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Volume 4 Part 2

 

Review by Scott Richardson

January 1, 2006

 

Summary

 

Back in Fee's childhood, people around town discuss the recent disappearance of a young girl. It is generally assumed that Fee's hermit-like Uncle Roy is the culprit, though the police have no evidence against him. In his self-built tree house home, Roy plays his violin as Fee's mother discusses his situation with Fee's grandmother in her nearby home. Fee's mother does not approve of Roy's lifestyle and wishes he would get a real job. Fee's grandmother doesn't feel that he's hurting anyone and doesn't believe that he would ever kidnap a little girl. Fee's mother doesn't really feel that it matters--as an unemployed, homeless black man, he would make an easy scapegoat. Back in the present, Toy Box is hit by a piece of speeding debris. Yuri and Fee successfully contain the damage, but Fee sees that this orbit is now too flooded with debris to even attempt to clear it. Back in the past, Roy is brought in for questioning by the police, but all he can do is stutter and stare at his shoes. One of the officers notes that he's always been that way--they used to make fun of him in school for it. For the time being they let him go, but on the steps of the station, the lost girl's father approaches him and grabs him by the lapels, demanding to know what he's done with his daughter. The police pull him away, but Roy notices that nearby people are staring at him menacingly. Back on Toy Box, Yuri notes that America's plan to end the war quickly involves spraying mines everywhere in an attempt to hit the enemy's command center--25,000 tons of material. When they hit it, the entire orbit will be lost. Back in the past, Roy tries to go fishing, but breaks down in sobs. Little Fee approaches him, asking him what's wrong. He explains that it is hard for him to talk to and understand other people, and so he just runs away. He needs to change how people see him, but he is a weak man. Fee tells him that when you cry you're supposed to look up, because no one can cry when they look at the sky. Then she notices a large plume of smoke coming from the direction of Roy's home.

Little Fee and Roy find Roy's tree house engulfed in flames. Unable to do anything but watch as his home is reduced to ashes, Roy gets a crazy look in his eye. He wonders why they're doing this to him. Who is the villain? Him or them? Which one is really crazy? With that, Roy stalks off into the forest never to be seen again. It was later discovered that the missing girl had simply run away from home. Back in 2078, Fee and Yuri watch from a safe distance as the enemy base is destroyed--sending 25,000 tons of material scattered in every direction. With that, another orbit is lost. Fee wonders where people go when they can no longer deal with this piece of shit world we live in and sees Roy's burning house in the explosion. Some time later, Fee arrives at Cape Canaveral Spaceport. A few reports try to get an interview out of her, but she claims that they've got the wrong person. Undeterred, the reports try to ask her about the impact of the war on commercial space travel and the rumors that she has resigned her commission on the DS-12. Later, Al returns home after walking his dogs and wonders why he smells something burning. He is flabbergasted to find Fee making breakfast for the family. Fee explains that she'll be cooking breakfast from now on--she no longer wants to work in space. Still shocked, Al asks if mom becomes mom, what is pop going to do? Fee drives Al to school on her motorcycle, impressing the other kids and making Al think that this might not be such a bad thing after all. As Fee returns from dropping Al off, she recklessly barrels through traffic with little regard for her own safety.

Fee coaches her son's baseball team as Yuri and Tanabe attempt to talk her into coming back to work now that her suspension is over. Fee mostly ignores them until Yuri gives up, recognizing that she doesn't want to be a debris collector right now and there's nothing they can do to change her mind. Just as they're about to leave, the children become very excited and start pointing at the sky which seems to be filled with shooting stars. Yuri sadly points out that it's merely a bunch of debris burning up on reentry. Fee simply glares at the sky, not saying a word. That evening, Fee rides around on her motorcycle, fuming about spending her life doing a job no one appreciates. Suddenly, she notices a dog in her path, she swerves violently, falling off the bike, which goes skidding into a guardrail. A bit banged up, but otherwise okay, Fee lifts herself off the pavement and is greeted by the dog she didn't hit who licks her appreciatively. She wheels the useless motorcycle to a nearby gas station where she places a call to her family. Fee asks the attendant if she can leave the bike there overnight, but negotiations break down when the attendant wants her to pay rent for it. An angry Fee wheels her bike down a long rural street, with the dog following her all the way. After quite some time, an exhausted Fee takes a break by the side of the road. Noticing a nearby church, Fee remembers that she hasn't been to church since the day her uncle's house was burned down and wonders where he went. Noticing the dog sitting by her side, she pets it and discovers a far too small collar buried in fur around its neck. She removes it and receives a loud bark of gratitude from the dog. As it licks her face, she notes that that must have hurt a lot for a very long time. With that, Fee becomes very sullen and buries her head in her arms. After a moment like this, she pulls her head up and looks into the sky, thinking to herself that people want shooting stars because it gives them a reason to look up. Though she knows they aren't really shooting stars, Fee begins to clasp her hands together as if to say a prayer, but is suddenly interrupted by one loud, angry bark from her new friend. Surprised, Fee drops her hands and stares at the dog, which quickly reverts back to its original friendly nature. She pets it affectionately, and resumes pushing her bike up the hill. When she finally makes it, the sun is rising over the city below. Fee thinks to herself that it is the most beautiful sunrise she's ever seen, and thinks that it is, perhaps, time to get back to work. To her husband and son's surprise, Fee walks through the door with a new dog, which she has named Roy.

A year and a half has passed since the Von Braun left Earth. Since the ship is heavily automated, Hachimaki passes the dead time by making home movies to send back to Earth. Meanwhile, the captain is working himself to death trying to come up with something meaningful to say for the first ever broadcast from Jupiter. Hachi visits Roald--another crewmate--in order to send off his movie, as Sally is waiting to kill him back at his room for filming her plucking her eyebrows. Roald asks him how things are going with his wife, and Hachi jokingly responds that since he married her right before he left, she's gotta be cheating on him by now. Hachi returns the question, and Roald flatly states that she's probably not going to be his wife for much longer. The distance between them is just too great to talk her out of it. Elsewhere, the stress of writing the first Jupiter speech has finally gotten the best of the captain, who has come down with a stress-related stomach ulcer. At his bedside, Goro and the others read what the captain has written so far. The captain asks them to be honest, which causes everyone but Goro and Hachi to remember some other place they have to be. Some time later, a fight breaks out between Roald and Bo. Sally and Goro arrive on the scene to find Hachi unsuccessfully attempting to break them up. Sally asks Goro if he's planning to help, but Goro just came to watch. Apparently, Bo had been in love with Roald's wife at one point and is not happy that Roald is about to lose her. Bo tells Roald he should have stayed home with her, and Roald tells her it's none of his business. Hachi continues trying to break them up, but they both tell him to stay out of their business. Hachi lifts his head just as Roald and Bo throw punches at each other, both of which impact on opposite sides of Hachi's face. The room falls silent as Hachi barely keeps his balance before letting out a forced laugh and saying, "Damn you both, I made it my business. Out here in space, everyone's business is my business." With that Hachi laughs once more and passes out. Hachi comes to some time later in the infirmary next to the captain and Goro, and is informed that he chipped several teeth. Goro was impressed by Hachi's quick thinking after being punched, and based on that, the captain asks Hachi if he would like to write the first speech from Jupiter. Goro tells him he'll do fine as long as he doesn't try to hard to impress everybody. All Hachi wants to know is how he got hurt in the first place.

The year is 2080 and the Von Braun moves into parking orbit around Jupiter. Down an old dirt road, Dr. Locksmith drives alone listening to the radio. He enters a church and asks for Dr. Ramon. It seems that the priest at this church is Locksmith's former engineering professor. They go outside to talk because churches make Locksmith nervous. Ramon recalls that Locksmith was one of his best students, having an almost fanatical devotion to his work. He asks Locksmith if he should be out here on the day his ship has finally reached Jupiter. Locksmith is unconcerned, saying that the project basically runs itself at this point--now he's busy designing a new ship to make it to Saturn. Unfortunately, due to the tandem mirror engine accident, he is short of skilled engineers. Ramon declines his offer, saying that he's given up science. Locksmith reminds him that discovering truth is the quest of a scientist. God, he says, is out there hiding in the vastness of space watching our pain, and he is not so generous as to keep letting him do that forever. If God is love, Locksmith says, we should become God. Meanwhile, Tanabe stands on Toy Box's hull, staring into the stars. Fee pops up and tells her that she could have taken the day off, considering that it's Hachi's big day. Tanabe says that even if she did that, they'd still be working, and she doesn't like being left out. Fee asks Tanabe what she saw in Hachi that made her want to marry him. Tanabe can't seem to come up with a specific answer, and says that she wasn't seeing anybody else when he asked her. Fee wonders if Tanabe just took the first offer and asks her if she loves him. Tanabe looks her in the eye and simply says, "Yes, a lot." Back on Earth, Ramon tells Locksmith that space development was both his sin and his punishment. Human thirst for true love, but cannot find it and are left to wander the cosmos, searching. Ramon is tired of searching, he merely wants peace. Ramon goes back to his church, and Locksmith stands outside listening to the radio, which is now carrying Hachi's first ever broadcast from Jupiter. Hachi introduces himself and asks if they can see Jupiter in the night sky--he can't see Earth from where he is. Before he was a crewmember on the Von Braun, he worked as a debris hauler. It was far from an impressive job, but he kept telling himself it was only temporary. His real goal was save up enough money to get his own spaceship, which he would then use to go anywhere he wanted to go--to attain true freedom. In order to achieve such a lofty goal, he decided to cut himself off from everyone and focus totally on saving money. But, it wasn't long before he realized that he just couldn't stop loving people. He realized that this was an amazing power, which everybody has inside them. So, when he gets back, he wants to go back to being a trash man. He asks Fee, Yuri, and Tanabe to let him rejoin their team at that time. The broadcast ends, and Locksmith says, "You make it sound so easy, kid." In space, Toy Box approaches some wreckage, and Tanabe gets ready to go drag it in. She looks back into the stars, and remembers Hachi's words, "I learned that I couldn't stop loving people."

 

Commentary

 

In this, the final volume of Planetes, Fee loses her fight against the dangerous mess created by the war in space. Disgusted by the stupidity of the whole situation, she decides she's done picking up other people's trash. Eventually, though, she decides that she can't just run away from the problem and decides to go back to work. We also get to see what Hachi is up to on the Von Braun, which adds a bit of humor to offset Fee's more dramatic story. The short four panel bonus comics in this volume are hilarious, and one features a cameo of Claire, who only appeared in the anime. Though Hachi's speech at Jupiter is extremely inappropriate from a historical prospective (imagine if Neil Armstrong had started describing the good old days in the Air Force rather than talking about steps and giant leaps), it does make a good epilogue to Hachi's character and is a very fitting way to end the manga. All in all, Planetes is an excellent addition to anyone's manga collection, either as a standalone story, a supplement to the anime, or, more commonly, both.

 

Overall Rating

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4 out of 5 stars
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