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Phase 16: Ignition

 

Review by Scott Richardson

June 8, 2006

 

Summary

 

During a routine mission, Hachi was separated from Toy Box and lost radio reception due to a solar flare. He was completely isolated and adrift in space during a deadly radiation storm, and now the Toy Box crew is at Seven's hospital awaiting the doctor's verdict. Yuri tries to reassure Fee who blames herself for the accident as Tanabe can do nothing but worry and wait. Much to their surprise, it turns out Hachi is completely fine. The doctors can only guess that he was in the Earth's shadow between the inner and outer Van Allen belts when the radiation hit. Hachi takes it all in good humor, but Fee's despair has turned to anger and she berates him for going after runaway debris without orders and detaching his lifeline. Her rant is cut off by Tanabe who begins sobbing with relief that Hachi's okay. Meanwhile, a few top level Technora executives, including 3rd Division's manager Schwimmer, discuss the looming possibility of Dolf's promotion to Vice President of Technora. Schwimmer is obviously not thrilled about this possibility, complaining that Dolf got where he is by breaking all the rules. The others are not exactly on Dolf's side either and one volunteers to talk to the president himself. Back in Seven's hospital, Hachi has decided that the fact that he's alive is proof that space loves him and wants him to complete his life's ambition--owning his own spaceship. But he's interrupted by a nurse who wants to run one last test on him. Hachi is put in a Sensory Deprivation Chamber which is plunged into darkness. Tanabe, in the control room, comments that she remembers this from her training--to get an EVA license you must stay in a Sensory Deprivation Chamber for six hours in order to prove that you can handle working in the black void of space. Just then one of the doctors reports that Hachi's heart rate is climbing, even though it's only been minutes. The doctor comments that he was worried that this might be the case. Hachi is suffering from Spatial Loss Disorder, the terror that he felt while floating alone through space was so intense that he begins to panic when introduced to a similar, albeit harmless situation. If Hachi cannot overcome this, he won't ever be able to go out into space again… The next day Hachi angrily calls the doctor a quack, arguing that it had been a long day and he was tired. He then leaves to take the test again, claiming he'll stay in till he's nearly dead from starvation this time. Hachi enters the room, but within moments he hears a high-pitched noise in his ears and feels the sensation of falling. He freaks out and desperately tries to find the walls. The doctor overseeing the test immediately turns the lights back on and has Hachi sent down to a Lunar hospital. Some time later, Hakim and Claire discuss Hachi's condition. Claire worries wordlessly as Hakim says he's not optimistic about Hachi's chances, as Spatial Loss Disorder is a psychological illness. Fee and Yuri are heading down to the Moon to visit Hachi before his reinstatement test. If he fails, he will most likely be sent back to Earth. Hachi's friends give Yuri a care package to pass along to Hachi and Fee talks to Gigalt who says he has a plan which should work better than any stupid rehabilitation. If it doesn't work, Gigalt solemnly decides that he will give Hachi his dismissal papers in person. 

 

Tanabe, who's been staying with Hachi on the Moon, tries to keep him occupied by telling him that she ran into the ninjas, who now have jobs at the Von Braun test site on the dark side of the Moon. An announcement comes on informing Hachi that his test is ready. A very morose Hachi gets up to go, unconvincingly saying that after being in rehab for two weeks he'll have no problem passing the test this time. Inside the test chamber, Hachi ties on his headband, determined not to fail this time. The lights go out and within moments Hachi begins seeing memories from his past, including seeing the rocket that made him want to be an astronaut. He reminds himself that he's a debris hauler and then sees a ghostly visage of himself in a spacesuit. His ghostly double claims that Hachi thought was going to die while he was floating alone through space, and that this was actually a relief to him, as it would be a pretty good excuse as to why he never fulfilled his impossible dream of owning a spaceship. Hachi angrily tells his double that he's not done yet and he will get his spaceship eventually. His double fades a bit, telling him that having dreams too big will ruin a man. Hachi remembers all the people he's met that eventually failed to fulfill their dream, as his double tells him that this sickness is exactly what he wanted--an excuse. He goes on to see visions of families and then Tanabe. Hachi's double suggests that Hachi go back to Earth, marry Tanabe and start a family. He claims Hachi wants the right to look up at the night sky and think that if it wasn't for that sickness he'd still be up there--it's not his fault he never he never fulfilled his dream, it was just because of that disease. Hachi's double tells Hachi to stop lying to himself as Hachi yells at him to shut up before running up and head-butting his double's visor. The lights come back on as Hachi passes out bleeding after having smashed his head against the door. Later, Tanabe tries to cheer a nearly comatose Hachi up, reminding him that he stayed in a lot longer this time and telling him Fee and Yuri will be here soon. Finally, Tanabe suggests that--just maybe--it wouldn't be a bad thing if he went back to Earth, to recuperate at his own pace while Tanabe takes care of the debris so he can come back later. Obviously, this is not what Hachi wants to hear at this point and he silently leaves the room while Tanabe's back is turned. Tanabe meets up with Fee and Yuri, who join in the search for Hachi. Tanabe eventually runs into Nono the Lunarian, who suggests that Hachi might be at the airlock she showed him the last time he was there. Sure enough, Hachi is running across the Lunar surface, telling no one in particular that he'd never get better on Earth and that he's not going to let everything he's worked for amount to nothing. At that point, Tanabe, Fee, and Yuri manage to head him off in a buggy. Tanabe tries to calm him down while Fee asks him if he's trying for suicide like Roland, who Fee and Hachi found committing suicide after he was told he'd have to go back to Earth permanently. Fee continues by saying that death might be better than a lifetime of regrets, but perhaps he wouldn't mind a little meddling from his teammates before he goes. They take Hachi to an industrial complex on the dark side of the Moon. Fee explains that Gigalt managed to get them visitor's passes in the hope that this would snap Hachi out of it. A very large set of doors are opened, revealing the tandem mirror nuclear fusion engine, the most powerful engine ever built--the engine that will get the Von Braun to Jupiter. Yuri tells Hachi that if the Jovian system can be developed into a fuel supply center, astronauts will really have their hands full. The solar system will change and people like Hachi will be needed. As if in a trance, Hachi touches the main mirror coil, and is enveloped in a bolt of impressive but harmless static electricity. He once again sees his ghostly double, but this time Hachi stares him down as his double asks him what he's decided. Hachi wonders if the people who built that engine also had to fight their own personal demons, groping along trying to find the light. Hachi recalls vowing to fight against it his whole life, knowing he'd see the light eventually. His double decides to leave, for now, but warns Hachi that he will be back. Hachi passes the sensory deprivation test, challenging his double to come back anytime; he'll be ready for him. 

 

Commentary

 

This is a very important turning point for the series, Hachi has fought past his self-doubt and fear of failure and may have found a new direction for his life. But does this direction include Tanabe? As far as Hachi is concerned, she represents his 'way out', his path to an easy life of excuses. This episode also features our first real introduction to the Von Braun (or at least its engine), which has already been mentioned a few times. The tandem mirror engine is an actual theoretical design which uses nuclear fusion plasma confined by two magnetic mirrors and mixed with hydrogen propellant to provide thrust (or something like that, I'm no theoretical physicist). Who knows, if sustained nuclear fusion testing pans out, maybe we really could have a Von Braun in sixty years.

 

Overall Rating

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4 out of 5 stars
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Planetes Episode 16 Planetes Episode 16

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