Planet With (プラネット・ウィズ) is a 2018 12-episode absurdist philosophical mecha dramedy produced by J.C.Staff, written by Satoshi Mizukami, and directed by Youhei Suzuki, with music by Kōhei Tanaka. It is an original story, though it did receive an accompanying manga adaptation.
Sōya Kuroi is an amnesiac high school boy living a relatively boring life with his adoptive sister Ginko and a giant purple cat referred to only as “Sensei.” But one day, when Earth comes under attack from strange, massive floating beasts and a mysterious team of heroes in mechs fends them off, Sōya gets dragged into an adventure that he never could have anticipated.
If you’re a regular at The Avocado, you’ve probably seen a screenshot, gif, or incomprehensible meme from this show. Some things get memed because they’re good. Some things get memed because they’re bad. And some things get memed because they’re just weird. Planet With fits comfortably in both the first and third categories.
Explaining why Planet With is great is difficult, because so much of its appeal lies in not knowing what’s going to happen next. Describing the outline of the plot or even its general moral and thematic outlook would spoil the surprise. This is a show that thrives on twists and turns, burning through as much plot in 12 episodes as typical shōnen fare would cover in 60. That speedy pace results in a series that is at once disorienting and exhilarating, but somehow, the show also finds time for multiple mecha battles, nearly a dozen character arcs, buckets of absurdist humour, and a heavy dose of moral philosophy. Planet With pulls off one of the most impressive balancing acts in all of anime.
A lot of credit has to go to Satoshi Mizukami, the celebrated mangaka who penned the critically-acclaimed Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer and The Spirit Circle. Mizukami has a unique talent for melding highbrow and lowbrow, which he puts on full display in Planet With. He also has a knack for depicting moral ambiguity without descending into cynicism or nihilism. These writing abilities give Planet With a sense of warmth that other series of its ilk lack. Mizukami’s other notable talent is his ability to subvert tropes without making subversion an end in and of itself; he plays off the audience’s expectations, but always with purpose, never just to yank them around.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, Planet With successfully juggles a cast of around a dozen characters. What I didn’t mention is that all the characters are a hoot to watch. There’s nary a dud in the bunch, and they all experience moments of both levity and gravity. Moreover, unlike a lot of shōnen fare, Planet With treats its female characters with just as much care and insight as its male characters. They all have internal lives; they don’t merely exist to satisfy the narrative needs of the protagonist.
The show’s breakneck pace isn’t for everyone, and the same goes for its absurdist humour. Planet With is by no means an acquired taste, but there’s a chance it might not click for you.1
The show’s mecha battles are mostly animated in 3D, and no attempt is made to blend it with the 2D animation of the rest of the show. This is a deliberate aesthetic choice, but a controversial one.
Finally, if you like talking about anime with other people, then you’re out of luck. The series was tragically underwatched, and outside of dedicated anime sites, you’re unlikely to find any discussion of it. It is no exaggeration to say that The Avocado is the English-language Internet’s primary source of Planet With memes; that’s how few people watched it.
Weeb level: 5/10. Planet With doesn’t at all rely on a knowledge of Japanese culture; the show will make perfect sense to anyone who wishes to watch it. However, I would not consider it a “gateway anime,” because a significant chunk of its appeal lies in how it differs from its genre brethren. You’ll have a greater appreciation of the show if you’re familiar with typical anime tropes and rhythms.
Fanservice: 2/10. There are a couple of scenes that mock stereotypical male sexual fantasies and one late-series character design that some might find a little questionable, but on the whole, fanservice really isn’t in this show’s DNA.
Quality: 9/10. It’s hands down one of the best series of the past few years and well on its way to becoming a cult classic.2 Its appeal is broad, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to any anime fan.
Where to Watch: The series is available to stream on Crunchyroll and VRV.