It's based on a Key visual novel, which sounded good to me after Kanon, Air, Clannad, etc. although it's perhaps a slightly surprising choice since Planetarian was only Key's fourth visual novel and it came out in 2004. (It had no sexual content, by the way, and was rated as okay for all ages.) Twelve years later, the original computer game got turned into: (a) this net series and (b) a feature film that's basically the net series plus another forty minutes of new material.
(Mind you, calling the original a computer game is perhaps a little misleading. There's no gameplay and only one possible route through the "game", with only one possible ending. You never make any choices, but simply play it through like a DVD. It's called a "kinetic novel".)
Anyway, what I'm reviewing here is the five-episode net series. It's impressive, but don't expect a happy ending.
Thirty years ago, mankind destroyed itself. There was a war. We didn't get invaded by aliens or anything. We just decided to nuke each other until we glowed, except for the cities that we emptied with germ bombs instead. Civilisation went down the toilet. There are still some buildings standing, if you go to the right places, but they're obviously overgrown and abandoned except for all the hunter-killer robots. There are still a few human survivors left, though, with the one we meet being a "junker". (That's a fairly gentle translation of "kuzuya", by the way, with "kuzu" meaning "garbage, trash, scrap, dregs".)
I can't remember our protagonist's name, so I'll just call him "junker". He's not a nice man, but he's not evil or anything. It's just that niceness has never had anything to do with his life before.
The other character in this story is Yumemi Hoshino, who might be the last starry-eyed optimist on Earth. She believes in the goodness of human nature and that we'll overcome our differences and reach the stars. Her idea of heaven involves serving people forever and making them happy. She's been standing in the same spot for thirty years and hasn't met anyone in all that time, which explains a lot, but even then she manages to retain her idealism even after meeting the junker.
Yumemi is a robot. She's not even a particularly high-spec robot. She was the property of a department store and used to do planetarium presentations for its customers. She loved her job. She took pride in it. She's aware that one or two things aren't as they used to be, but she's sent an email to the repair team and so everything's in hand! Theoretically she still does her planetarium presentations every day. If you happen to discover her, she'll be very happy at the prospect of a customer and even offer you discount coupons to spend elsewhere in the department store.
This is the story of Yumemi and the junker. They meet. Yumemi tries to do her job. The junker decides that it's convenient to lie low there for a while, although he'd have been a bit happier had it been possible to shut up the beautifully courteous but voluble Yumemi.
It's a delicate, lovely and elegaic story. Obviously a happy ending isn't on the cards, so the only question is whether it's going to be an out-and-out tearjerker or the least bad available option for the characters. Yumemi's so optimistic about mankind and so utterly ill-suited to surviving in the world. I got a little irritated with the people in her past who'd loved her so much that they told her the apparently kind lies you'd tell to a small child, despite the fact that she's a flipping robot and so will never forget anything, ever. Not only will she remember every word you say, but she might even save it to replay later as holo-video footage. She believes everything. She never considers that you might be lying. She's not smart enough. She's just an old, rather inflexible machine with software that can barely even perceive the world around it, let alone adapt to the situation. As she says herself, she's a Bargain Edition model.
She thinks all robots want to help people, so she "knows" that a giant hunter-killer robot with built-in rocket launchers must have been unhappy about doing its job. Obviously she's a memorable character, but the junker's emotional journey is a crucial part of the story too. It's very good, but don't put it on if you're only looking for a laugh.
"Please, God, don't divide heaven in two."