Planetes Phase 20: Tentative Steps


Tanabe enters the Debris Section office, where she is treated to a welcome dance courtesy of Lavie and Myers. Much to their surprise, Debris Section is getting a new employee for the second year in a row. Tanabe asks if they’re replacing Hachi, but it seems that this is just a staff increase, thanks to their tangle with the INTO mine. Just then the door buzzes, and Lavie and Myers ready their welcome dance for real this time. Halfway through it, they realize that it’s only Claire. It seems that she is Debris Section’s newest employee. At the space-based Von Braun crew selection site, Hakim goes to recycle a drink container, but discreetly passes something to the janitor at the same time. Hachi enters the room and tells Hakim that the next test is about to begin. Hakim notes that he must have a lot of free time if he came all this way just to tell him that, but Hachi rebuffs him, telling Hakim that he beat out a friend to get this far–he cares for no one but himself. Hakim mirrors Hachi’s sentiment. The next test has teams of four going into isolation modules to complete an unspecified task in ten days time. If any person leaves the module before the ten days are up, the entire team will be disqualified. Hachi heads to his assigned module where he meets two of his new teammates, Sally Silverstone and Leonov Norstein. In the control room, Dolf asks where Locksmith is, but it seems that Locksmith has locked himself in the lab to make last minute adjustments to system software. One of the control personnel is surprised that the person who came up with this test isn’t going to be here to oversee it, and wonders if they should call it off. Dolf admits that there may be some ethical issues with the test, but they are trying for Jupiter so they can’t be soft. With 30 seconds before the test begins, the fourth member of Hachi’s team arrives, Hakim himself. The test begins and the teams are informed that they are to carry out various daily environmental, system and personal health checks which will be the duties required on the Von Braun. Also, the teams are to assemble a model of the Von Braun which has been placed in each module. Finally, they are reminded that the modules will be under communications blackout throughout the test and if anyone leaves during the ten day period the entire team will be disqualified. Meanwhile, Claire is fitted with her new spacesuit as Tanabe tries to make her feel better about her demotion to Debris Section. Claire, however, doesn’t want her sympathy. Back in Hachi’s isolation module, the days fly by without incident and with five hours to go Hachi’s team completes their Von Braun model. Leonov wonders what the point of this test was and Sally suggests that maybe they just made a good team. Just then, the lights cut out and emergency power cuts in. Hakim mumbles that he didn’t think it would be that easy. 

Leonov reports that, as near as they can tell from inside the module, an electrical system malfunction has occurred. While they can make the batteries last, they do not have enough oxygen to last until the end of the test. Various alternatives are suggested and ruled out as Hakim tells them that they don’t have any spacesuits or oxygen tanks of any kind. Sally suggests that they call it quits–it was an accident so she doesn’t think they’ll penalize them. Hachi reminds her that there will be accidents on the way to Jupiter, too. Hakim backs him up, reminding her that the applicants involved in the water tank trial were all failed and suggests that perhaps this wasn’t really an accident at all. Sally isn’t convinced that Locksmith would actually put lives at risk simply for a test, but Hachi knows he would. In Debris Section, Myers worries that Tanabe hasn’t taken any days off for quite some time. Fee tells him that if Tanabe wants to work, she’ll let her work–they need her for EVA work now that Hachi’s gone. Fee suggests that Tanabe is just trying to work through her and Hachi’s separation. Down at the dock, Tanabe has gone to meet Cheng-Shin, who’s getting back after failing the first round of testing. Tanabe immediately asks him if it’s true that Hachi passed the first round and asks him if he knows where the second round is being held. Cheng-Shin sadly notes that it’s somewhat cruel to ask him about the second round after he failed the first. Cheng-Shin tells her that Hachi said he doesn’t need friends or girlfriends–he doesn’t even need the Earth anymore. Adopting a more passionate and somewhat angry tone, Cheng-Shin says that he, on the other hand, isn’t like that. Grabbing Tanabe’s wrist, he starts yelling that he still has dreams and girls that he wants and he’ll get them even if he has to steal them. He pulls Tanabe toward him and forcefully kisses her, withdrawing only when Tanabe bites his lip, drawing blood. A very frightened Tanabe tells him that if he ever does that again she’ll bite his lip off and runs off. Pulling himself together a bit, Cheng-Shin notices Claire waiting just around a corner and asks her if he was acting out of character. She doesn’t think so, and Cheng-Shin just says that he’s willing to chase after the things that he wants. Tanabe, still very shaken by the incident, thinks to herself that Cheng-Shin must have been wrong; Hachi would never want to live alone. Meanwhile, Hachi’s team has been unable to find any way to extend their oxygen supply to last till the end of the test, and a frustrated Leonov decides to head for the door. Hachi reminds him that they’ll all be disqualified if he opens the door, but Leonov says that it beats dying. Hachi tells him that there is a chance that the area behind their airlock has vented. Leonov says he’ll take that chance, and Hachi says he’s getting on the Von Braun if it kills him. Leonov suggests that he die by himself and save his oxygen for the rest of them. Hakim finds this suggestion interesting–with only three people their oxygen supply would last until the end of the test. Hachi seems to agree and a suddenly very worried Sally tries to remind them that this is supposed to be a test of their teamwork. Hachi agrees that teamwork is important, but in an emergency in space, what’s important isn’t to keep everyone alive–it’s to keep everyone from dying. The mood suddenly very heavy, all four of them find themselves against a different wall in defensive postures. Leonov asks if Hachi is serious about this, and Hachi reiterates that he has to get aboard the Von Braun. Leonov reminds him that Hachi won’t necessarily be one of the survivors. Sally moves toward the emergency button, but is stopped by Hachi. Taking a darker tone, she suggests that Hachi isn’t sure that he has what it would take to murder someone to ensure his own success, and tells him he won’t have to bother. Hakim notices Sally going for a sharp tool in her back pocket and steps in to stop her, winding up in a deadlock, holding back Sally’s tool from his throat. Leonov asks if Hakim isn’t on board with the three survivors’ plan, and Hakim tells him that he’ll get on the Von Braun no matter the cost–even if that cost is murder. He does note, however, that they still have some time before it comes to that. There are four hours left, which gives them thirty minutes to think of another plan before the oxygen tanks are too drained for even three people to make it to the end. Leonov asks what happens if they aren’t able to think of anything, to which Hakim responds that he’ll kill one of them. Back in the control room, teams are failing by the dozens as the control staff watches through cameras. Time remaining finally reaches zero, and Dolf orders power and oxygen restored to all modules and medical teams standing by. Hachi’s team’s module is opened and the rescue squad finds all four applicants curled up against the wall looking somewhat dead. Upon closer examination they find that the team is alive, albeit barely conscious and with dangerously low body temperatures. Hachi and the others purposefully lowered their body temperature via the environmental system and ice packs in order to lower their metabolism, which minimized their oxygen intake. Hachi pulls himself over to Hakim and asks him if he was really ready to kill someone back there. Hakim says he was–space isn’t forgiving enough to let people be friends. Hachi reflects on this and tells Hakim that, if he was working with Hakim, he thinks he could make it to Jupiter. 


Ah, the isolation module test. Lock four people in a room just long enough that they start to get sick of each other, and then create a situation where the most obvious way out is to kill one of them. The only problem is that I seriously doubt the OSA would let anybody get away with murder simply for a crew selection test. Perhaps that was why Hakim was still interested in finding another way. Anyway, it seems that Claire has truly fallen from grace, having wound up all the way down in Half Section–rather fitting considering some of her snarky comments towards Debris Section earlier in the series. Cheng-Shin’s actions in this episode seem, at least on the surface, somewhat out of character for him. I wonder if his actions toward Tanabe weren’t motivated primarily toward getting back at Hachi for stealing Tanabe away in the first place, as well as calling him out in the previous episode.

Overall Rating
Planetes Info

Goro Taniguchi

Ichiro Okouchi
Makoto Yukimura (manga)

Mechanical Designer(s):
Seiichi Nakatani
Takeshi Takakura

Character Designer:
Yuriko Chiba

Musical Composer:
Kotaro Nakagawa

26 episodes

Japan 10.04.2003 – 04.17.2004
U.S. 08.06.2008 – 11.12.2008


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