Uchuu Kyoudai – 13

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For my entire life I’ve tried hard to be a 3D ant.  I just didn’t realize it until now.

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On some level I always knew that Space Brothers was an extended argument for manned space flight on its merits, but it was never as obvious as it was this week.  The gloves came off, and the series uses all the weapons in its disposal, including the use of real JAXA astronaut Noguchi Shouichi making his case to the young Nanba Brothers via the aforementioned 3D Ant story.  To be honest I’m as easy sell because when it comes to this argument, the series is preaching to the converted with me.  But when they managed to get references to Bucky Fuller and Richard Dawkins (no, not the guy from Hogan’s Heroes and Family Feud) in there, I was helpless to resist.

[HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.21_[2012.06.24_10.17.34]This argument is a very real one and it’s taking place in every spacefaring nation, as the world faces extended economic slowdown and debt, and the romance has gone out of space travel for generations too young to remember Walter Cronkite’s tears as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface.  People like the news anchor in this episode have the upper hand, and they’re not just news anchors – they’re the ones holding the purse strings in government.  The premise of the episode is JAXA shrewdly trying to use the candidates as a PR device to make a counter-argument, but the reality here in the mangaka making the case himself.

[HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.08_[2012.06.24_10.19.21]And it’s not an easy case to make.  When money is tight, people – who tend to be short-sighted anyway – are even less keen to be persuaded by long-term benefits over short-term expediency (just look at climate change policy).  Noguchi-san’s example – delivered in a strong, compelling performance – speaks to the question of vision, which is critical to the understanding of why manned space flight is essential.  But Mutta is right – you can’t make a person who doesn’t have vision see the big picture, and it’s pointless to try.  Sadly, we don’t have the luxury of looking forward to the romance of a first anybody on the moon – or anybody at all on the moon – to persuade the public.  What comes across in Uchuu Kyoudai is the passion the author has for the nobility of space flight, and passion is central to this whole argument – you can’t understand the pull of manned space travel without feeling the passion behind it.  But again, that’s a hard case to make to someone without that passion.

[HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.29_[2012.06.24_10.19.41]In terms of the exam itself, as always, it’s fascinating to watch the group dynamics at work.  Team B busily types away on their laptops (except Tomii) while Team A handwrites their explanations (except for Mutta, thinking back on Noguchi’s speech in a hilariously animated flashback).  Nitta – who I pegged as an intriguing figure as soon as he appeared – takes a very logical, clinical approach.  Furuya reacts with blunt anger (funniest moment of the episode was his indignant “I’ll have you know I’m from Kyoto!” when Nitta asks if this is “The Osaka way”.   So true to life!)  Serika falls back on her dream of her father.  But it’s Tomii who comes up with the interesting spin of Dawkins’ notion of humans as genes – needing to go forth into the universe and mutate. 

[HorribleSubs] Space Brothers - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.32_[2012.06.24_10.20.45]In the end, it looks as if it’s Mutta’s line of thinking that wins the day with Director Nasuda, and this is the advantage he has over seemingly stronger candidates like Nitta – his outlook is skewed and unusual.  He’s an individual, and he has a vision.  The argument for Mutta as an astronaut is like the argument for manned space flight itself – it can’t be made using numbers and statistics alone.  It’s about vision and passion, and this is something that Hoshika-san understands implicitly, and why he keeps pushing for Mutta even when he can’t quantify the reasons for it.  His argument for Mutta’s selection was telling – “Of course we should use our emotions in choosing the candidates.  Otherwise, why not let computers make the selection?”  Why not indeed – and why not let unmanned craft do the exploration?  On paper it makes sense, but that’s where vision and passion play into the equation.  And more and more it’s becoming obvious that Nasuda is an oddball himself, an individual with his own skewed way of looking at the universe.  And for Onii-chan, that can only be a good thing.

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  1. d

    Still one of my favorites. I remember when I was in elementary school, everyone wanted to be an astronaut. hahah XD

  2. d

    I'm mildly surprised that "the eldest member" of the four horsemen of new atheism got mentioned. BTW, he looks at least 20 years younger than his actual age (71)! I can believe Dan Dennett's age, but Dawkins'? Nah. (No ideas of what "Hogan’s Heroes" and "Family Feud" are. Sounds like some oldie TV dramas. Never seen them. I'm known to dislike period dramas).

    And ah, the classic "why are spending money up there when you have problems down here…", the go-to-line Neil Degrasse Tyson says in preparation to counter-argue his case, in his every youtube clip available. (seriously, I checked… trust me. So is the half-penny and cutting a US dollar argument regarding on NASA budget).

    I say poverty and other classic human problems will probably NEVER get solved. It has always been will humans. NOT when people are multiplying like freaking bunnies and rats in every continents. The stupid religious folks arguing against contraception surely doesn't help at all, of course. Still clinging to some medieval beliefs against contraceptives. The whole thing is…well… I'd better check myself here or the floodgate will open~!

    Anyway, my argument is that humans can't and won't solve problems down here, no matter how much money they pour into them. Not unless they volunteer to stop reproducing their off-springs like crazy (fat chance, octomom and Duggar family), which get into that good old "freedom issue". And you can't just force the issue (i.e. sterilization) for the obvious reasons.

    So is the warfare, the blackhole for money spending. So is stop people eating so damn much meat. The list goes on. It isn't happening. Some people will suffer and die no matter what. Some may argue that a difference of saving 1 more life is a difference enough and that's valid argument. But to me, ignoring or slowing down human race progress over a few more lives in this endless cycle is just a nonsense (I may get flanks for this, but so be it). I'd rather spend endless capitals to extend human races rapidly forward, rather than stuck in that wheeled-in hamster mindset, ever so slowly, barely moving forward. Space exploration will do that. Stem-cell research will do that.

    But then again, I know that it probably won't happen in any foreseeable future. The world is dominated by dogmas (beneficial or poisonous) and when a majority rules a democratic society, a certain rapid change (good or bad) just won't change soon enough for humans with limited life-time span. I just have no patience since human lives are all so limited.

  3. K

    Overpopulation isn't the main problem, the problem lies in the structure of the different societies and how only a few get the benefits from said "broken" structures. How do you expect people that are ignorant live their lives?, since they don’t have the appropriate knowledge nor/or means to change the simple lives they have, they just don't; and sadly no one really cares, specially those that have the responsibility to build successful social structures.

    Problems will never stop appearing in any society, we cant build Utopias simply because none of us thinks exactly alike, we are all different; but that does not mean we should stop trying to change our reality for the better; each in his/her own way.

    And that's how it relates whit the space exploration dilemma, some people think the long term benefits are worth it, some don't but as Namba realized, that is a waste of time to try to change others when they have realized a different path to a goal (in this case "advancement"), why?, because you most likely fail in convincing them to change their mind due to personal priorities and different definitions of what is important.

  4. d

    Oh BTW, I've totally lost hope that this show will include actual Mars travel & exploration. I was so pumped, too!!! In all likelihood, they will just talk about it in concepts and will just go to the good old moon (again!). Sigh. Unless they plan to do some 80 episodes, it won't happen. I personally guarantee that (of course, I've not read the translated manga beyond what's readily available, so take that guarantee with a grain of salt).

    It's bloody shame, really. I enjoy all these detailed depiction of exams very much indeed. But not so thrilled after realizing my Mars's dream is over before it even started… eh, I will get over it at some point.

  5. We have 48 eps to play with – we'll see how far Mankind gets in that time.

  6. N

    I agree with the Mutta approach. Writing well formulated arguments, like Serika did, will only lead to counter-arguments being raised, and you can spend your entire life fighting a war no side can ever win, because logic is merely a tool educated people use to make their biased preconceptions seem more like objective observations. That's just how human work, and nowhere is it more painfully obvious than in the academy : In the end, what turns the tide over to one school of thought on the expense of another is not some brilliant paper or an undisputed argument, but subtle changes in the public mindset that is dependent on so many variables that it can never be reversely engineered.

  7. B

    I'm in the same boat as you, Enzo, this show is preaching to the converted. I boil it down even more simply though. The point of the 3D ant argument is that seeing things from new perspectives can help us find answers to our problems on Earth, and while that may be true, for me it's unnecessary. I think the knowledge is worth having for it's own sake, even if no tangible benefits ever show themselves. Any solutions or new technologies or whatever that show themselves as a result of space travel are just frosting on the knowledge cake as far as I'm concerned, science in all it's branches is worth exploring for it's own sake even without those results. Of course convincing someone else of this who doesn't already agree is generally a losing battle, as Mutta rightly points out.

    I'm a bigger fan of Tomii now for citing Dawkins. One of my favorite people currently living so anyone else who likes his work can be BFF's with me anytime.

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