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Turning Point isn’t a bad episode of Planetes, just one that suffers in comparison to its predecessors. The romantic subplots still aren’t really working for me, but are a little easier to deal with when it is Ai and Hachimaki involved.

The Tag

The brief “debris is bad” prologue segues neatly to ISPV-7 and the first glimpse of the new Toy Box.

Fee geeked out over the specifications in Scenery with a Rocket, but Hachimaki’s geek out in the ship goes a lot further. Ai is smiling fondly over this, and Fee’s equally fond comment that men are kids their whole lives does have a ring of truth to it [1].

Lucie bursts in and drags Ai away for a private talk.

The Opening

This version of the opening is adding more scenes behind the main cast, some of which are quite insightful. There are also some more spoilers behind the supporting cast if you know what to look for.

Act One

In the warehouse Lucie is questioning Ai about Cheng-shin, but doesn’t mention the name. So the clueless Ai answers about Hachimaki, much to Lucie’s relief.

Back in the mens quarters Hachimaki is still geeking out about the Toy Box while Cheng-Shin is asking why Ai turned him down for another date. This is when Hachimaki remembers the almost kiss and freaks out a little, although he doesn’t tell Cheng-Shin why.

Back in the Debris Section Hachimaki is clearly thinking about taking things further but wasn’t listening to Ai. He clumsily tries to ask Ai out on a sort of date when Ravi comes in with “Orders from the manager” banning dating within the Debris Section.

Edel’s deadpan “He means the assistant manager” is about the only funny part of this scene, and the similar ones that follow.

Up in the control section Dolf is talking about the outfitting of a ship called the Von Braun, but the shipping orders for the Tandem Mirror fusion engine aren’t complete. The manager is blaming Claire and dodging responsibility [2]. He is also criticising Claire’s performance in the OSA audit… that no one else was willing to do at all.

Over at the OSA, Claire is dealing with the paperwork. Afterwards Claire sees Hakim and asks him about the treatment of Temara Poitier [3].

In the Debris Section Ravi is explaining that Technora’s Third Division on the moon has had an office romance result in the Division Manager’s daughter getting pregnant. The man and his supervisor are being shipped to a deep mining operation on Mars. The ban is basically self interest on the part of Ravi not wanting to get shipped off or demoted.

A mention of Claire triggers a nasty, inadvertent, remark that justly offends Ai. Saying that all Technora women are “ugly inside” was always going to hurt.

Fee and Yuri are getting the new Toy Box ready for a test flight. Fee notices the change in Yuri’s character, and his oblique answer about Kyutaro and the compass is well handled.

According to Hakim Temara is being held in humane conditions, but all of his research data about the spacesuit was confiscated.

Hachimaki is trying to make up with Ai but isn’t getting anywhere.

Cheng-Shin is reading up on the Von Braun which will be heading to Jupiter. Lucie is flirting, but is disappointed that Cheng-Shin is interested in a seven year flight.

Departure

Departure

The new Toy Box is leaving ISPV-7 on the test flight. Ravi is noticing how cold Hachimaki and Ai are at the moment, although I’m not sure why Ravi is on board.

Act Two

The second act commences at the Lagrange Point 1 where they conduct tests with the new fishbones. During the test Hachimaki continues to try and make up with Ai, but she’s not buying it for a second.

Fee detects an incoming meteoroid when a rough connection is set up with a group on the Moon. This is a plea for help as they have an experimental module moving into the path of the meteoroid.

The caller is the scientist involved in the romance mentioned in Act One, and Ravi recognises him immediately. Ravi is reluctant, but Hachimaki moves to assist the scientists by moving the module.

Hachimaki’s words here about doing what he wants starts to get through to Ai.

At this point the Division Manager of 3rd Division attempts to order the Toy Box off. The Division Manager is, quite frankly, a creep. He’s willing to let the meteoroid hit the module and collect the insurance, especially as it will punish the unacceptable suitor.

Ravi’s surrender is of a piece with his previous craven outings, and is again painful to watch.

Fee’s referring to the Division Manager as the “Dumb Dad” is quite amusing. In an unsurprisingly petty move the Division Manager also cuts the transmission from the scientists.

Hachimaki’s defiance here is excellent, and includes the key point that banning something makes him want to do it even more.

Unfortunately one fishbone doesn’t have enough thrust to move the module. However Hachimaki has now gotten through to Ai, and she brings in the 2nd fishbone. This scene is well presented as an example of the sort of teamwork that only happens when two people know, and trust, the abilities of the other.

Ravi’s attempt to shut off the fishbones from the Toy Box is calmly thwarted by Yuri. Fee tells the Division Manager to get lost as she isn’t about to let tons of debris get created [4].

Now that's a neat trick.

Now that’s a neat trick.

I have to admit that being able to separate the rear hull of the Toy Box is a neat trick. It allows the Toy Box to capture much larger pieces of debris and/or intact satellites.

The scientist manages to reconnect to the Toy Box on a voice only channel to give thanks. Fee sends her regards to his girlfriend and suggests that he take her to Mars. This is a deliciously evil suggestion Fee’s part, and one I approve of wholeheartedly.

Fee is confident that Dolf will protect the Debris Section. Dolf appears to be back on Earth, and does indeed protect the Debris Section. He “apologises” but points out that preventing the creation of debris is the raison d’être of the Debris Section anyway. He asks for a formal report detailing broken rules before taking any further action.

It is quite clear that any such report would be more likely to damage the creepy Division Manager.

Back in the Toy Box, Hachimaki and Ai are unsuiting and he clumsily asks for a date. This involves a repeat of the line about things being forbidden making him more determined.  There isn’t a verbal answer, but Ai floating towards Hachimaki makes her intentions clear.

Things To Come

The major addition this time is the first mention of the Tandem Mirror, and naming the Von Braun as the Jupiter ship. So far it is still Cheng-Shin that is interested, and it is also taking the shine off him from Lucie’s perspective.

Having two characters mention it is significant, this is the Turning Point where the Jupiter mission will begin to dominate the storyline.

Summary

As I mentioned in the Day 15 post, Ravi is just painful to watch. His involvement does damage Turning Point somewhat, but there are enough moments of Fee being awesome to balance that out. The Cool Ship nature of the new Toy Box doesn’t hurt. It is also good to see Yuri settling down into a more relaxed, and even happy, characterisation.

However Turning Point does establish the parameters under which Planetes can successfully pull off romance.

It only works when it is growing naturally out of trust between Ai and Hachimaki. At any other time, with any level of forcing, the romantic elements will feel clumsy and awkward.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is deliberate, if the viewer is meant to react badly to the artificial elements and cheer when the romance flows more naturally. If so, the scriptwriters were playing a dangerous game as going too far would risk viewers bouncing off the series.

In this case Turning Point ends up as a solid, workmanlike, episode. It isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t A Modest Request or an Extraterrestrial Girl.

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: Gender, Diversity, and Politics
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



[1] I admit it: I’m a geek and my two favourite colours are “Oooh!” and “Shiny!”


[2] This is partly self inflicted on Claire’s part, but mostly it is an act of bastardy by the manager.


[3] Last seen being taken into OSA custody in Boundary Line.


[4] This is entirely in character. If you remember A Modest Request Fee is all too familiar with the Kessler Effect and wants no part of it. It might damage her smoking chair.