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Phase 19: Endings are Always...

 

Review by Scott Richardson

June 14, 2006

 

Summary

 

The Debris Section office is empty and dimly lit. However, a surprisingly happy group of Debris Section employees walk in laughing. It seems that the video the unlicensed director made of their capture of the INTO mine made international news. As this is the second time Debris Section has made heroic headlines, they will not be disbanded after all. The only dark cloud on this sunny day for Debris Section is Hachi's sudden resignation from Technora. Back on Earth, crew selection for the Von Braun has begun with much fanfare. Outside of the mission specialists who have already been chosen, eighteen spots still need to be filled from an applicant pool of over 20,000. Among them is a very serious Hachi, who suddenly runs into Cheng-Shin, who was chosen as one of Technora's in-house applicants. Cheng-Shin notes his surprise at Hachi's sudden departure from Technora and asks Hachi if anything happened. All Hachi can come up with is that he just felt like it. They catch a meal together and Hachi talks about how he felt as if a weight was lifted from his shoulders after he decided to shoot for the Von Braun. Cheng-Shin asks how Tanabe feels about it, but Hachi somewhat embarrassingly admits that he hasn't been talking to her much. Back on Seven, Tanabe complains about Hachi to Lucie, who suggests that she just break up with him since he has basically chosen the Von Braun over her. Tanabe is unconvinced, but Lucie reminds her that if he does pass the test he'll be gone for seven years. Tanabe reminds her that Cheng-Shin went down to try out too, but Lucie just yawns and tells her that she's already given up on him. Elsewhere, Dolf meets with Locksmith, who comments on his surprise that they would send such a talented man to run a mere cover company. Locksmith wonders aloud if, perhaps, this happened because Dolf was too talented. Later, Hachi is accosted by some police officers for camping out in a park. It seems that Hachi is unable to afford a hotel for the two weeks the Von Braun test lasts and he was unable to get a cheap apartment because no one will rent to somebody without a job. Hachi is told to go to the Lagash district--a homeless hangout. The next day, the basic tests for the Von Braun crew selection tests begin. Cheng-Shin is exempt from these tests, due to being one of Technora's in-house applicants. Hachi is put through a series of physical endurance, basic electronics and academic tests, each day returning to the slum where he spends the night on the street, studying. One day, a reporter stops to talk to him, asking him why he wanted to join the Von Braun crew. He informs Hachi that with the amount of money being spent on the Von Braun's development was enough to save 40% of the people who starved to death last year. The report wonders aloud whether humanity needs to get to Jupiter when it can't even take care of everyone on Earth. Annoyed, Hachi walks away without saying anything. 

 

That night, Hachi is chased by a group of delirious homeless people and winds up running into Hakim. It seems that Hakim chose the same route as Hachi--quitting his job at the OSA to apply for a position on the Von Braun. Hakim explains that he doesn't think that the Jovian mission is a goal you can reach if you have a safety net. The day of the final test of the first round arrives and Hachi once again fails to call Tanabe, claiming that it would be a bad idea to split his attention right now. The final test will have applicants attempting to fix a simulated malfunction on the outside of the Von Braun in under ten minutes while in a dive tank to simulate zero gravity. Locksmith has also ordered that there will be no safety divers standing by in the pool in case of an accident, stating that there won't be any such help at Jupiter. The safety team protests, but Locksmith tells them that he doesn't need anybody on the Von Braun who would die on Earth. Some applicants quit in protest. The test gets underway with four applicants in the pool at a time. Hakim manages to finish in just about five minutes, impressing everyone. Hachi and Cheng-Shin wind up in the same group along with a pro tennis star who has been using the test as a publicity stunt. The four of them approach their Von Braun access panel mock-ups and the test begins. Unfortunately, minutes into the test, the tennis star accidentally cuts a gash in her air hose. She panics and begins to sink while yelling for help. Dolf, in the monitoring room, tries to order the divers out to save her, but Locksmith overrides him. It seems she still has another tank of air, so Locksmith decides to see how the other applicants will react. Though he was the first to notice the trouble, Hachi ignores her the whole time and clocks in a time close to Hakim's, while Cheng-Shin and the other applicant abandon their panels to help the tennis star. After the test, the other applicant expects another chance due to the accident, but Locksmith refuses, telling him that accidents happen in space, too. Locksmith tells the man that he doesn't need humanists on his ship. The applicant angrily calls Locksmith an egomaniac, a charge Locksmith happily accepts. The next day Hachi goes to hear the results of the first round, and meets Cheng-Shin leaving the building. Hachi asks him if he's going to stay for the results, but Cheng-Shin reminds Hachi that he failed the underwater test, and thus is throwing in the towel. Hachi gives his condolences, but Cheng-Shin tells him he really didn't expect to make it in the first place. Out of the 25 Technora in-house applicants, only two will be allowed to go, and seniority counts, so Cheng-Shin knew he didn't have a chance. Cheng-Shin tells Hachi that he thinks he'll have a good shot at the next mission, so he just came to get a feel for things this time. Hachi's long-standing, suppressed jealousy of Cheng-Shin begins to boil to the surface, as he accuses Cheng-Shin of merely being a tourist. Hachi, on the other hand, has nothing without the Von Braun--he has purposely set things up so that he has no choice but to get on the crew. Cheng-Shin accuses Hachi of acting like a child, but Hachi tells him that he's not using the company, his friends, or his family as excuses as to why he never achieved his dreams. Hachi stalks off, telling Cheng-Shin to stay around Earth orbit all he wants; Hachi, on the other hand, is going to Jupiter. Hachi and Hakim both pass the first round of testing. 

 

Commentary

 

They try to pull a fast one on us at the very beginning of this episode by giving us the impression that Debris Section has been abandoned just before the characters appear and we learn the truth. They even had a mostly silent coming attraction for this episode to perpetuate the idea that Debris Section was really disbanded. And really, they probably could have had Debris Section disappear, as the story is shifting focus to Hachi and his attempt to become a crew member on the Von Braun. Hachi has an interesting philosophy. Knowing that his odds are exceedingly slim, he is purposefully cutting all ties with anything and anybody not directly connected with his goal. The idea being that not having any sort of fallback position will force the very best out of him. Unfortunately, this is causing him to lose sight of his humanity and seems to be becoming more and more like the egotistical Locksmith.

 

Overall Rating

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4 out of 5 stars
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Planetes Episode 19 Planetes Episode 19

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