaki, though, likens himself to Von Braun, a man who did everything to get into space, and he ponders on that thought as the chapter ends.

As time goes on, it is evident that Hachimaki is becoming more and more detached from humanity, solely focusing on getting himself on the mission. He has become the selfish dreamer that his father mentioned in the last chapter, and is a completely different person from the unsure rookie in the first volume. With the introduction of new recruit Tanabe, a big clash of ideals between her and Hachimaki ensues. Hachimaki is astonished and outraged by Tanabe's naivety regarding the roles of love and humanity in space. To Hachimaki, love is a weakness, something which holds people back from leaving Earth and achieving their dreams. To him, being an astronaut means living alone, and dying alone, and he sees nothing wrong with that at all. He believes that love is not for everyone; it does not always ensure happiness, so some people are content in finding happiness in other ways. Tanabe cannot accept Hachimaki's view, believing that to be alone is to not live at all. In the end, Tanabe succeeds in convincing a widow to claim her husband's coffin that was floating for many years above the Earth, and while Hachimaki is seething from Tanabe's outburst, he realises worryingly that Tanabe is beginning to invade his space, and he is powerless to stop it.

The third chapter is in two parts, and sees Hachimaki's humanity now hanging by a thread as he tries to isolate himself from everyone, claiming his loneliness, insecurity, regret, and pain as his own; unwilling to share it with anybody else. He is eventually placed in a situation where he holds a gun to an old friend, Hakim, who threatens to destroy his dream of going to Jupiter through his terrorist plots. Willing to sacrifice his humanity for his dream and ambition, it seems all is lost when no words from his father or Tanabe can get through to Hachimaki. However, just as he commits to pull the trigger, and Hakim braces himself for the end, Tanabe stops him with the most surprising of methods, taking everyone aback; including the reader. This results in one of the most satisfying, wonderful scenes in the volume. After this momentous event, Hachimaki is accepted on the Jupiter Mission.

The fourth chapter is characterised by regret and longing. It sees Hachimaki on a mission with an Ukranian pilot named Leonov, in orbit of the Moon. Hachimaki sees some similarities between himself and Leonov, especially the desire to get away as far away from Earth being his main reason for being in space. However, things go wrong and they crash land, only to find that Leonov has been severely injured, and Hachimaki tries to carry him 40km to safety. Along the way, with Leonov struggling to stay conscious, Hachimaki becomes increasingly distracted by thoughts of Tanabe and all the other people in his life as he tries relentlessly to keep going. Eventually Leonov passes out and, as he does so, he apologises to his mother for not staying on Earth, saying that he wants to go back home. Hachimaki is furious at these words and cannot comprehend the change of heart Leonov has as he fades into unconsciousness. As all seems lost in the darkness of the Moon, suddenly the Toy Box 2 comes to the rescue. Hachimaki though is not happy to see them, and wishes everyone would just leave him alone. The chapter ends with Hachimaki asking Tanabe to help Leonov onto the ship to save him, showing that there is still humanity there.

The final chapter is one of realisation, where Hachimaki and Goro return to Earth to visit the family. Hachimaki is lost in his thoughts upon his visit to Leonov in hospital, where he also meets up with his mother. With Hachimaki's mother concerned, they have a one to one chat on the back porch, and Hachimaki reveals that he cannot contemplate a life without space. His mother points out that all great astronauts come home when space is no longer there for them. Hachimaki, baffled by that statement, has a nightmare about drifting in space that night, after which he takes a midnight bike ride to get some beer; presumably to wash his worries away. However, he crashes into the ocean to avoid an oncoming truck, and comes to a metaphysical realisation that changes his view of the world forever.

As I stated in my review of the first volume of this series, this is as much a manga of pure human drama as it is of science fiction. Such realism is given to both aspects of the story that it makes a very compelling read, with plenty of interaction between the reader and the text. In this volume, Yukimura focuses on the notion and power of dreams, and what they do to people. He depicts the subject matter in a realistic fashion, whereby the selfish ones tend to pave the way towards innovation, progress, and breakthroughs for humanity, but in the process of doing so, they risk losing their own humanity. The evolution of Hachimaki throughout this volume is truly memorable, and a testament to Yukimura's skill at character development.

Despite the overall heavy tone in this volume, there are plenty of light hearted and funny moments which all work, and are very enjoyable. The little extras in between the chapters are an additional and welcome treat; from working sketches of characters to a quick collection of four panel comics, and there is information about key historical figures provided in the back. The one drawback would be that at the beginning of one chapter, a Japanese poem is quoted, but not translated, which is a shame.

The artwork is impeccable and does not drop in quality from the first volume. Whether it is action, emotion, or space structures, Yukimura is adept in all areas and his attention to detail is superb. To top it all off, the manga is printed on nice, thick paper, whilst the covers have a wonderful matte finish that shines in the light, and has a smooth texture. Furthermore, the first four pages are in colour, which is a very nice bonus.

Planetes Volume 2 continues to deliver the very high standard of manga literature set by its previous volume, giving us a great human drama in a science fiction setting. It comes complete with multi-dimensional characters, to appeal to us and to provoke us to examine ourselves as we experience their trials and tribulations in space. A highly recommended read for all.

Review Information

Score: 9 out of 10
Review By: Raz112
Date Published: Fri, 4 Mar 2011

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