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The midsection of Planetes features a number of Day in the Limelight episodes. A Sky of Stardust is an excellent example of the breed, and the primary focus is on Yuri.

However there is a secondary plotline born from the last moments of Regrets that resonates beautifully with main story.

The Tag

Once it gets past the “debris is bad” spiel, the tag gets on with setting the themes for the episode.

As the Toy Box is leaving the ISPV-7, a pensive Ai is reading a space suit manual behind Fee. Fee asks if Ai and Hachi are fighting. Ai denies this, and goes back to her manual. I think that this was a reasonable question from Fee, but the real reason is that Ai is trying to deal with a thorny ethical issue.

In cabin, Hachimaki is complaining about the rations whilst Yuri is staring out into space.  Hachimaki has been talking to the Records staff and is wondering why Yuri is spending so much time there. Hachimaki has also noticed how much time Yuri spends staring out the window, and when he asks why, the answer is “space”.

Up until now, Yuri is a character who has just been there. He has the animals that he looks after, and he’s been a loyal second to Fee, but hasn’t been really noticeable beyond that.

Right from the start of this episode there is a sense that Yuri is at a remove, withdrawn from the team, in some undefinable way.

"My love still endures." Sniff.

Yuri’s love still endures. Sniff.

Then Hachimaki has to apply percussive maintenance to the air conditioner to keep the air going [1], and breaks a white carnation that is in a sort of vase in the room. As Hachimaki continues to fight the air conditioner, Yuri picks up the three carnations and looks sadly at them.

I think that this is the most substantial tag yet, and almost qualifies as an act in its own right. It is however necessary to properly bring Yuri into focus.

Act One

Back in the Debris Section, Ravi is scolding Yuri for never taking any leave. Yuri hasn’t taken a day off in five years. Hachimaki notes that Yuri has never left ISPV-7 to go down to Earth or to the Moon.

Hachimaki offers to take care of the animals as Ravi continues to scold. Edel hands Yuri a package with more white carnations in it. Hachimaki asks if it’s Mothers Day, but Yuri replies that the flowers are here for another reason. Yuri is planning to put them up in the Toy Box

In the background, Ai is quietly studying her spacesuit manual again (still?). Hachimaki takes a dig at Ai that she completely misses.

Hachimaki is telling Cheng-Shin that Ai is available but can’t see why Cheng-Shin is interested. Cheng-Shin admires Ai’s directness, which does make Hachimaki finally notice how quite Ai has been.

In the Toy Box Ai is practicing suiting up without the frame, and manages it in just under 10 minutes. This is the target that Gigalt set for her in Regrets, and inevitably this reminds her of Gigalt’s cancer.

The request to not tell Hachimaki is eating at Ai, and this is the real reason for her changed behaviour.

In the records section Yuri is scrolling through lists of debris.

On a debris collection mission Hachimaki and Yuri are suited up and gathering the debris whilst Ai pilots the fishbone. The depressed Ai tries to raise the issue of Gigalt, but chickens out.

Hachimaki warns Ai to be careful with the thrusters, and to check the Sun’s position.

He mentions that Gigalt taught them (in Regrets) to watch out for the Sun. In her distracted state the reference to Gigalt triggers a mistake with the thrusters that scatters debris, and endangers Hachimaki’s life.

Back in the Toy Box Hachimaki justifiably loses his temper at Ai, but still doesn’t notice how depressed she is. That Ai’s only answer is to say “ I’m Sorry” over and over doesn’t mollify Hachimaki, instead it winds him up until Yuri intervenes.

When Hachimaki accuses Ai of being distracted by boys, she finally snaps back but still can’t spit out the real reason.

Back on ISPV-7 a very depressed Ai is clutching her helmet aboard the Toy Box when Yuri turns up. Yuri is here to put up one of the carnations, and Ai admits that she is hiding rather than practicing.

In the Debris Section an irritated Hachimaki is doing something that involves laundry whilst Fee is in her smoking chamber. Fee points out that Hachimaki is being a bit rough on Ai, but Hachimaki isn’t buying it.

At least he isn’t until Fee tells him that Ai has been secretly practicing aboard Toy Box [2].

Aboard the Toy Box Ai is asking what it is like when you lose someone, someone you look up to and admire. This leads to Ai describing the situation with Gigalt and Hachimaki but not giving names.

Advice

Advice.

This moment, with Ai curled around her helmet whilst the carnation floats between her and Yuri, is when the two storylines of A Sky of Stardust collide.

Yuri knows all about keeping secrets, but I don’t think he’s entirely honest in the advice he gives Ai.

Yuri claims that when you lose someone there’s no sadness, no grief, you just don’t feel anything at all.

That if you don’t think about it that way, the grief hurts too much.

Hachimaki arrives at the Toy Box to find Ai and Yuri leaving. Hachimaki jumps to the wrong conclusion about Yuri teaching Ai.

Yuri claims that Hachimaki is a better teacher, and this triggers Hachimaki’s irritation at knowing so little about Yuri. Part of the irritation is that Yuri has been looking for something for three years and didn’t ask Hachimaki to help.

Hachimaki feels quite out of character in parts of Act One, this final moment when it is revealed to be worry for the team goes a long way towards justifying it.

Act Two

The next morning Hachimaki arrives in the Debris Section with more laundry. Edel is the only one there [3] and she has a bouquet of white carnations sitting next to her. Yuri gave the flowers to Edel; a clerical error resulted in Yuri getting an extra shipment.

Hachimaki wonders if that was an excuse, if Yuri planned to give them to Edel all along. Edel shoots that down quickly by pointing out that in the language of flowers, white carnations mean “my love still endures”.

Yuri is looking through the debris records again. This is when Yuri has the flashback to the Alnair 8 in 2068.

Yuri is wondering why his wife bought a compass as a good luck charm. His wife has written something in the compass, but refuses to let Yuri see it. Yuri heads back to the rear of the plane to get some coffee, and is between bulkheads when the accident happens.

The chief and Ai are looking after some of the pets. The chief is trying to set up marriage meetings again, and mentions that Yuri used to be married.

One of the girls the chief was trying to get into a marriage meeting told the chief the whole story, including the fact that Yuri’s wife was never found. Hachimaki is in the background listening, and his eyes are drawn towards the white carnations.

On the next mission, Yuri is staring out at space whilst Hachimaki is grumbling to himself that Yuri didn’t have to hide his past from his teammates.

Yuri is suited up and collecting debris. He flashes back to the aftermath of the accident, and the personal effects that were recovered from the accident. These effects don’t include the compass, and the injured Yuri is clearly still in shock.

Fee sends out an alert to get back inside the Toy Box as there’s a cluster of microdebris on an intersecting orbit, and it isn’t safe to stay out.

All three start to comply when Yuri spots something heading towards him. Yuri isn’t returning to the Toy Box and Fee notices immediately.

The approaching object is a compass.

Fee sends Hachimaki to grab Yuri.

Yuri isn’t answering Fee. He almost manages to catch the compass when he is hit by the microdebris coming in from another angle.

Hachi heads to rescue the unconscious Yuri with Ai’s assistance. Hachi is not giving up on a teammate.

There is a sequence of a drifting, naked, Yuri in white space hearing someone calling him. He flashes back to the accident, and takes someone’s hand, and this is when he wakes up to find himself holding the compass.

Hachi accelerates back into orbit as Yuri opens his hand to see the inscription “Please Save Yuri” in the compass.

It turns out that Fee managed to grab them with the arm on the Toy Box, which then would have had enough power to boost back to orbit.

As Yuri is outside releasing one artificial carnation as a memorial, Hachimaki is wondering if there were things Yuri didn’t want them to know because they were teammates.

If he was keeping the secret to spare his friends from hurt.

This is what Ai needs to hear to resolve her own problem with keeping Gigalt’s secret.

The final scene of the carnation being released, and of Yuri returning to the Toy Box with the compass in his hand is just beautiful. It wraps up A Sky of Stardust nicely.

Things To Come

There is no foreshadowing in A Sky of Stardust. This is a memorial episode, so it is almost entirely, and appropriately, looking back in sorrow. There is some character development for Ai in terms of dealing with Gigalt’s mortality and her place in the team, but even this doesn’t hint at what is to come.

Summary

A Sky of Stardust is an episode that works beautifully on an emotional level. The twin story lines of Yuri’s secret being revealed, and Ai learning to hold hers, mesh perfectly.

The only flaw is the extent to which Hachimaki’s role as the angry man was emphasised, it almost felt like a Flanderisation.  As I mentioned in Act One, there is a partial justification for it, but it still feels off.

Day 1: Outside the Atmosphere
Day 2: Like a Dream
Day 3: Return Trajectory
Day 4: Part of the Job
Day 5: Fly Me to the Moon
Day 6: The Lunar Flying Squirrels
Day 7: Sub vs Dub
Day 8: Extraterrestrial Girl
Day 9: A Place To Cling To
Day 10: Regrets
Day 11: A Sky of Stardust
Day 12: Boundary Line
Day 13: A Modest Request
Day 14: Scenery with a Rocket
Day 15: ???
Day 16: Turning Point
Day 17: In Her Case
Day 18: Ignition
Day 19: His Reasons
Day 20: Debris Section, The Last Day
Day 21: Endings are Always…
Day 22: ???
Day 23: Tentative Steps
Day 24: Tandem Mirror
Day 25: Exposure
Day 26: Debris Cluster
Day 27: Love
Day 28: The Lost
Day 29: And the Days we Chance Upon…
Day 30: Looking back at Planetes

Omake: Textless Opening and Closing

The 2nd disc has the first textless opening, as well as the textless ending. As always it is good to see the details that are obscured by the credits and the subtitling of the songs.

Speaking of which, the episodes have both the translation and romaji subtitles on every episode. This really clutters the screen, and confirms that alternating the translation with the romaji is a better solution.



[1] Apparently Hachimaki likes to breathe. Who knew?


[2] It would not surprise me in the least if Fee had the Toy Box bugged after A Place To Cling To. The Toy Box is Fee’s ship, everyone else just rides it occasionally.


[3] Ai is fixing the air conditioner on the Toy Box, and Yuri is in the records section again.