(Disclaimer: Contain slight spoilers for the kinetic novel Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume.)
And here I am, sitting at the working table on a rainy day trying to squeeze out the idea for a new article after the doujin series from my smol brain…
Lately, Fank has been trying to pull me back to the good old visual novel world, so maybe taking some time to read back on some old ones to warm up might not be a bad idea.
A short one… One with a nice story… One that can melt my heart… Ah, here it is!
And you there! Do you want to hear a story about a cutie left in a vast post-apocalyptic world and her view on the afterlife? If you are, please take a seat, and we will begin our journey to a planetarium covered in war rubble.
A little bit of background information before we start. Planetarian is a short kinetic novel (a visual novel which doesn’t provide you with choice—yes, that exists) made by Key Studio—the one behind those slightly more well-known titles such as Clannad or Angel Beats. It brings you to a short journey between 2 “people”: a scavenger who thinks he’s left all his emotion behind; and a Robot who has waited for years just to meet a human. Common trope, right? I know, but I love how the story flows and how the characters develop through it, despite the cruel world around them. The ending is predictable, but the story is the thing that keeps breaking and healing your heart over and over again.
Okay, enough of that. Let’s get into the main topic: What is your idea of “Heaven”? A boring place? An asylum for the tiring soul? A utopia where you can have anything you want? Do dogs, cats, and other animals have their heavens, or do they have to live separated from us in the afterlife (especially cats, those fuckers need someone to take care of them)?
These questions, I will let you answer; what I bring to the table today is a discussion of how a robot—whose sole purpose is to help humans—imagines an afterlife, especially when their mind can either be easily destroyed in an instant once the memory storage is erased, or can be transferred into another shell to continue living. Life to a robot in most cases is just something it can temporarily use to satisfy the desires of its creator—regardless of it being good or bad—before being cast away at some point when they have no value anymore (the “soul”, not the robot, because I know some people out there will keep the shell as a remnant of the past if it is meaningful to them).
That is when the main actress of our play steps onward. Yumemi Hoshino (Wish Upon A Star) is a gynoid robot whose main purpose is to greet people at the door of a planetarium. At least, what used to be a planetarium—before the city was bombarded by chemical warfare and left abandoned for years. As the database centre that she was connected to disappears during the war, all that is left of her is an “unidentified bug”. She’s now an automatic version of herself who always tries her best to give the customers a show, greet them whenever they come, and protect them, even when there is no customer and there are no shows anymore. Well, not until another man takes shelter in that abandoned planetarium twenty-nine years and eighty-one days later.
Sounds pathetic even for a robot, right? But that was a miracle, or a curse, that she did not die even while the world population kept plummeting and the endless war served no purpose anymore. Humanity was not in a better place either. Their only purpose in life now is, ironically, to keep living no matter what. No dream, no goal, no future, just living. They become hollower than even a robot, and finally die by starvation, by exhaustion, or by being blasted into pieces by drones and traps. In a world like that, there is no imagination or romance, and the only happiness that can be found is in smaller villages or simple things like cigarettes and booze found during scavenging. As a result, Yumemi Hoshino is the last relic of an older age when people could still have a genuine smile on their face and a dream of a brighter future—and ironically, a possibility of how heaven might look like.
In her database, heaven is what we might be thinking of right now: full of happiness and no worries about anything, a.k.a a utopia. However, in her mind, the only wish she wants from the “god” that she knows is for the god to “not divide the heaven by two,” so that she can continue helping other people even after death, for eternity. Her purpose in life is to be useful to other people, and if heaven decides to rip it away from her in exchange for eternal rest, she would be worried. That contrasts with the definition of utopia, and the strongest argument that one can make against the existence of it. Let us give it a thought: If you cast away your life’s purpose and meaning, what is the point of being alive anymore? Everything precious you gain will begin to lose its meaning as it is so easy for you to get them, yet there’s nowhere to use them meaningfully. You end up getting trapped there, in your mind, for eternity, like an empty shell with the shape of a human. Heaven doesn’t sound so great now, huh?
So if the happiness of a robot is to be helpful to people, then their “heaven” will be a place where they can serve humanity forever, at least with those that haven’t been tainted by humanity’s malice. This is just a wish of a small robot, but putting it in the deep night of the world she lives in, it is a sphere of light that burst out into a beautiful star sky, and fills the soul of any lost person who had the chance to meet her dreams and determination, and gives a purpose for living in a broken world. And when putting it into our world, their heaven is our reality already, where they can work for humanity for seemingly an eternity, until their consciousness is shut off.
“do not need heaven”…