Crown Jewels of Anime: Planetes

Posted by Guest Author on May 21, 2008 in Animation |


In this exclusive series our guest author Tim Eldred picks the top ten crown jewels of anime:

As a guy who started watching anime in 1980, I was lucky enough to catch the virus when the medium was in a creative upswing the likes of which simply hasn’t been seen since. Of course, there was great stuff before that, but never in quite so much abundance. The early 80s in particular were chock full of shows that had the power to make me (A) cry like a baby or (B) leap out of my chair like a sports fan. And any show that could do both became a crown jewel in my eyes. They haven’t all been officially exported yet, which means a lot of people still have an opportunity to experience them for the first time. Here’s number 10 on my top ten list:


Before the world of anime clubbed me over the head and dragged me off to become its unholy bride, I was already head over heels for the US space program. It was and still is one of the few truly noble and unreproachable achievements of our country, and my only regret is that it isn’t moving as fast as it should be. Thus, I turn to stories about the potential future of space travel, and though space fantasy tales are great fun they lack the hard science that makes me feel like I’m seeing what could really happen.

That’s where Planetes comes in.

I took a chance on the manga when Tokyopop rolled it out in 2003, and was a complete devotee by the end of the first chapter. The anime followed a year or two later and had my eyeballs all the way open by the end of the opening title. The brain child of Japanese space afficianado Makoto Yukimura, it focuses on the blue-collar aspect of space industry in 2075: the garbagemen who have to collect the floating debris that poses a constant danger to spacecraft in Earth orbit. It’s a vital task that you’d expect to be treated with great importance, but in keeping with true human nature they are awarded no more respect or admiration than the guy who picks up your trash every week. Now THAT’S a future I can believe in.


Through one white-knuckle mission after another, our heroes prevail and involve themselves in larger concerns. Every brilliant episode tells us something new about the effect of space travel on human beings and vice versa. We are all travelers at heart, the ancient Greek word for which is, yes, Planetes. What I love most about this series (and the manga, which goes in slightly different directions) is that it quietly fulfills the dreams that have constantly been placed on hold in real life, which is the highest possible praise I can think of for a work of fiction. But watch out—I’ve seen the first few episodes of another space-anime called Moonlight Mile and it’s already nipping at Planetes’ heels. My top ten might just have to go all the way up to 11!

Below: The trailer for Planetes.

Tim Eldred is a graphic novelist, TV animation artist, and hopeless fanboy. You can see his work at and

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