I just finished Planetarian. And whew it was a lot to take in.
First of all, I want to say clearly that I did enjoy the overall story.
The appreciation, references, and similarities to The Little Prince, a story that means the world to me, did not go unnoticed and was absolutely one of my favourite aspects of the entire VN.
In addition, I love stars and the night sky, and philosophical themes, so this novel was something right up my alley.
The downside for me was how Yumemi was portrayed or perhaps viewed at times bit in the novel itself. I don’t prefer to get into it, since I think the reason for my uncomfortable feelings are more personal and not something everyone can relate to or quite understand.
That aside, how she was written at other parts very much shined. It’s not that I expected Yumemi to be any particular way, but I think that at certain points the novel wanted to get me to see her in a particular light that I disliked. But who she is as a character in itself is very good and important to the story and what the story is trying to say in itself. In the end, Yumemi proved to certainly be an interesting character.
I did like the ending where her own side of the story was expanded upon more, but like @kyuketsukimiyu wrote, it was almost a bit disheartening:
But it made me a bit uncomfortable to really face head on that Yumemi’s dream of people returning was built on people lying to her, not just something that played out because she was a robot in the wrong place at the end of humanity. And you find out here that Yumemi wavered in her belief a bit as she waited, but she still waited. The text doesn’t really treat this as a problem, but it was something that stuck out to me, as it gave Yumemi an additional sense of tragedy in my mind as it felt like in a way people lying to her robbed her of her of some of her agency. I am left wondering what would have become of her if she had more knowledge of the true state of things instead of the lie that her coworkers would return to hold on to
For me, this point and the the idea of Yumemi’s agency struck a chord with me. There’s a side of me that cherishes Yumemi’s hope, but at some point, when does hope become something that hurts you - is it not better to instead of keep hoping and hoping, while living in a same tragedy repeatedly - isn’t it better to try and understand the reality, and make a decision for the positive upon that? It made me feel very sorry for Yumemi. To me, she was trapped in an illusion based on lies.
Perhaps that’s a very dark way to view it. But again, it doesn’t mean the story didn’t move me, or it wasn’t interesting, or even badly written. In the end, I couldn’t see Yumemi’s views as beautiful and innocent, but a result of a series of very sad tragedies and living in an illusion.
You could argue Yumemi is like a Cinderella figure, holding onto a hope is beautiful. But the difference is Cinderella was truly trapped in an abusive situation - and Yumemi trapped herself in her own beliefs based on lies and an illusionary belief. This was a problem to me.
But this was important to me, especially in relation to who she meets - Junker, who had been eating the bitter reality.
Whereas her view did inspire Junker to understand a world of the past - a brighter, happier, world - and to try and create and understand, and even wish for a world as such - it works for Junker. As he knows of a cruel, bitter, deadly, and desolate world. He would have not learned about the last few beauties and hope of the world if not for Yumemi, and I appreciate that.
For that reason, the whole Planetarian scene in itself is my favourite. It’s Yumemi, this robot built on human’s hopes and dreams, and the desire to share the beauty of the world and the universe, fulfilling her ‘purpose’ so to speak to have Junker remember that. And that he did.
The story then becomes a story of contrasts to me.
Junker’s world, desolate, in ruin, embittered, but all so real.
Yumemi’s world, one filled with hope and stars and memories, but all based on an illusion and lies.
In the end - Junker realizes about hope and love, I think even this growing to understand and build that in him was symbolised as he was fixing Miss Jena. Despite this, he continues to live in reality while carrying that with him.
And in the end, Yumemi realizes fully about the reality of desolation and ruin, but she continues to dream knowing that in a happy future. That is important too.
The important thing is that both learned from each other what they both lacked critically. Living focusing on a cruel “real” world with no dreams or hope is painful and sad. Living focusing on a dream world where people will surely come back and all will be happy again, while trapping yourself in that illusion leads to living in a dream where no true happiness can be created. I think either of these things are uncomfortable for me. I appreciate the balance more. Understand reality, but don’t give up on hopes and dreams. Don’t forcefully be positive no matter what bad things happen, and just wait for something to change - but find the good in the reality of the situation, and make the changes you want to see realized. The unfortunate thing is how they had to live, and what had happened to them, before either got to that point of realization.
In the end, it did tie together for me when I read the story as such.
Now, also, The Little Prince references.
The Little Prince is a story that shares a similar sentiment with Planetarian: an older man, the Pilot, weary of the ways of the world, who may die soon - meets a youthful, innocent being who needs no food nor water, but has stories of the stars and the beauty of them.
I feel though The Little Prince handled this more to my tastes, as it wasn’t so black and white as it was in Planetarian. In The Little Prince, The Pilot is weary and bitter, but he retains his hope and innocence deep down. The Prince is innocent and dreamy, but understands the pain that exists within reality - “Were you so sad then, on the day of the forty-four sunsets?” - and teach each other about their own views and lessons of the world. Junker and Yumemi only learned this balance after meeting each other, and ultimately bitterly ends.
Again, this doesn’t mean it’s bad. But I liked the reference and later the contrast to the story in itself and how it took on it’s own meaning as well.
Some references I noticed as well was when the Junker was fixing Miss Jena, and Yumemi chattering to him a lot, was like how the Pilot tried to fix his plane while The Little Prince kept asking him “questions of no consequence” because he feared for his survival, much like Junker did needing food and water. In reply to this, The Little Prince gets angry, thinking the Pilot has said the stars are not a “matter of consequence” where in fact, they very much are. This parallel was nice, though Yumemi more gentle in her delivery to insist the stars and to view the projection were something she’d like him to see very much.
Another reference was a visual nod, but one of Yumemi’s ribbons, the color, stars, and text, mirrored that of a version of The Little Prince’s cover.
This small little nods and references, perhaps even inspiration were a thing of what I really enjoyed about Planetarian.
Aside from that, those are my thoughts of the novel overall before heading into the side stories. There is a lot of Christian overtone but @Idiology and @stupid explain these aspects very well.
I really enjoyed the novel overall!