Considering how deliberate the pacing is, Space Brothers can be a pretty gripping show when it wants to be – and this episode was extremely gripping in a “Hunter X Hunter” sort of way. There’s obviously an enormous amount of tension built into the scenario of being locked in a metal box with other people for weeks and months at a time, beyond the help of anyone back on Earth. That element has always been present in this third JAXA exam, but never more so than this week.
It’s great to see Hoshika-san back in the picture, because I enjoy his perspective on what the candidates are going through more than anyone else’s. It’s obvious that he has a bias in favor of Mutta – I don’t think he’d deny it himself – but that’s because Mutta keeps stepping up and showing that he can withdraw himself from the minutiae of the moment and grasp the larger meaning of what’s happening around him. That’s what drew Hoshika to him in the first place, and it’s what separates Mutta from most of his rivals. The example of the clock on the bus is another good one, and it’s not surprising that it was Hoshika who insisted that the clock be placed on the dash where everyone could see it. Could being the key word – Mutta was the only who who actually looked. Maybe, as Hoshika said, lying about it was the right decision – or maybe Hoshika is favorably inclined towards whatever Mutta does.
Of course, it was also Hoshika who stepped the tension up to eleven this week. I’m not sure what “using the green ones” refers to specifically, but he admits that it’s “his job” to do so – and it seems that the impact is to ratchet up the stress on the groups by making them suspect each other. In Group B’s case it’s an alarm that keeps going off in the middle of the night, setting the two natural opposites of the group, Kenji and Yamato (Asanuma Shintaro) at odds. Of Group C, we see nothing. But for Group A it’s a broken clock – first discovered missing by Furuya, then discovered broken in pieces by Serika on top of the fridge. There’d been a short spell of goodwill among the group after Furuya’s request for new glasses for Fukuda was honored, but that’s put to the test quickly as Furuya now turns his suspicions on the rest of the team.
Starting with B, I must confess that Yamato’s actions in this episode cross the line towards truly distasteful more than anything I’ve seen the candidates do up to this point. He’s been envious of Kenji from the beginning, resenting the latter’s tendency to assume the leader role and seeing him as a clear threat. But his suspicions about the alarm borders on the paranoiac, and his strategy for “revenge” against Kenji by using the Eddie Jay tragedy to make Kenji worry about his daughter crosses a line a normal person wouldn’t cross. My assumption here is that JAXA has told someone to set that alarm off – just as I suspect they told Fukuda to break the clock – in order to test everyone’s reactions to the suspicion rising in the group. But even if that’s the case, it doesn’t reflect well on Yamato. As for who is the actual alarm culprit I have no idea – perhaps JAXA could actually pull this off without help – but for some reason I’m suspecting it might actually be Kenji.
The clock culprit isn’t a matter of speculation, as Mutta in fact saw Fukuda break it. Here again we see Mutta lying to the team – and again, it may be a “big picture” kind of lie that’s better for everyone in the long run. Revealing the truth would surely have caused a major rift in the team, but Mutta (perhaps ultimately to be proved correct) casts the blame on JAXA, and theorizes that this is really a test – how will the team react when the 24-hour clock becomes meaningless, and they have to adjust to life in space? “Where are we”?” seems like an odd question for Mutta to be asking under the circumstances, but it’s a very Mutta-like one. As for the all-white jigsaw puzzles (I go a little crazy just thinking about it) I believe those are added just to ramp up the stress even higher.
I’m assuming a lot in saying that Fukuda broke the clock at JAXA’s order, as there’s certainly no proof of it – but for me, it’s the only explanation that makes sense. I suppose he could have done so for his own reasons, but I can’t see anything in his character that would be predictive of such behavior. What I think the incident does is show Mutta’s larger vision very well – thinking a couple of steps ahead, puzzling out possible reasons to explain what he’s seen, and the implications of what he says about it. The difference between Mutta and the other members of the team so far is that they lack his ability to step out of the moment and see things from a distance – which I can only imagine is an invaluable ability when you’re on a space mission. Mutta is a strange guy by any standards, seeing the world in a different way than most people. In many walks of life that would be (and for Mutta, has been) a disadvantage. As an astronaut, it seems to be his greatest strength.