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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring (voice): Mamoru Miyano and Kaori Ishihara
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 27 August 2012

In this CG sci-fi thriller, the Earth is still recovering from a deadly alien attack that wiped out all human cities in the year 2047. Humanity has finally developed a counter-attack that they can use against the invaders, and one man - a soldier named Hiroshi Akishima, who lost his father in the first invasion - wants to be the one to bring the aliens down...

Directed by Jun Awazu, Planzet is a 2010 animated feature centred on a final, last-ditch attempt to halt Earth's conquest by faceless aliens, involving the use of a secretly developed super-weapon that the son of a man who lost his life in the invasion must pilot. It's a not unfamiliar scenario from animated Japanese sci-fi, and Planzet's story and characters are for the most part reassuringly familiar: the earnest young hero, his precious younger sister, a cynical, hard-drinking best buddy, the superior officer hiding her feelings of desperation behind a stern facade.

While a seemingly familiar scenario can still be arresting and distinctive in the right hands, Planzet does precious little with its brief running time - barely more than the length of a typical sci-fi TV episode - to distinguish itself. The few characters are threadbare and with almost no depiction of the fate of mass humanity at the hands of the invaders, the Earth's devastation comes off as merely the backdrop for the protagonist's personal conflict. The basic plot has been executed far better elsewhere, notably in 1988's classic Gunbuster, which managed to imbue its elementary invasion storyline with authentic science-fiction writing, memorable characters and a strong, affecting sense of the reality of humanity's defeat in the face of overwhelming odds. It's possible Planzet could have done much more in this vein with a longer running time, but the story on show here feels throwaway.

With its all-CG production, Planzet shares the problems encountered in other Japanese CG features such as Vexille and the 2004 Appleseed movie: the characters are neither lifelike enough to inspire the same emotional investment as real-life performers, nor possessed of the charm of traditional animation. Even a story of humanity's near-defeat by aliens needs humour and vitality to come across successfully, something Gunbuster achieved but Planzet is sadly lacking. While it's a shame to have to find a modern animation wanting compared to a feature from almost 25 years ago, it can't be said that Planzet adds much to its chosen genre, apart from some occasionally entertaining visuals. Perhaps worth a look if you're a fan of the CG sci-fi movie genre, but not otherwise.


Richard Hunt

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