When people think of 3D CG animation from the Far East, they normally remember certain cut scenes from video games, some of which are truly breathtaking works that combine imaginative storytelling with top notch cinematography. It's strange then, that the skill and passion that goes into making these visual feasts is sorely lacking where the anime industry is concerned, and the shows that have tried to walk the path of 3D CG have generally failed at capturing the attention of the audience.
There is at least one star shining in the darkness though, and thankfully it's not Planzet.
In 2047 the Earth has reached the point where it will become uninhabitable in another ten years, and forced with this choice of move or die, humanity has decided to pack up what it can and colonize Mars. The story begins with Akeshima Koushiro, a commander in the military, asking his son Hiroshi about his future plans while his daughter sketches in the garden, little knowing that this is the day when humanity will face a crisis even greater than that posed by the average removal company.
The storyline is generally easy to follow, especially as it's nothing more than a cross between Independence Day and Top wo Nerae (amongst others), but problems arise with some of the key plot elements. One of the greater issues is that there are very few explanations for the major shifts in the story, and the overly convoluted sequence of events only exacerbates the lack of detail in the narrative. In addition to this the show tries too hard to justify the actions of the characters, and this leads to conversations and monologues that have very little depth of emotion, and feel as contrived as an excuse from Bart Simpson.
The inherent problem though, is that all of this has been done before.
Aliens attacking the Earth is not a new storyline, nor is humans having to leave because the planet is uninhabitable (Wall-E immediately springs to mind). There are plenty of elements in the plot that have been utilised in some other tale, but that isn't the problem here. The real issue is content, or more specifically, moderation and refining of the plot. The screenplay for Planzet looks like it was put together by a science fiction fanboy as it attempts to cram a number of well known and disparate threads into its 55 minutes, all of which ultimately leaves a confused and somewhat sour aftertaste as viewers alternate between wanting to punch the lead and wondering what the hell is going on (which, ironically enough, sounds a bit like the average reaction to Neon Genesis Evangelion).
That said, the brainchild of Awazu Jun (who wrote the screenplay and directed the feature), really does look good.
Planzet is one of those movies that boasts amazingly detailed graphics and realism, and one look at any screenshot will highlight just how much of a step forward this feature could have been.
Could have been ...
Beauty is only skin deep, and nowhere in anime is this more true than where this film is concerned. The visuals are generally excellent, with a level of detail that puts many other shows, and even a number of cut-scenes, to shame. Unfortunately the same level of commitment and attention to detail seems to have gone missing when it came to animating Planzet, so rather than watching something truly breathtaking that might have counterbalanced the shoddy storyline, viewers are instead subjected to strange postures and weird doll-like actions.
The problem is further aggravated by the acting as most of the cast seem to do nothing more than a simple recitation of their lines and pause unnaturally during conversations. Part of this is due to the script, which is little more than an overly simplistic and rather cheesy attempt at character studies, but this is compounded by the mechanical delivery of the seiyuu who sound like they had to take turns when speaking.
Sadly, not even the talents of Miyano Mamoru (Akeshima Hiroshi), whose roles include Yagami Light, Suoh Tamaki and Death the Kid, can raise the level of acting from mediocrity, especially when faced with a script like this one.
The music has a martial theme to it that is reflective of the heroic, post apocalypse struggle for survival, and in general it works well enough if not for the ending theme, Ryuuguu no Tsukai by Hajime Chitose. Unfortunately this little ballad is sung in a manner reminiscent of Alanis Morissette crossed with yowling cats, which results in a high pitched warbling that both I and the movie really could have done without.
Thankfully the audio effects are pretty good, but this may be nothing more than a fluke when all things are considered.
Now given that this is a 55 minute movie, the average viewer may not expect much in the way of characterisation and development. Well ask and ye shall receive, because there isn't. Each role is as flat as a billiard table, and while there are attempts at justifying the actions, thoughts and emotions of the characters, these feel forced and dispassionate.
Even knowing this though, the viewer is subjected to a diatribe about why these people are fighting against an alien invasion, which is basically like saying the survival of the human race is not enough of a reason to take up arms.
On a slightly different note, there will be people out there wondering why I insist on calling the lead character Hiroshi instead of Taishi (which is what everyone else seems to be calling him). The reason for this is because his father calls him by that name during the first minute of the film.
Planzet is an odd movie, mainly because of the number of things it managed to do in order to sabotage itself. Whilst the visuals are impressive, the lack of coherency, consistency and intelligence in almost every other department makes this a difficult show to watch without getting angry about one thing or another.
This really isn't the best example of the 3D side of the industry. On the one hand it takes itself too seriously, but on the other it displays an almost criminal lack of passion, professionalism and pride, and it's the latter factor that really kills this film.
One can only wonder where the shining future that was heralded by Hottarake no Shima: Haruka to Mahou no Kagami has gone.