I had read the manga a while ago, so I came into this thinking I knew the story. I was wrong. These are different enough that I cannot compare them on any level, and so will not be doing this review with any comparisons.
The members of Debris Section, or “half-section” as they are oft referred to due to a lack of a full crew, are all working hard to fuel their hopes and dreams. We follow Tanabe as she meets and gets to know them, the perils of the job revealing themselves to her the longer she stays and becoming more than she could ever have imagined. Tanabe herself is a rather naïve newbie in Half Section. She believes in love- that everyone should be cherished, that tributes to it should be admired, that people want nothing more than to be together and love one another deep down. Her idealism is brought down a notch in the first episode, but throughout it morphs into a deep faith in people and into doing the right thing- and she is a strong character for it. Hachimaki is an unrepentant dreamer. He manages to hold tight to his dream of having his own ship for a good long time, and must face demons of an accident in order to cling to them. He goes down the wrong path in trusting and loving others, but manages to make it back. The rest of Half Section are almost as deep and complex, from Fee, a rather mysterious smoker that is willing to face down terrorist attacks to get a smoke and has friends in high places in the system, to Ede, a temp worker that almost never talks, but has a drive and determination to overcome her past that puts many to shame. Even minor side characters manage to come across as multi-dimentional, real people. The first half of the anime is spent developing them, rarely taking itself too seriously, but with undertones that more serious stuff is afoot.
Character development is blended beautifully with the plot. At first it seems like the daily life of the debris collectors- sharing in their lives and loses, discovering the things that keep them in space or away from Earth. It seems very down to earth, with realistic situations involving the hierarchy of the company and various company politics. It soon grows into more than that. Internal and national politics come into play early on- the same episode that Tanabe’s idealism comes against a wall. An early forewarning of a more serious plot is the bombings of the smoking rooms on the Moon- as funny as the episode where this is introduced was, it’s terrorism nonetheless. As the crew of Half Section is pulled into these events during the regular course of their duties, they find themselves mixed up into planetary politics and company politics that have far-reaching consequences for everyone on and off of earth. Friends become foes, conspiracies and double-dealings abound, and subtle maneuvering wins the day though it might not be a perfect happy ending to the situation.
Of course, that’s not the end of things. Not by a long shot. Bad things happen to good people. No one within Half Section is left unaffected, least of all our main characters. And a decision is placed before Hachi that makes fulfilling his dream of going out into space on a 7 year cruise to Jupiter a hard choice to make. It does get a little philosophical as Hachi wrestles with the fears that were left from an accident that occurs during the series, but it’s through this that he’s able to come to terms with leaving and why, and who exactly he’d be leaving behind. He’s lived with his father doing it to his family, and he must figure out how to be at peace with it… or abandon his hopes altogether. The very ending is beautiful- a simple scene of family life that is touching and yet so bittersweet when I realized what exactly it meant.
Violence/Gore- The violence is just a bit worse than Star Wars- most of the instances of death have discretion shots. The first people who die you see some blood fly and then another person moves over so you don’t see the bodies. Many of the shots you see some blood fly and then they fall over. However, there were about three times when the death was emphasized for horror and to show how terrible it was, not by making them gorefests but by making the people fall into another’s arms or other things. There was never anything excessive shown- I actually feel that it was done more tactfully than most PG-13 movies show. A few characters deal with the idea and consequences of killing another person- when it’s okay, and how one can be brave enough to sacrifice themselves- along with the dangers that come along with their jobs (from being hit with debris, to drifting off into space, to dying of cancer from radiation).
Nudity/Sexual Content-In the first episode Hachimaki picks up a porn magazine and tells Tanabe (who’s outraged) that it’s a long trip and things could happen between men and women, so it’s necessary. He’s forced to put it back. It does make a cover appearance in two other brief shots in the anime, but one time unless you’re paying attention then you’ll probably miss it. There is some slight sexual tension a few times- they are asked whether they’ve had sex twice, Tanabe is told that having dated for about two months might be the time to do it, and they do end up in a hotel room together. This goes absolutely nowhere, though. One woman was abused and forced into prostitution by her husband (told, not shown).
Other Themes- There’s some rough language- I don’t remember any f-bombs being dropped, but at least once an episode someone was dropping a “What the h—“, and occasionally using the alternate word for donkey, calling someone an illegitimate son, and there was one written instance of the word for female dog. Sometimes it was unnecessary and just the way the person spoke (which I can sympathize with as my brother speaks like that), and sometimes it was definitely situation-appropriate.