Planetes: Complete Collection

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The sci-fi adventure Planetes (2004) opens in 2075, as eager but maladroit Ai Tanabe arrives at Space Station ISPV-7--and discovers she's been assigned to the Debris Section, the department charged with cleaning up the orbiting junk that threatens interplanetary navigation. Ai immediately begins squabbling with her instructor, veteran astronaut Hachirota "Hachimaki" Hoshino. The set-up of a feisty newcomer joining a team of eccentric grunts recalls Patlabor: the oddballs in the Debris Section are also under-appreciated and underpaid, but hardworking and dedicated. In the first few episodes, the relationship between Tanabe and Hachimaki feels like anime boilerplate, but the filmmakers deftly unfold their back stories, transforming standard characters into intriguing individuals. Hachimaki has to wrestle with his fears and dreams as well as his relationship with Tanabe. Whenever Planetes risks falling into formula, the filmmakers veer off in a new direction. In a less imaginative series, when Hachimaki quits the Debris Section to try out for the experimental ship making the first voyage to Jupiter, he'd realize he'd made a mistake and go back to working and squabbling in the Debris Section. Instead, director Goro Taniguchi and his artists involve the characters in a deadly plot launched by the terrorist Space Defense Front. The extras include photographs of real space debris that's fallen to Earth and a discussion with NASA officials, who warn there may be 15,000 objects 10cm or larger orbiting the planet at speeds approaching 8 km./sec. (Rated 13 and older: violence, minor risqué humor, alcohol and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon

(1. Outside the Atmosphere, 2. Like a Dream, 3. Return Trajectory, 4. Part of the Job, 5. Fly Me to the Moon, 6. The Lunar Flying Squirrels, 7. Extraterrestrial Girl, 8. A Place to Cling to, 9. Regrets, 10. A Sky of Stardust, 11. Boundary Line, 12. A Modest Request, 13. Scenery with a Rocket, 14. Turning Point, 15. In Her Case, 16. Ignition, 17. His Reasons, 18. Debris Section's Last Day, 19. Endings Are Always… 20. Tentative Steps, 21. Tandem Mirror, 22. Exposure, 23. Debris Clutter, 24. Love, 25. The Lost, 26. And the Days We Chance Upon)