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The Trail We Blaze

Planetes Omnibus Volume 2

By Makoto Yukimura 

24 Feb, 2021


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Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes (Japanese: プラネテス, Hepburn: Puranetesu, Ancient Greek: Πλάνητες Planētes) is a Japanese hard SF manga. 2016’s Planetes Omnibus Volume 2 collects all of the Planetes material that was not included in Volume 1 (reviewed here). Some of this is bonus backstory, some of it tells readers what came next for the protagonists. 

In Volume 1, the crew of the DS-12 Toy Box—Hachirota Hachimaki” Hoshino, Fee Carmichael, Ai Tanabe, and Yuri Mihairokov — took a break from scouring the skies for deadly orbital debris in order to save the day from the Space Defence Front1. That adventure over, all that remains is getting on with the rest of their lives. 

For Hachimaki, this means being part of the team preparing the nuclear rocket Von Braun that is being sent to Jupiter. Although Von Brauns propulsion system is far in advance of those of conventional rockets, the journey will still take a year and half. By the time Hachimaki returns home, seven years will have passed. A small price to pay for extending humanity’s control of the Solar System … or so the architects of the program would say.

There are two impediments. One is that Hachimaki is, for various reasons, having an existential crisis with which his crewmates cannot help him. Another is that having committed to the voyage, Hachimaki belatedly realizes he is in love with Ai, who is not a Von Braun crewmember. There’s just enough time for the young man to propose and the young woman to accept before the Von Braunis on its way, separating the pair for almost a decade. 

Meanwhile — have I mentioned that Volume Two is more a collection of loosely connected episodes rather than a unified narrative? OK, here goes. Volume Two is more a collection of loosely connected episodes than a unified narrative — Fee deals with an ugly, unstated fact.

It is an open secret that space is militarized. When the Space Debris Section ships encounter space mines, dormant and waiting for war, the standard operating procedure is to leave them unmolested and unacknowledged. Frustrating but also something about which little people like Toy Boxs crew can do nothing.

Fee can tolerate the situation only as long it seems the weapons won’t be used. But conflict between the US and an unnamed republic is racing towards open war. Once it becomes obvious the weapons will be used without regard for consequences, Fee has no choice but to act. 


The manga plays fair with physics and such for the most part, so I am a bit puzzled how it is that the crew of the Von Braun are not immediately and fatally irradiated while they do EVAs in the close vicinity of Jupiter. 

This somewhat non-linear volume also provides some backstory for Fee and for Ai2. Specifically, Fee was shaped by witnessing the bad things that happened to her uncle — he was an inarticulate, antisocial black man living in the American South3, towards whom Fee’s socially conscious lawyer mother was not especially sympathetic. Ai, on the other hand, was a foundling who didn’t speak until she was three. Fee’s uncle and Ai never meet but there’s a common thread: in the future, people will be surprisingly uninterested in having developmental issues checked out by medical experts or mitigated in any way. It works out OK for Ai and much less so for Fee’s uncle. 

The Ai-Hachimaki romance is … let’s go with subtle. Neither participant seemed particularly enamoured with the other before the sudden declaration of love, and neither one seems especially upset at the prospect of being apart for seven years4. Well, as long as they’re happy. 

Although there isn’t a single plot, there is a running theme of people coming to terms with life falling somewhat short of one’s dreams. Hachimaki isn’t ever going to have his spaceship. Fee isn’t going to affect militarization by any measurable degree. On the other hand, Hachimaki and Ai do get married, and there’s the whole extending human activity to Jupiter thing.” Fee does improve her relationship with her son somewhat5, and thanks to the US/Unnamed Republic conflict, has more debris to clean up than a thousand Toy Boxes could handle. 

Hard SF fans may find this much quieter than most hard SF, an interesting achievement given that there’s a the war mid-way through the volume. Still, it’s an interesting exercise in blue-collar realistic space fiction. 

Planetes Omnibus Volume 2is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Who wanted to defend the have-not nations of the Earth from the effects of the wealthy nations industrializing space. 

2: Hachimaki and Yuri’s backstories were covered in Volume 1: Hachimaki was determined to own his own spaceship, a dream he puts aside for more rewarding goals; Yuri lost his wife in a space debris mishap of the sort that the DS-12 tries to prevent.

3: This story is set in the future but not that far into the future. 

4: At least one crewman is convinced his wife will be long gone by the time he gets back. 

5: One of the corollaries of realistic rocket science is that space workers are for the most part absentee parents. True for Fee, true for Hachimaki’s dad.