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Phase 11: Boundary Line

 

Review by Scott Richardson

May 29, 2006

 

Summary

 

Cheng-Shin finally asks Tanabe out on a date, which Tanabe unexcitedly agrees to. As they're working out the details, a man in a large, robot-like spacesuit approaches and asks how to get to Technora. The man inside is from a small third-world country in South America called El Tanika, which Hachi recognizes as his ex-girlfriend Claire's birthplace. Later, in Control Section, Dolf looks over the new spacesuit proposal from the man from El Tanika. Unimpressed by its bulkiness, Dolf's underlings bicker over who should be forced to put it through adoption testing and wind up foisting the job on Claire, telling her to run through the testing quickly and then reject it. Meanwhile, Tanabe shares a few drinks with Lucie and talks about Cheng-Shin. Lucie, motivated by her own interest in Cheng-Shin, tries to convince Tanabe to go out with Hachi instead. Tanabe rejects this idea mostly on the grounds that Hachi couldn't possibly be interested in her. Elsewhere, Cheng-Shin nervously plans his date, relying on Hachi for advice. Hachi once again lays into Cheng-Shin about his taste in women, going on about how there's no way he'd ever go out with Tanabe. Cheng-Shin seriously informs Hachi that even if Hachi asks him to give her back later, he won't. In the cafeteria, an uncomfortable Claire eats with the man from El Tanika, Mr. Tamara, who remarks at how surprised he is to meet a fellow El Tanikan. Claire tries to distance herself from the country, saying that she was only born there and is currently an American citizen. Undeterred, Tamara tells her how excited he is to see an El Tanikan working so high up in such a powerful company. Later on, the two of them are bounced from department to department, trying to find one willing to run the adoption tests. So far, all have turned it down as far too clunky and embarrassing. Tamara is ready to give up and try another company, but Claire tells him that it will be the same anywhere else--nobody will take anything produced in a backwards country like El Tanika seriously. Just then they run into Hachi, who offers to test the suit, saying that he thought it looked interesting. The spacesuit is brought down to Debris Section, where it impresses the not-so-image-conscious debris haulers. With Debris Section's help, the suit is quickly put through and passes the basic tests. Tamara places an excited call to his colleagues in a rather decrepit-looking warehouse in El Tanika and gives most of the credit to Claire-- the hometown girl who made it big. Meanwhile, Tanabe is forced to call of her date with Cheng-Shin, as she's being forced to help out with the space portion of the adoption test--which Hachi volunteered them for. Some Technora executives are annoyed with Claire for allowing the testing to get this far, but with Dolf's backing, they have no choice but to accept it. 

 

As Toy Box sets off for the space-testing of the new suit, Tanabe asks Hachi why he volunteered them for this mission. She seems to think that he did it for Claire and asks him if he still has feelings for her. Annoyed, Hachi reminds her that they've long since broken up. Meanwhile, Claire helps Tamara prepare his suit and notices an inscription in El Tanikan inside the suit. Tamara notices that she can't read El Tanikan and she explains that she learned to read and write after her family moved to America. Tamara empathizes, saying that he was illiterate until he was ten, only learning to read after his family fled to China. He got his degree there and then--despite all the internal strife and economic sanctions--moved back to El Tanika. He wants El Tanika to prosper again and hopes that he can help make it happen by kick-starting space industry there. The inscriptions in the suit are the names of all the people who worked on it--as they could only afford to send one person up to space with it, this way they could all be flying it together. Claire solemnly wonders if, in comparison to Tamara, she ran away and abandoned her home country. Later on, as the space testing is nearing completion with only day side testing to go, an OSA patrol ship, captained by Hakim, moves to intercept Toy Box and orders them to cease operations immediately. A warrant has been issued for Tamara's arrest and Hakim demands that they hand him over. It seems that an INTO peacekeeping force has invaded El Tanika and so they have been ordered to take all El Tanikans outside the country into protective custody. Tamara--inside the spacesuit--is shocked by the news and doesn't want to go, but Hachi warns him to keep still. Hachi asks Hakim for a few more minutes to complete the testing, but Hakim has his orders. To buy time, Hachi remotely activates Tanabe's Fishbone, sending it careening in the opposite direction, dragging Hachi, Claire and Tamara with it. Hachi quickly blames it on equipment malfunction while Claire warns Hachi not to go against the OSA. The sun rises and Hachi tells Tamara to begin the day side tests. Claire chips in by trimming out some operational procedure and Hakim decides to hang back for a minute. The last test involves slightly depressurizing the suit to insure that it can depressurize in less than a minute. As the suit re-pressurizes, Tamara begins reciting the names of all the people who poured their labor into this spacesuit. As he reaches the end of the roster, he adds a new name--Claire Rondo. The test ends, and the spacesuit becomes El Tanika's first to meet all international standards. Hakim moves to take Tamara into custody, but Claire pulls out a last ditch effort to save him by claiming that the suit--and the pilot's biometric data--now belong to Technora. Though he appreciates Claire's efforts, Tamara knows that Technora would never adopt his spacesuit under the current circumstances and asks Hakim to take him into custody. Tamara says that merely the documenting the fact that their spacesuit has met all international standards should give those who come after him the confidence to keep going. He tells Claire that she shouldn't feel like she abandoned El Tanika, and requests that she stay in space as a reminder that even El Tanikans can make it in this world. All he asks is to be allowed to look at the Earth for just a bit longer. As he stares down on the Earth, he sees El Tanika, where his warehouse is blown up by an INTO tank. Tamara's colleagues, who were already some distance away avoiding the fighting, see the smoke and are left wondering why such things continue to happen... Tamara echoes their sentiment, noting through his tears that, from up here you can't see any borders--all you can see is the Earth... 

 

Commentary

 

That is an excellent episode--if you don't feel for Tamara by the end of the episode, I submit that you have no heart at all. With this episode, Planetes starts looking at some real-world problems, a small startup from a third-world country unable to gain any acceptance in first-world-controlled space industry. Tamara's sentiment at the end of the episode seems to be that people just need to mellow out--boarders aren't worth all this destruction and death. This was a very important episode for Claire, who will be deeply affected by this incident for the rest of the show.

 

Overall Rating

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Planetes Episode 11 Planetes Episode 11

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