Okay here’s my main post that I was planning on doing from the start:
planetarian may be short, but it has so much meaning with the amount of subtle details it implements. The themes of hope through religion are prominent throughout this story and it’s amazing how subtly it’s woven in. One thing that I don’t think people generally realise is how well the music is crafted in the novel. Not just from the perspective of it suiting the mood of its relative scene or being nice to listen to, but from a thematic and symbolic point of view as well. While yes there are quite apparent cases of planetarian’s music being quite thematic to the story (such as the use of Hoshi No Sekai and the motif used in Hoshi Meguri no Uta), but those are far from the only cases. Every piece in planetarian has meaning, and is constructed to emphasise certain plot points and concepts. In that regard, it’s probably one of the best visual novel soundtracks ever. I’m going to be covering each track used in the vn in order:
Hoshi No Sekai: This piece has the obvious religious symbolism due to the piece’s melody originating from ‘We have a friend in Jesus’. So with that said, let’s consider the instrumentation. This uses bell like sounds for both lines within the piece. This sound is often associated with stars due to its very clear sound, but this type of sound is also associated with other feelings such as hope. Many visual novels usually contain a music box version of the theme using this type of instrumentation, such as Rewrite which has a music box version of ‘Philosophiz’, or Air which has music box version of ‘Tori no Uta’ called ‘Hane’. These versions are usually used to emphasise dramatic, significant or thematic moments of visual novels. If we consider this piece the ‘music box’ theme of planetarian, then this emphasises the importance of Yumemi’s opening and how her asking people to come to the planetarium plays into a very significant theme of the visual novel. Obviously this is clear throughout, but this opening foreshadows this immediately due to the ‘music box factor’, which when combined with the melody of ‘We have a friend in Jesus’ only causes the themes of faith and religion to become emphasised. Now one could argue that music box pieces are usually based of vocal tracks, and aren’t usually as high pitched as this piece, which is valid, but I believe the generally principle still holds due to the bell like instrumentation. Another aspect of the music box element is the mechanical nature of it. While in turn a music box is a piece of technology, it also produces a natural sound – it’s not synthesised or anything along those lines, but the instrument is still very mechanical, and very fragile. This is a really interesting thing to note when considering Yumemi and how she acts as a robot, but I’ll talk a bit more about this later. There’s also the contrast with the other pieces. This high pitched bell like instrumentation is only used in two other pieces, A Winter’s Tale and Itsukushimi Fukaki. I’ll discuss the significance of this later when approaching these pieces, but this instrumentation is very thematic and helps to emphasise certain elements and concepts later. I also want to mention how it’s reasons like this that I believe the original planetarian OST is better than the anime’s, because while the anime focuses on a theme and variation of this piece and Hoshi Meguri no Uta, it doesn’t use instrumentation to its advantage too much. Take the animes opening scene – it uses a very techno sounding synth instead of this track, and while yes it does emphasise that Yumemi is a robot, it doesn’t convey anything about the hopeful themes in planetarian, and there’s not much in the anime that does that, which is my biggest issue with its soundtrack.
Hoshi Meguri no Uta (Honkey Tonk): One thing to note about this piece is how certain notes change in pitch after being played, causing them to be a tiny bit out of tune, hence the subtitle ‘Honky Tonk’, which refers to a Honky Tonk Piano. Now what’s interesting about this is how you consider the creation of a Honky tonk piano. Honky tonks can be created by either having a normal piano naturally go out of tune over time, or by taking a normal piano and making it go out of tune by force. This has the clear relation to Yumemi and how she’s ‘a little broken’ and infers two potential things. 1. She naturally broke down over time, or 2. She chose to be broken. Personally, I think Yumemi suffered a bit of both of these things. I believe that with no-one visiting the planetarium for years caused her to mentally break down as she couldn’t accept that people wouldn’t come and see her. As a coping mechanism, she chose to believe that there was something wrong with how she was processing information, and thus denying the reality around her. She chose to be broken to avoid the harsh true around her. This piece also acts to contrast the situation when the Junker first meets Yumemi, where he almost kills her – it acts as comedic relief to show that the situation isn’t as dire as it could be originally perceived. Another thing to note is how this is the first piece you hear when the Junker meets Yumemi, so it naturally follows that this is how the Junker initially perceives Yumemi during their first encounter. This is also the first piece where the melody of Hoshi Meguri no Uta is presented to the listener, so it introduces the motif used in many other pieces.
Hoshi Meguri no Uta (Metronome): This piece is used in quite generic scenes where the Junker and Yumemi are conversing. I believe the use of the subtitle ‘Metronome’ refers to ones awareness of the constant passing of time. This could be referring to how the Junker is aware of the amount of time that he’s losing due to not having enough rations to keep staying with Yumemi, but it could also refer to the passing of time with knowledge that Yumemi is soon going to lose all power. Either way, this emphasises how both Yumemi and the Junker have a limit to the amount of time they can stay in the city.
Ame to Robot/Rain and Robot: Unlike most of the other pieces used around Yumemi, this piece doesn’t contain the motif in Hoshi Meguri no Uta. One potential reason for this is during all the other times the motif is used, the Junker and Yumemi are inside the planetarium, while this plays while they converse at the entrance of the planetarium. Unfortunately ‘A Winter’s Tale’ plays later when Yumemi is walking with Junker outside in the rain, so that theory doesn’t hold through the entire novel. Now onto the actual piece: The instruments presented at the start are constantly changing in pitch. There are two parts, one part holds long notes in the bass (which has subtle changes in pitch at random intervals), and another part has lots of high notes (that change pitch during fixed intervals of time). I believe these represent the forces or the wind and rain respectively. This is due to the name of the piece (Rain and Robot) making the context to that representation fit, and also the scenario. This piece only plays when the Junker is at the entrance of the planetarium and not in it, so this music is used to emphasise the conditions of the world outside of the planetarium.
Hoshi Meguri no Uta (Winters Tale): First of all, bit of an interesting fact about this piece for all you musicians out there – this piece has a time signature of 5/4. Now, onto the actual significance of this piece. First of all let’s consider the subtitle, ‘Winter’s Tale’. Why does this piece have this title? It’s never clear when in the year the visual novel takes place so it might be hinting at that. But if we consider potential religious symbolism again, then it might be referring to the birth of Christ, which is typically told as a winter’s tale due to Christmas Holidays. Let’s consider when this piece is used. When this piece is first used, Yumemi discusses her praying to the God of Robots and the concept of heaven. The second time it’s used, Yumemi has finished her projection and the Junker is reminiscing about the time her spent in a refugee camp. One thing to note is how during that scene he says ‘I think it was on a late midwinter’ – so there’s one potential title link. The third time, she’s walking with the Junker outside in the rain, and she mentions praying to God again and that heaven should not be divided in two. In terms of the subtitle, one could easily say it’s called ‘Winters Tale’ because of the Junkers memories, however, I don’t think that’s entirely it. As shown in Ame to Robot, the placement of music in planetarian is very specific, so why not use another track for when Yumemi is talking about God and heaven? I have two potential reasons for this, both of which feed into one another. The first is that this music is used to convey Yumemi’s beliefs. The naturally holds for the case where she’s talking about God and heaven, but it also holds when you consider that it’s also used straight after the projection scene. At this point, the Junker is reminiscing about his past and his mother looking up at the sky and the stars. This is quite a happy memory, which contrasts all the other memories the Junker has had in the novel. This emphasises that Yumemi’s beliefs about humanity and the world have reached him, and so the music is used to convey that. Some of the techniques in this piece reflect that as well. The bells imitate the main melodic part, which can be interpreted as the melody echoing into the distance, or someone gaining the properties of the melody (in this case, the Junker gaining Yumemi’s beliefs. Now for the actual name – if we consider all these things, the ‘Winter’s Tale’ could refer to the tale of how the stargazer began to exist, and the moments this piece is used in represents the pivotal moments that starts to put that seed of thought into his mind. Plus the bells once again emphasise the idea of the stars and hope, which is what the star teller wants to show the world.
Gentle Jena: Oh this piece. This piece. Originally when looking at Gentle Jena, there wasn’t much I had to consider. It’s a simple, nice, beautiful piece with instrumentation that emphasises the beauty of the world and stars. It’s simple, quite minimal in parts, and has a singable melody line. It’s used to convey Yumemi’s beliefs similarly to A Winter’s Tale but in the context of the stars. Then I tried playing a reduced version of this for fun on a piano (with chords instead of a moving bass line), and I realised something really obvious. This piece essentially acts as planetarians hymn. Unlike Hoshi No Sekai, which is based on a literal hymn, Gentle Jena is a unique composition, but it has a lot of hymn styled properties. The chord progressions are very classically written - the melody line has quite a bit of classical ornamentation, there are very classically prepared dissonances which also resolve as they should, and the melody is very memorable and singable. I honestly wish I had access to an organ just to see how much of a hymn this piece truly feels like. Now if we consider the context of how this piece is used, that has several implications. Hymns were originally written to convey and strengthen beliefs, so the entire projection scene conveys Yumemi’s belief in the stars and humanity, so it very much is used in the same context as a hymn. I also believe this is one of the main reasons why this theme is commonly used when representing planetarian, and not ‘Hoshi Meguri no Uta’. It is a song that is meant to make others believe, and thus is naturally used a lot to spread that belief. Why is this used in the title screen and not Hoshi No Sekai or a piece with the motif? Because the VN wants you to remember the projection scene. I think many of us can agree that the projection scene is one, if not the most memorable scene in planetarian, and that’s the only time this piece is used, so every time you listen to this track, you will naturally associate it with the projection scene and the beliefs and hopes Yumemi presented in it. In that respect, this is probably the most important track in planetarian because not only does it represent Yumemi conveying concepts of hope to the Junker, but also the reader – it’s trying to make the reader believe in humanity and the stars – and it’s absolutely fantastic.
Human Warrior: This piece contrasts the previous pieces a lot due to instrumentation. While isn’t used in the VN, it is used in the anime during the fight against the Fiddler Crab. When I mentioned the music box back in Hoshi No Sekai, I mentioned how it’s significant to Yumemi, and it’s because of the nature of what the different sounds are trying to achieve in planetarian. For the most part, planetarians soundtrack is comprised of synthesised instruments that try to replicate a natural instrument. However this piece is in a completely electronic style – there aren’t any conventional instruments that can make equivalent sounds to what this piece is producing. I believe this use of instruments symbolises the contrast in emotion of the robots. Yumemi has a wide variety of expressions and can convey many feelings, which is expressed through all the different instruments. The Fiddler Crab can’t, it is programmed to kill and nothing else, and this piece of music is stylised to emphasise that concept. This piece also contrasts the rest of the soundtrack significantly. It isn’t written to convey a ‘good’ feeling either, unlike the rest of the soundtrack. It’s written to make you feel tense, to remind you of what the world is like and how there will always be something to fear. The title could also refer to the Junker since he’s having to fight off a lot of machine, and the electronic style could emphasise his cold tactical nature.This could be one of the reasons it was left out of the VN, because as I mentioned in a previous post, during the fight against the fiddler crab, the Junker has something to live for, causing him to be less tactical than what he previously was, all because of Yumemi.
Mattaki Hito/Perfect Human: This plays when Yumemi dies and we start bawling our eyes out in tears. This is also the one time where we truly see Yumemi as a machine due to her entire lower body being basically torn off. This is significant because of the way the different parts are written. There isn’t much of a melody, it’s mainly different harmonies changing, but there are very sparse moments where a few short high notes are played. These sparse lines are symbolic of Yumemi being broken/of her slowly dying, as they can be interpreted as the sparks of electricity leaving her as she starts to fail. The long held notes are akin to what you find in a requiem mass, and it once again has very classical chord progressions – this is Yumemi’s death song, it’s written so that the reader can mourn over her, which only makes it so that the next piece has a greater impact on the reader. Now as for the title, ‘Perfect Human’ – this title is quite a strange one given the context of the situation. The only thing I think it could be referring to how Yumemi is perceived throughout her life, because while she may be a robot, she was very human – so despite that contrast in nature, she still behaved like a human in many ways, and I think it’s the idea that she was able to maintain that identity until her death. Again, this piece is written so you can mourn over Yumemi, so it makes sense that the title is reflective of how Yumemi is perceived as a person.
Itsukushimi Fukaki/Deep Affection: This is the ‘reprise’ of Hoshi No Sekai. Now, here’s one of the biggest things to consider with this piece. Is it a sad piece? All the chords fit with the traditional version of this piece, so it should be no sadder with the exception of instrumentation. It’s by no means ‘happy’ either. What it is, is hopeful. Let’s consider when this piece starts playing, it’s when Yumemi is talking about the stars, and heaven and humanity. Obviously the clear relation to the opening is a good enough reason to bring it back, but it’s more than that. While similarly to Perfect Human, this piece uses long sustained notes, and is used in the context of a death, the notes generally ascend in pitch, which could be representing Yumemi’s ascending to heaven to live and help humanity. This piece symbolises that even in death there is hope. Personally, when I listen to this piece, I believe that everything is going to be okay. This is significant when you consider the original material. The title, ‘Deep Affection’ emphasises that even in death, Yumemi still holds onto all of her beliefs and faith. This piece, and it’s entire scenario emphasises the concept of faith, more specifically, the faith in life that Yumemi believes in, and the novel aims to convey that to the reader by using this piece.
Hoshi Meguri no Uta/The Star Circling Song: This piece was originally composed by Kenji Miyazawa in the early 1900’s and has been used in a lot of works. The entire piece (lyrics, melody and chord progressions) are taken directly from the original version of the piece. I think the fact that both the motifs used in the VN are taken from very old pieces is something to note. It could represent how one should not forget the past despite how much the world may have changed, which is something also presented by Yumemi, since she is essentially stuck in the past - not acknowledging how the world has changed. The lyrics of this piece focus on describing the different constellations in the sky. This piece is also used in the credits to signify the end of the story, however it’s possible that this song actually foreshadows some of the later events in the world of planetarian. One could naturally think that it’s Yumemi singing this song, given how it’s describing the stars and how that was one of the focuses in the story, however, there is the possibility that what we’re hearing is the Junker, after he becomes the stargazer. If we consider the fact that in terms of story, it makes no sense that what we’re hearing is Yumemi, since she is shown dead at the end of the story. While it could just be symbolic of how Yumemi’s beliefs are echoing through the Junkers head at the end of the novel, it’s entirely possible that this theme becomes the theme of the Junker post planetarian. So what does this mean for all the other pieces that use this theme? Well what they symbolise doesn’t actually change that much, it’s just the context which is affected. Honky Tonk could refer to the Junker originally being confused about the nature of Yumemi, or the Junker himself being a bit broken due to the loss of his humanity, Metronome could still refer to the Junker knowing how time is running out for him and Yumemi, and a Winters Tale symbolises the star tellers tale beginning, most of which were mentioned in their relative section. So the motif used in this piece can be interpreted as either representing elements of Yumemi, the Junker, or even both. All in all though, this piece emphasises the hope which Planetarian presents throughout since similarly to the last two piece, even though Yumemi has died, her hopes and dreams are still persevered.
So that covers all of the tracks used in the visual novel and anime. But there’s still one more piece I want to address…
Gentle Jena Extended: While not actually appearing in the VN, this piece actually has a lot of connotations. Normally what would happen is you read the VN, find the soundtrack and realise ‘there’s an extended version of Gentle Jena?! I need to listen to this!’ By this point you would have finished the VN. If we consider all these points, this piece can be considered an epilogue of the VN. So how is this significant or symbolic? Well for starters, in contrast to the original gentle Jena, which is a very minimalistic piece in terms of texture, this version is much grander. It has a lot of instrumentation, the most in the entire soundtrack actually. I think this is symbolic of more people believing in Yumemi’s dreams. Again, if we consider Gentle Jena a hymn, it makes sense to believe that as more people sing the hymn, the parts change, or more parts are introduced, and if this piece is an epilogue to planetarian, and the junker becomes a stargazer, it naturally follows that more people start to sing the hymn of the stars. There’s also the context of how this piece is labelled within the soundtrack. Most unused pieces in a visual novel usually get labelled as ‘Unused track’, or they have a specific label attached to them (e.g. Little Busters Jumper Vers), but this piece is called the extended version, while in reality the feel of the piece as well as instruments used are so different that it’s weird that it’s called that. It could have been labelled something else besides extended, so why was it labelled that? To me, it’s called extended because it’s what the Gentle Jena grows into, it adds more voices into each verse to represent the idea that Yumemi’s beliefs are being passed on, and this is actually symbolic of the reader. If you looked up planetarian’s soundtrack, you must have liked it a lot, and considering that the entire story mainly focuses on Yumemi, it only makes sense that if one liked it a lot, one would want to share her beliefs, so by looking up the soundtrack you’re actually become a part of what this song represents, a collective group of people that want Yumemi’s dreams to become reality. So even though she may be dead, that message is continuously passed on after the novel ends, and it will keep on being passed on so long as there are people who love planetarian and Yumemi.
So that’s every single piece in planetarian – I was only able to look at the music this in depth because of the main thing I was working on for this bookclub – a planetarian arrangement album. For more details go and check out my post in Key Music Fan Covers
EDIT 1: cjlim’s reply made me think more about this and I’ve added more to the ‘Human Warrior section’
EDIT 2: Forgot to hide a minor Hoshi no Hito spoiler
EDIT 3: Added some more details in regard to stuff talked about on the podcast, and I also did a similar analysis on the Planetarian - Hoshi no Hito Discussion