One of my favorite manga in the world is PLANETES, a down-to-earth, poignant, heartwarming series dealing with the issues of space travel in the near future. It ended too soon, but got adapted into an anime series. I was ecstatic and downloaded a fansub as soon as I found out. Ohhh, man. It didn’t capture the feeling of PLANETES at ALL. And what sucked even more was that people were eating it up with a spoon. And unfortunately there hasn’t been much else in anime since then to tackle the same sci-fi subject since. I was recently reminded that the anime adaptation of Moonlight Mile, which tackles a similar subject matter, was being released in the U.S. I decided to cross my fingers and Netflix the first volume, hoping that Moonlight Mile could recapture the same sense of wonder of space and the human spirit that the original PLANETES did.
(Note: Because of the nature of the content of this series and review, there’ll be some slightly more risqué screenshots than usual below. Be advised!)
Moonlight Mile begins with Gorou Saruwatari and “Lostman” Jack F. Woodbridge, two rugged adventure-seekers climbing Mt. Everest. After coming across another doomed expedition, they get to the peak and see the International Space Station (I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be the real-life one or a fictional model) hanging in the sky. With the highest peak on Earth already conquered, they decide to set their sights on space next.
Lucky for them that scientists discover large amounts of helium-3, a clean energy source, in the moon and NASA puts front a project to attempt to harness it. They need rugged (I mentioned they were rugged, right?) adventure-seekers (I mentioned they sought adventure, right?) like Gorou and Jack to volunteer for the mission. The lion’s share of the first volume dealt with Gorou and Jack (but mostly Gorou) struggling to become candidates and train in preparation for the mission.
OK, before I can even talk about anything else in this show, I have to get something else out of the way first. This show is completely sexist. All the women are amply breasted sex toys to be used by the men who are all heavily muscled stoic he-men. There’s several scenes in just these four episodes where the main characters are either fucking, or have just fucked, women. Now, sex in and of itself doesn’t bother me. But there’s almost no realistic depiction of gender here. The protagonists are basically just womanizing pigs, as far as I’m concerned. Gorou gets a job as a crane arm operator at a construction site and basically takes the cafeteria wench into his cockpit (or whatever you call it) and gives her a good ol’ pounding in-between shifts. The only woman in any position of power in the series so far is there because she fucks her way to the top, giving oral sex in hot tubs and whatnot. I realize that Japan never really had a Women’s Lib movement or anything, but this is pretty chauvinistic. Even for anime. I guess I’d expect this from hentai, but this stuff was broadcast on TV. For example:
And for how prehistoric it is when it comes to gender relations, it seems to be fairly progressive in other parts. Which baffles me. Anime are often pretty damn insular when it comes to showing characters of any ethnicity other than Japanese. Hell, when Revolutionary Girl Utena first aired in Japan, the television stations would get complaints because the main love interest was a black girl. This was in 1997. I guess it’s sort of cool, then, that the series shows a steady relationship between Gorou and an African-American woman. But then it sort of loses points when her kid brings up the possibility of marriage, causing Gorou to basically say, “Well, it was nice knowing you!” OH, GOROU, YOU RASCAL.
It’s tough to root for a character that is basically wish fulfillment for the common man. Gorou’s a rugged man’s man, having conquered Everest. He gets to quit his dull day job to go to NASA to train to become an astronaut because he’s some sort of genius and can operate any piece of machinery perfectly and can calculate complicated zero G physics on the fly and gets mad amounts of sex. I mean, I think the original manga author wrote this character with only one hand on the keys, if you catch my drift. He’s such a Mary Sue that it’s next to impossible to sympathize or put yourself in his shoes. I actually wanted Gorou to have one really devastating failure to shake all that fucking confidence out of him.
And this doesn’t seem to be an issue with the original Japanese script, but I’ll bring it up here because I watched the series dubbed. The dub, produced by the manufacturer of the DVD, ADV Films, is fairly homophobic. The characters often mockingly speak sexual innuendo to each other. When the aforementioned black girlfriend is watching Gorou on TV, a lispy-voiced bystander asks, “Hey, isn’t that your boyfriend?” She replies, “Why? You girls want a crack at him?” This reoccurs throughout the DVD. It’s fairly off-putting. The only reason I found out it was a problem only on the dub was when I tried to get a screenshot as an example, so I turned on subtitles and the dialogue shown was different than the dialogue for the English script. I really don’t know why they felt they had to do this, as it shows the writer to be a fairly immature and crass individual. Definitely not something that needed to be in a professional production like this.
So after all these cons, is there any reason to keep watching? Eh, if you ignore all the machismo drenching the script, the plot is fairly intriguing so far. And the animation is decent. It’s definitely scratching an itch that the PLANETES anime didn’t. And there’s possibility that the characters could develop and improve over time. Maybe Jack and Gorou get humbled a little or meet a woman that they can’t just tell to strip and bend over? I dunno. I’ll find out eventually, but I’m not in a rush. You shouldn’t be, either.