One of the things I’ve noted about Space Brothers is how easy this show is to enjoy – in fact, for me it’s almost impossible not to enjoy it. There are many reasons for that, and I think one of them is that it’s a series that can be enjoyed on many different levels. It has sharp comedy, excellent character dynamics, suspense, science geekery, and unapologetic sentiment. In watching this episode, I’m struck by just how humanistic the show is – like its main character, this is a series that genuinely has an affection for the human race.
Have you ever been walking down a busy street crowded with people, or driving in heavy traffic, and thought just for a moment “Every person I can see has their own story. They’re the center of their own universe.” That’s how watching Furuya’s tale play out this week made me feel, and it’s a sensation I’ve often had with this series, especially since the third exam started. Uchuu Kyoudai takes on only a small segment of the population too, and probably one that’s more interesting than average – but there’s a clear message here that everyone is important. Everyone deserves a chance, and everyone has dreams – that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. That was a strong part of the Group A dynamic, and that’s why it’s going to be so hard to say goodbye to the characters that don’t make it.
While we still don’t know who the six candidates selected by their teams are, we know a lot more than we did last week. For starters, as I (and many others) speculated, the bus trip at the start of the test was a ruse – everyone is back at JAXA and there’s no “top-secret facility” (Nasuda certainly enjoyed the moment of the big reveal). We know that Kenji wasn’t selected from Team B, and that Mizoguchi was (I’m guessing Teshima was the other). We know that Mutta and Furuya lost at Jan-ken-pon, and that the winners came the group of Fukuda, Serika and Nitta. And for me, the surprising thing we know is that the team selections really did matter – the surviving group isn’t limited to those six candidates, but each of them is guaranteed a spot. I really expected that selection to be all about the process and not about the results, so it was a major surprise.
What’s more, if the preview is to be believed, only one additional candidate (Mutta did say “man”, though I don’t know if that’s significant) will be added to the final selection, the winners of which will go to Houston after a round of interviews with current astronauts. There’s some harsh math here, if that’s true – at the very least we know Mutta, Kenji, Furuya and one of the other Team A candidates will be fighting for one spot, and given that this is his series, it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t me Mutta (and you can bet Hoshika will be in the trenches fighting for him). Fururya might end up working with Baba-san (Hirose Masashi) on spacesuit development (that was a terrific side story) and as Baba says, there’s always next time, and the final cuts would seem to have a leg up. But for now, they won’t be astronauts – and in the context of the show, that’ll be a really sad thing.
As usual, in addition to the main story Space Brothers really did itself proud with the small touches that bring life to the show. I loved the round of applause everyone received when they exited the pods, Kenji’s signed puzzle, and the humorous interplay surrounding Ka-pe and her “acorn soup” – which ended up plopped into Mutta’s tea – was beautifully done comedy, as was the bit with Mutta prettying his hair in the restaurant window (the obaa-san applauding when his “date” showed up was my favorite moment”). This series may not bring much flash, but it sure has substance – and it’s one I can definitely rely on the entertain me, make me laugh, and move me pretty much every week.