Review of Planetes (2003)
2075: Orbiting debris is a direct threat to the commercial development of space. At a large corporation’s low-status “Debris Section”, a newly employed idealist meets a man who claims to dream of buying his own spaceship.
The latter half of the series revolves around a proposed expedition to Jupiter for fusile materials, something critics say would reinforce existing inequalities.
Hard SF. I interpret some details as minor alternate history elements. The strong opening, which casts its shadow over the whole series, echoes the Columbia disaster. Columbia was not caused by space junk, and it’s a stretch to imagine quite so much manual labour in space junk retrieval in 2075, but it’s a solid hard-SF topic, used well as a foundation for strong themes. The series is deceptively episodic at first and spawns a huge cast but then weaves itself back together. It’s a luxurious modern descendent to Wings of Honneamise: Royal Space Force (1987), as Last Exile (2003) is to Castle in the Sky (1986).
Realism rules with forgivable stretching for humour, the symbolism is good, the characters are great, and much of the music is excellent, though not the ED. It’s no “Fly Me to the Moon” either. The greatest flaw is the stiff digipaint animation.
References here: Aniara (2018).