Greetings everyone! RishRaff here, happy to bring you the latest installment of Christianity v. Anime. Today we are looking at Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume, or Planetarian for short. There will be spoilers, so you have been warned. With that out of the way, let us dive right in!
Why Christianity v. Anime?
For anyone who missed my previous Christianity v. Anime post, which I encourage you to check out if you enjoy reading this article, here is a quick catch up to why I am writing this. Japan is one of the most secular countries in the world, yet a lot of traditions and attitudes are rooted in religion. Christianity has an interesting backstory in Japan (which I encourage you to look up), and does have a presence, albeit minor, in the modern day Japan. As such, anime provides a useful tool for examining the attitudes of the Japanese towards Christianity. Based on a visual novel by Key, Planetarian possesses a plethora of Christian elements despite having only five episodes. The most prevalent element is the idea of being a servant, showcased in Yumemi. While I typically attack anime from a literary perspective, I will actually also be looking at the soundtrack of Planetarian as well. If you have not seen the series, I recommend you go watch it, or check out our review HERE. A summary of the anime has been provided below as well.
Summary: It is thirty years after the failure of the Space Colonization Program. Humanity is nearly extinct. A perpetual and deadly Rain falls on the Earth. Men known as “Junkers” plunder goods and artifacts from the ruins of civilization. One such Junker sneaks alone into the most dangerous of all ruins—a “Sarcophagus City.” In the center of this dead city, he discovers a pre-War planetarium. And as he enters he is greeted by Hoshino Yumemi, a companion robot. Without a single shred of doubt, she assumes he is the first customer she’s had in 30 years. She attempts to show him the stars at once, but the planetarium projector is broken. Unable to make heads or tails of her conversation, he ends up agreeing to try and repair the projector… -MyAnimeList
Being a Servant
Within Christianity, followers of Christ are typically referred to as servants or slaves of him. This relates back to what Jesus said about his purpose for coming to be a servant, as recorded in Mathew 20:28. Christians are expected to be servants of their fellow humans, believers and unbelievers alike. Jesus confirms this many times throughout his ministry, such as in Mathew 20:26, where he says, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (NIV).” Paul affirms this in his letters, such as in Galatians 5:13-14. Furthermore, Christians are called to be cheerful servant, taking great joy in serving. This is noted in Philippians 2:14-15 saying, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing… Then you will shine among [others] like stars in the sky (NIV).” People who display these attitudes toward service are sometimes referred to as having a “servant’s heart”.
Yumemi acts as someone with a servant’s heart, showing great joy in helping and serving customers in her work. She even goes beyond what is expected of her, such as preparing a bouquet despite having no understanding of how to for Kuzuya. It may seem initially that Yumemi, as a robot, is merely acting out of obligation, a direct result of her programing. However, she shows degrees of free will, such as disobeying orders from Kuzuya and actively allowing children to see the show, even though they did not have the money. This lends legitimacy that Yumemi genuinely enjoys serving, as she does not neglect her work despite there being no customers for many years. The strongest evidence for Yumemi having a Christian’s servant’s heart can be found in her motivation. While she enjoys seeing the customers happy, her primary reason for putting in the effort is so she can honor her managers and the work they put into the show. Likewise, Christians are first called to serve others as it brings honor to God, and not just because it is the right thing to do.
Hymn Among the Stars
While any sort of musical analysis is normally done by LowKev, there is one particular track in Planetarian that caught my interest. This track is a hymn known in English as “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It was written by Joseph M Scriven and composed by Charles Crozat Converse in 1855 and 1868, respectively, and the text of this hymn directly relates to the motifs in the anime. In Japan, the hymn is known as “Hoshi no Sekai” (literally translated “World of Stars”). The name alone carries strong ties to Planetarian, in which the motif of stars is heavily present.
The repeating motif of the hymn is a contrast in each stanza between some sorrow or trouble and the hope found in God. The hope is uncovered, according to the hymn, through prayer. An example stanza from the text of the hymn below shows this:
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
The stanza motif lines up with many of the scenes from Planetarian. Many of the conflicts within the anime are solved by trust between Kuzuya and Yumemi, much like trusting God through one’s prayer to Him. One particular scene from episode 2 seems to be lifted directly from the hymn itself. It is here that Yumemi is concerned about the projector not being ready in time for the 11 am show the next day (the trial). The solution Kuzuya offers to Yumemi is that she can pray to God, directly mirroring the song lyrics. The conflict comes to resolution, but only because Yumemi trusts in Kuzuya to fix the projector.
Planetarian was a really enjoyable series for me to watch and analyze. I hope this article has inspired you to think a bit more critically about some of your favorite series. Be sure to comment below your thoughts of Planetarian and any input of my analysis. I want to encourage discussion, and will be happy to answer any questions. Are there any anime you would like me to look at in the future?
There should be more Christianity v. Anime coming out this summer, so be on the look out. If you want to read more of my Christianity v. Anime articles, I included a link to other ones below. Thank you!