Uchuu Kyoudai – 04

[HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.37_[2012.04.22_13.01.16] [HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_08.41_[2012.04.22_13.03.20] [HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_15.17_[2012.04.22_13.10.10]

The Watanabe Ayumu double-bill caps off with his “normal” series, Space Brothers.

I can see where this show isn’t going to be all that popular.  There are no teens in sight, there’s no overt fanservice, and the pacing is deliberate.  Stories about adult males wrestling with sibling issues and feelings of inadequacy just aren’t going to push many otaku buttons, but like many seinen the manga at least is popular.  I don’t think A-1 Pictures is going to be so concerned about traditional metrics like BD sales with Uchuu Kyoudai (which is good, as I expect them to be terrible) but I do see some of the complaints starting to filter through in the public forums.

The pacing is either going to be a problem for you or it isn’t, but as to the complaints about Mutta and Serika as characters, those I don’t quite see.  I see Mutta being criticized for not being exceptional enough, and Serika for being too perfect.  Well, Mutta is an exceptional character for me because he’s basically a normal person dealing with all the normal insecurities and regrets that maturity brings, while trying to do something exceptional.  That’s the whole point of his character, it seems to me.  As for Serika, she’s hardly perfect – she just happens to be in great physical shape.  She’s also not especially attractive and somewhat socially awkward.  I’m not sure what faults viewers are looking for in her that they’re not finding, but we barely know her – at this stage we’re really only seeing her through Mutta’s (smitten) eyes.  I think she’s refreshingly different from most anime heroines.

For me Space Brothers is, in structure and tone, closer to a Hollywood film than an anime.  But it’s a good Hollywood film – think Spielberg rather than Bay or Cameron – and it takes what’s undeniably a very Hollywood premise and filters it through the very particular lens of Japanese family dynamics.  That produces an interesting hybrid, and the result sheds a lot of light on both the similarities and differences between Japanese and Western families.  I’m not sure what the UFO business will end up leading to, but this series is as much about the peculiar relationship of brothers as it is about space – in that way I think the title itself, “Space Brothers”, reflects the twin pillars of the narrative perfectly. 

What I see when I look at Hibito and Mutta is pretty typical among siblings.  You have one, Hibito, that pretty much has the ability to make his way through life without overburdening himself with unnecessary thought – he’s smart (all NASA astronauts are brilliant or they wouldn’t be such) but he trusts himself and his instincts.  Mutta is a classic neurotic, always three steps beyond and three levels below the surface of everything.  He can’t live in the present the way Hibito can because he’s always beating himself up over the past and worrying about the future.  The fact that Hibito also happens to be younger, better-looking and stronger makes this that much worse for Mutta.  He’s always measuring himself (and failing) against Hibito, without realizing that Hibito is doing everything he does to make Mutta proud.  For Hibito, it’s enough grounds for admiration that Mutta is simply his big brother and the one who inspired him.

I’m glad the story is shifting to Houston next week, because I’m anxious to get inside Hibito’s head a little more than we have so far. It’s telling that Mutta was the only one he thought to invite using NASA’s support program.  For all the angst Hibito’s success causes Mutta, it’s clear that it’s hopelessly entangled with love – and that’s the complicated and difficult nature of brothers.  We’re not going to find out for a while if Mutta was successful in reaching the third phase of the JAXA exam, but that’s fine – life makes us wait for answers all the time.  And I think it’s been tipped since the start of the exam that Kenji and Serika would be joining Mutta in JAXA eventually – or else this is one of the great head-fakes in manga history.  Kenji’s confidence and flexibility make him a sort of all-around candidate, right down to his fiction/nonfiction answer to the weird Engrish “Have you noticed a change in yourself?” question.  Serika is many things JAXA would want – smart, a Doctor (always useful in space), physically fit and a woman.  For Mutta it’s about the intangibles and the last name, and it’s clear his candidacy is the one that the committee can’t quite neatly fit into a box.

I felt for Mutta during that interview process, and as someone who’s been on both sides of the desk many times, it was refreshingly to see how accurately it was portrayed.  An organization like JAXA would obviously have the science nailed down, but every major company has a framework for how they do these things – and the goal is always to force the applicant to give an honest answer and not a pre-fab one.  It’s all about putting them off-balance and forcing them to react, like a game, and the irony is that Mutta actually understands this perfectly but can’t quite bring himself to trust it.  As he says, honest reactions are generally better (interviewers usually know when you’re blowing smoke up their…) and once again Mutta may have succeeded with the shampoo answer when he thought he’d screwed up.  It’s all about trusting himself, and that’s something that’s hard for almost everyone – and it’s that struggle in Mutta (like Kotetsu) that makes him an incredibly appealing lead.

And for Jeebus’ sake, when you eat edamame don’t put the empty pod back in the bowl.  That’s just sick.

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[HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.14_[2012.04.22_13.14.07] [HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.14_[2012.04.22_13.15.08] [HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_21.55_[2012.04.22_13.16.48]
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7 comments

  1. F

    Hey Enzo, I think you should open a facebook account to promote your page, you are a really great writer, but i think you should promote you a little bit more, and another question i want to watch eureka seven, but i didnt watch the first season, does it matter?
    P.S: OFFTOPIC questions :)

  2. I have a Facebook page actually! Search "Lost in America". And thanks for the kind words.

    I'm sure getting that E7 question a lot. No, probably not – E7 was pretty open to interpretation anyway. I do think the new series would lose some of its impact without an emotional connection the characters, though.

  3. F

    Oh i see, well why dont you link your fb page to lostinanime i was looking for it before giving you my advice jaja, to tell u the truth i dont like reading that much, but for some reason i always end up reading your posts.

  4. S

    LOL at that edamame scene. I hate it when people does that!
    We haven’t seen much sibling interaction between Mutta and Hibito even though that’s the title of the show, so next week will be a very welcomed change of pace and it’ll be nice to see things from Hibito’s perspectives.

  5. A

    ''there’s no overt fanservic'

    Well, unless you count all these adult-only jokes that us 20-something can get while they fly over the youngsters heads ohohohohohohohoho

    ahem

    I think the only problem the show has (and it's honestly a minor one) is that it takes it's romantic view of space travel a bit too far, to the point where it starts drifting away into a reality where space travel is the best thing in the world. Of course, considering this is a show about going to space over a childhood promise, that might just be a given. Still I don't think even Planates was this romanticizing in it's views of space, unless if you only take a select portion of it's episodes.

  6. K

    I would compare Uchuu Kyodai to a drama rather than a film. Films tend to focus more on the result, whereas dramas place emphasis on the journey. For a show like this, the journey seems to be the more interesting aspect to delve into.

  7. I could see this as an HBO drama, for sure. But I disagree generally – I still think this is temperamentally closer to an inspirational big-budget film by Spielberg or Zemeckis, say, than a traditional anime or even a drama.

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