Were you ever told by your teachers or parents “Hey, you had better hit the books and study hard; you don’t wanna be flipping burgers at McDonald’s or be a garbage man, right?” Heaven knows I have. What would be the 2070’s equivalent? “You don’t want to be a DEBRIS HAULER, right?” Well, in the anime Planetes, that’s the exact situation our characters find themselves in. They’re treated as the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, no better than janitors. However, the crew of the DS-12 Toy Box goes about their jobs with the pride and conviction that reflects the critical nature of their duties. They are, for all intents and purposes, “good shepherds of the Earth”… and the general area around the Earth too. Let’s get into it.
Okay, so for those of you who have been living under a social media rock the last few years, I am a BIG fan of the anime Planetes and will take any opportunities to hype it up and talk about it with someone, ANYONE, who would listen. I feel that this show is so freaking underrated, and it got overshadowed by other shows that came out around the same time like Wolf’s Rain, Chrono Crusade, Kino’s Journey, .hack//sign, and a little show you may have heard of called Fullmetal Alchemist. When you look at that lineup, you kind of understand why Planetes, a show that can best be described as Cowboy Bebop‘s less intense little brother, can be overlooked by many people. And when you add the fact that the show is currently out of print here in the US and not streaming on any legal platforms, this show has the potential to be one of many obscure series out there that are good but can’t be found. So when the chance came up to write a whole post about it, I had to pounce!
So what is Planetes and what does it have to do with spirituality and doing your best work?
Planetes is a 2003 anime based on a manga by Makoto Yukimura that takes place in 2075. Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll be 90 years old when this anime takes place, so I have a lot to look forward to! In this time, space travel is now commonplace, with trips to the moon and back treated more like a long-distance flight than a big epic adventure. And, because humans gonna human, the consequence of space travel being so common is the creation of all types of space debris floating along at ludicrous speeds, just waiting to crash into some unsuspecting vessel and cause prodigious issues. The first few minutes of the first episode show the consequences a tiny screw could cause as it shattered a window causing a major accident, killing everyone on board including the wife of one of our main characters. So yeah, trash in space, NOT a good thing.
The story mostly focuses on the life and times of Debris Section, the division of a large space company known as Technora that is charged with the task of clearing spatial debris from Earth’s orbit, thereby preventing such catastrophic situations from happening again. While some might think this is a pretty prestigious job—after all, astronauts going out into space to clean up our mess seems like a very honorable and respected endeavor (pun intended)—quite the opposite is true. Debris Section is often known as “Half-Section” because they function with only half the staff they’re supposed to. They’re also seen as being half-trained, half-hearted, and a couple of other “half” statements that I’m not going to repeat here because I like my job here on Beneath the Tangles. Our female lead, a new hire known as Ai Tanabe, is a wide-eyed, idealistic rookie astronaut assigned to Debris Section. While she has a high-minded mental image of what being an astronaut is all about, she is quickly brought back down to Earth, so to speak: the job is less than glamorous, the pay is less than stellar, and the level of respect is in the single digits.
Even though the work of being what amounts to a glorified garbageman in space is looked down upon by most of the higher-ups in the company, the Debris Section astronauts and crew do not let that affect their work or their self-worth. They do the job that MUST be done to ensure humankind continues to travel safely beyond the stars and they do that job with pride and conviction.
But even more than that, in their small way they have the job of inspiring those on Earth, especially those in more derelict countries ravaged by war. They don’t (for the most part) worry about rank and standing; in their eyes, other people can deal with that, and their job involves things that are more important than who is higher in rank. Yes, they see themselves as being low-ranking “wage slaves”, however, as we see in episode 4, when Colin “My Daddy Is the Chairman of The Company So You have to Do What I Say” Clifford comes aboard and completely disrespects the job, our male lead Hachimaki won’t stand for it and he, along with the crew of Toy Box, puts him in his place. It’s a prime example of “I can talk smack about my job, but YOU better not.”
To me, that’s how we should always approach our assignments, be they on the physical or spiritual plane. Yes, I did indeed say spiritual. I am of the firm belief that God gives us tasks and jobs to do in His way. We’re all placed on this Earth by Him to do SOMETHING. Even the lilies of the field, as one of our editors was so nice to point out, have a purpose. Yeah, they don’t work or spin thread (though it would be cool if they did…imagine a bunch of lilies making thread in a field) but their beauty can inspire others. Some people take longer or shorter to find what that job is; some are doing that job right now and don’t even realize it. We are all in the “employment” of the biggest and best boss ever, and as with every boss, we get our assignments of the day from Him, even if it’s something simple as “Loving One Another as Christ Loves Us” or “Being good shepherds of the Earth”.
We should consider our jobs, paying or not, spiritual or terrestrial, as something that should be done with pride and conviction. Whether that’s flipping burgers at McDonald’s, picking up debris from space, or leading people across a desert with nothing but your faith to guide you—you are doing a job with God-given abilities and you are doing a job that will, knowingly or unknowingly, affect someone else and quite possibly be a blessing to someone else.
Sorry guys, but Planetes is not currently streaming anywhere. The only way you can watch it is if you buy the DVDs. Yes, I said “DVD”. Now get off my lawn, you young whippersnappers.