I picked the boxed set of Planetes up the other day, having been intrigued by it’s hard-science premise, though the fact that the trailers didn’t hint at any kind of story had me leery of it. Still, I thought it would be good to see just how well someone did trying to make “serious” science fiction as opposed to “fanciful” or even “fantasy” science fiction.

As I watched the first DVD tonight, I kept being bothered by something. The show was giving me a really frustrating (frustrated?) vibe. I wasn’t liking it; in fact, I was actively disliking it, and I couldn’t understand why. Was it the characters? They seem pretty typical.

Overeager klutzy rookie? Check.
Permissive boss-san, close to retirement, and just marking time? Check.
Brown-nosing assistant? Check.
Frustrated, cynical veteran/co-worker? Check.
Quirky, but competent senior non-com? Check.
Steady and quiet assistant non-com? Check.
Competent but snarky temp who doesn’t hide her contempt? Check.

Ok, so maybe it was the lack of plot. No, wait, I watched 8 episodes of Kanon before it began to hint that it might have one. And I watched lots of Oh! My Goddess! Nope, that’s not it.

The animation? Nope, pretty good so far, no shortcuts, and reasonably good.

The overuse of tropes? Not really; there almost aren’t any, aside from the character types.

The lack of fanservice? Be serious. (Damn, but they drew a lot of ugly women. I mean where’s the Seraphim pilots when you need the place brightened up a …. ) Uh. No, that’s not it.

Then finally it hit me, as I took the first DVD out of the drive. I realized why I didn’t like the show, to the extent that it felt kind of like fingernails on a blackboard. I was rather annoyed with myself, because I should have seen it one episode earlier than the end of the DVD. How could I have missed that THAT was the reason why I wasn’t enjoying the show at all?

I wasn’t watching a fictional workplace in outer space. I was watching my own.

Cleaning up Earth orbit was obviously a “public work.” Trash hauling. The pay sucked, the job was a dead end, the prospects for advancement were nil, their “betters” looked down on them, morale was shitty, and still they showed up every damn day ready to work, hazarding their lives; even putting in overtime when it was needed. They were cynical, world-weary, and tended to pursue their goals in self-defeating fashion, such as gambling or playing the lottery. Their immediate bosses had petty concerns; the upper bosses generally didn’t give a damn about them. (I’ll give one in the show some credit, though; he backed them when he should have.) So why did they stay on and do the job with dedication? Because someone had to, and since they were the ones doing it, they might as well–or maybe it was just a living, anyway.

I am Hachimachi. Hachimachi is me. I was watching him poke at the dead corpse of his dreams, and seeing my own.

I watch anime to get away from my life, not celebrate it. And I blog so I can kid myself that my words have some significance. I think that’s the self-contradictory problem at the core of my disatisfaction over my near-abandonment of Houblog. It was a significant work, and could have an effect, but blogging about my employer and city politics in general didn’t get away from my life, it just rubbed my nose in how futile it is. I’ve watched some dedicated people have an effect, such as Tom Bazan and his efforts over Metro’s and the City of Houston’s safety issues–but it’s been an all-consuming crusade for him, with both Metro and the City doing their level best to stymie him. Also, he is a self-employed professional, which I am not. (Which isn’t to say he hasn’t paid a price, nonetheless.) I don’t have that in me, and yes, I’m aware and frustrated by the fact that to change my world, the first thing I have to change is me. (Sorry about sticking a local political reference in here, but I needed it for the point.)

And oh yes, for my superior employee rating, I got a 2.5% pay increase this year. About $15/week after taxes. Hey, that’s a boxed set of animé every month or so, deshou? I could have gotten 3.5% if I had no “Averages”, 2/3 “Superiors” and 1/3+1 “Outstandings”… out of about 15 different categories. Like that’s gonna happen. Inflation for 2005 was 3.6%; the 2006 figures will be available in March, 2007 from the US Department of Labor. I enjoy the heartfelt sympathy of some of my friends. “At least you got one. We got the, ‘our department underbid again this year, so no raises again,’ excuse.” You know, the grass really must be greener, if I’m envied.

I watch animé to escape all that, not to be reminded of it. So Planetes is back on the shelf, and I have no intention of watching any more of it. I detest too much navel-gazing, and you’re not here to read it, either.

At least when it comes to being grumpy at this time of year, I have good company. 20061218.1310

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