Originally posted: Friday, May 23, 2008 on Blogger

Manga Profile: Planet Ladder

It’s time for another manga profile, this time its on Planet Ladder, a short but somewhat confusing series. It is comprised of seven volumes and is translated by Tokyopop. I’ve read all seven volumes, so this profile is written with all volumes in mind. I would also like to warn everyone that this profile contains spoilers, so if you don’t want the manga spoiled for you, don’t read :)



To the left, is the alluring first volume cover. It was this beautiful cover that inspired me to try Planet Ladder for myself. The beauty of Planet Ladder’s cover just beckons you to give it a try.


Basic Information

Title: Planet Ladder

Author: Narushima Yuri

Volumes: 7

Publisher: Sobisha (Crimson Comics)

NA Publisher: Tokyopop (defunct)


The Story


Planet Ladder’s story is one that is rather confusing, yet after a second reading, it begins to make more sense. I find that its unique terminology is often the root of all this confusion. For I often find myself asking “what in the world is a collasper/ect…” Going with the previous example, the collasper is not explained until the very end of volume one and within a bonus section where the author showcases some of the weapons and items in her manga and explains what each does. I find the story telling would flow much better, if little boxes were present in the manga to give a quick explanation of any terminology or items unique to the manga, rather then them being explained at the end or in following volumes.

The main plot line of Planet Ladder centers around Kaguya, a girl living in Japan and the strange role she is to play in the universe’s future. Kaguya herself, is not Japanese and seems to be a war orphan. Her earliest memory being one where she is consumed in flames and rescued by a mysterious boy, who is injured and lacking one of his hands. She was found in Japan and was adopted into a wealthy family before her past catches up to her.

Not surprisingly, Planet Ladder borrows from the popular Japanese myth of Princess Kaguya from the moon. Yet, beyond the fact that both share the same name and are princesses that do not originate from earth, Planet Ladder diverges greatly from the myth. Planet Ladder’s Kaguya is a princess from another world and one with a unique and painful destiny. She is the princess of Choosing and must choose a single world out of nine to survive.

Planet Ladder is best classified as science fiction; there are nine parallel universes and earths, ours is called Eden and is the only one that lacks knowledge of the others’ existence. For a reason later explained, these parallel universes are on a course that will end in collision and only Kaguya is able to choose one that will survive. Planet Ladder, as stated before, comes complete with its own unique items and terms, something the science fiction genre seems to incline towards.
Planet Ladder begins on a strong foot, it is a bit confusing, but its also interesting. A lot of mysteries are introduced in the first volume, and after a second reading, all minor confusions about names and concepts should be cleared out. The story continues until about volume five in a well paced manner, but the last two volumes drastically decrease in quality. This is probably due to the rushed ending, where everything happens too fast and the slower pacing of previous volumes is discarded. Planet Ladder, from the beginning feels like an epic tale, and seven volumes cannot do the story justice. As a result, the ending is rushed and it hurts the overall tale.

I also wish to point to volume three, where the mad prince’s story is told. By and far, this is my favourite volume, not only because Seeu is an bishounen and an interesting character. But his story also points out interesting aspects of human psychology. Having taken some psychology classes, I found this volume to pique my interests, especially the focus on the need for human touch.

Although its slightly confusing, the tale of Planet Ladder has a strong beginning, which loses its momentum with a weak and rushed ending.


The Art


The art of Planet Ladder is definitely its strongest point. Its clean and lovely. The author’s chibi-mode is also very nice. There is no area where the art suffers; characters, animals, and buildings are all depicted well. The only complaint that can be held against Planet Ladder is that the art, like the story, begins to lose its quality as we near the end. But with this said, it is still lovely, and it definitely holds up much better then the story.

The art is lovely, and is definitely the high point of Planet Ladder. Those looking for the typical beautiful style found in the majority of manga will not be disappointed.


The Characters


The characters in Planet Ladder are a varied sort. But there is a clear distinction between who is a main character and who is a minor character. Due to the brevity of Planet Ladder, no one beyond the main characters gets much development and back story. Some of the minor characters get a little back story or it’s hinted at, but its never as developed as with the main characters. I won’t mention all the characters, but some of the more important ones and these will contain spoilers!!

1.Kaguya – The leading character of this story, Kaguya starts out very timid. But when she is forced to survive on her own and given the burden of choosing a single world out of nine to save, she begins to mature and shows more strength. She discovers later on that she and her brother Kagami were the last survivors of the Weimar clan on the first world, Ancient. At the end of the series, she is shown to be living on one of the worlds (most likely the fifth world) with Seeu and their son. Overall she is a decent character, with both strong and weak traits.

2. Kagami – Is the mysterious boy in Kaguya’s dream. The android Gold seems to be made in his image. It is later revealed that Kagami and his sister Kaguya are the last survivors of the Weimar clan from the first world. It is also revealed that he died in Seeu’s place during the last great war and thus changed destiny. He was the master of the Organic Gold. Kagami plays an integral role in the story’s plot, but as a character, he is not that interesting. His sole purpose seems to be to prevent the destruction of the worlds.

3. Gold – An android bearing Kagami’s image and also the current master of the living weapon, Organic Gold. Gold was made by Seeu and he listens to what Seeu and Kaguya tell him, but sometimes he malfunctions and Kagami’s consciousness seems to appear. Just like Kagami, he plays and integral role in the plot, but is lacking as a character.

4. Seeu – 
The only survivor from the second world, Asu. Seeu is often referred to as The Mad Prince. He was raised isolated from human beings due to the fact that his world was contaminated with a deadly bacteria and he was the only one born without being exposed to it. As the young prince of Asu, he worked hard on building dolls that were able to house the souls of the people of Asu, yet his research was never finished in time, and he was left as the sole survivor of Asu. Due to the fact that he was isolated, Seeu is very withdrawn and lacks emotional expression. He is able to break free of his prison, when he accepts the Lunato Mercury as his living weapon, for those who have living weapons cannot die by normal means. He is also the one who holds all the secrets and is integral to the survival of the worlds. He seems to have had a close friendship with Kagami and later develops some kind of feelings for Kaguya as they are shown to have a son at the end. Seeu is by far the most interesting character in Planet Ladder, and he fits the mysterious bishounen role to a T.

5. Shiina Mol Bamvivrie (Bambi) – 
Shiina is another interesting character, she appears very cold and uncaring, but actually develops a deep love for Kaguya. How deep this love is, is open to debate. Nevertheless, her interaction with Kaguya changes her destiny and she accepts the living weapon, Geo-Pyro Gate. With the Geo-Pyro Gate, she becomes known as an effective killer, striking fear and respect in many of Kura’s subjects. At the end of the manga, she is shown talking with Kaguya, when Kaguya asks her to come visit her family, Shiina declines saying she doesn’t like the father. This hints at the possibility that her feelings for Kaguya are of a romantic variety.

6. Kura – He is the current ruler of the seventh and most powerful world, Geo. Kura also possesses one of the living weapons, the Nox Light. He is always surrounded by a harem of women, but it is later revealed that the only one he ever loved was his wife, who died prior to the start of the manga. Kura also knows the truth behind the princess of choosing and is determined to have Kaguya no matter what. Although he is cold and calculating, he cares deeply for his world’s safety.

7. Idou – He first appears as the one who is sent to get Kaguya, but unluckily for him, Seeu shows up and interferes. Idou is from the eigth world, Asuraitsu where he was part of the ruling elite. It is later revealed that he decides working under Kura is the best way to save the most people. He is also the owner of the living weapon, Zenith Crio. Out of all the living weapon owners, Idou is the least developed. In the epiloge, it is written that he died protecting Kura, after the catastrophe was dealt with.


Themes

***I am using the term ‘theme’ in a very loose sense, meaning it can be anything from something the story focuses on, to an aspect of the story, or the actual meaning of the word in its literary sense. Nor am I going to go into too much detail, this blog entry is already really long ; ) ***


1. Alternate Universes

A key aspect of Planet Ladder is the existence of alternate universes. It is against this background that the story takes place. There are nine identical Earths existing in Planet Ladder, but their histories are vastly different, and only our Earth, called Eden, lacks knowledge of the other eight. It is never made clear how these alternate dimensions gained the knowledge of each other’s existence, but nevertheless, each of them has the technology to transcend different dimensions. There is nothing ground breaking in the conception of alternate universe in the pages of Planet Ladder. If anything, it follows the tradition of making Earth the primitive and criminal backwater planet, which all the other earths shun.

2. Human Touch

As an aside, Planet Ladder explores the importance of human touch, and no, I do not mean touch in a sexual way, I mean quite the opposite, human touch in the platonic sense, where it is above the mere physical necessity and is really a psychological necessity. Having read an article on the research findings about the importance of human touch many years prior to reading Planet Ladder, I found the artistic portrayal of it in this manga very stirring. The article I read stated that babies which are more often touched and held are later, as children, in better mental health, more intelligent and build better relationships with other children. Planet Ladder portrayal, while not scientific, showed the results of the opposite phenomena, where the baby is never touched.

It is explained quite clearly in the manga, that Seeu, a human being that never had been touched by others, should in fact be unable to survive without human touch, as other animals that are isolated. Yet he is alive, and it is thanks to the dolls that serve him. These dolls were the ones that touched him and cared for him, but although Seeu lives, he is socially and emotionally stunted. It is interesting to note, that unlike the research findings, Seeu’s intelligence does not suffer. The manga also suggests that it is never too late to change, which ties in with its other theme, destiny, when Seeu is finally touched by Kaguya.

3. Destiny

This theme runs throughout Planet Ladder, and its earliest image is seen in the tarot card readings of Kaguya, who always pulls out a blank card. It is then reinforced throughout the manga with different characters and their struggles. Firstly, continuing with Kaguya, she has a so called destiny of choosing which world survives the catastrophe. But as the manga nears its finish, this so called destiny turns out to be nothing but a lie concocted by her brother and one of the sages to give the people hope. Yet, just as the blank taro cards suggests, the future is not something that was already written for someone, it is something that the person makes for themselves, and just as Kaguya’s destiny was a lie, so too is the belief in an overall preset destiny.

Next we have Seeu, a character who was fated to die in the great war, but survives. His destiny is altered not only this once, but also a second time, by Kaguya, who heals the wounds on his mind, if even a little, left by the years he spent in isolation. Likewise, Shiina’s destiny is altered through her interaction with Kaguya. It is stated in the manga that Shiina was not suppose to become the new master of the Gyopyrogate, but she does so to reunite with Kaguya. And finally, the worlds are fated to collide with one another and to be reborn and to restart the whole process all over again, but alas, this too is bested and the worlds do not collide. The antithesis to destiny, that it can be changed, is repeated throughout the manga, and hence, one can infer that Planet Ladder seeks to build up the conclusion that destiny is a lie and only you can decided your future.

Planet Ladder has some very beautiful themes, which are sullied by its rushed ending.


Conclusion


Planet Ladder shows much potential that is never truly developed, which is a real shame because it could have easily been a top rate manga. The author or mangaka has the talent to pull off a great story, but she was not given the time to develop it, as the rushed ending gives testament to. Planet Ladder’s art and story (for the first five volumes that is) are captivating, and it has both interesting themes and characters. Yet, I would not full-heartedly recommend Planet Ladder, for its ending ruins all that could have been an delightful and interesting tale. No matter how good of a beginning and middle a story has, if the ending and climax are horrible, the whole experience is ruined. However, one may still enjoy this manga, if it is read only for its artistic value, but still then i would not recommend it, for its art style is one that is typically found in many mainstream manga and hence, another title could easily fulfill the artistic needs and provide a decent story that is lacking in Planet Ladder. If you don’t mind a rushed and incomplete ending, and would enjoy a good science fiction manga, then I would recommend Planet Ladder to you. But everyone else be warned, this manga series will probably disappoint you by the end.




Planet Ladder’s rushed ending leaves much to be desired from this manga series. Skip over this one, even with a promising beginning, the ending will leave you frustrated and there are much better things to choose from.

–SW
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