For me, this series really hasn’t put a foot wrong in the last couple of months. I could see where some might argue that it’s overly sentimental, but I find that a refreshing change of pace from the emotional detachment that’s the norm in many anime. There’s no series that’s connected with me emotionally as consistently as this one has – pretty much every week since this arc started – and I think that’s because all of the little details of the relationships are given time to bear fruit. Since this show is effectively entirely about people and how they relate to each other, things that might be minor threads in other series (if they’re included at all) are the major focus. Uchuu Kyoudai may be about people pursuing an exceptional dream in the future, but the people who inhabit it are are real and believable as in any anime this season.
The suspense is officially over. Serika and Nitta were the winners of the Jan-ken-pon, and Mizoguchi and Teshima came out of Team B. There were some interesting developments here: Hoshika reveals that this was the first year that JAXA had used the self-selection method, and that it had proved more divisive than anticipated (I might argue the results show it’s not an especially good system). Kenji hears a news story that eight astronaut candidates will go to Houston, three of them women – which leaves only one additional spot for a man. It’s hardly surprising that the selection committee is initially skeptical – even derisive – about Mutta’s method of choosing, and no more surprising that Hoshika should defend him. But Hoshika’s point seems like the stronger argument – of all the teams, Team A was the only one who left the sealed pod on good terms – which was the norm in the old days, before the two-member model was in place. It was also interesting that Director Nasuda wasn’t seen in the committee meeting – I wonder what role he plays in the final selection (he strikes me as a likely Mutta backer, too).
After some soul-searching and time-wasting (including a hilarious screening of “Rocky 12”, featuring a gorilla vs. a kangaroo) Mutta finally gets the letter from JAXA – though Watanabe-sensei can’t resist stringing out the tension for just a little bit longer. And that’s fine – I like lingering on the fate of the members of Team A, all of whom feel like family to me now. With Furuya back to Kyoto, Mutta meets with Fukuda at the Tokyo Sky Tree, where the older man reveals that he’s been approached by a private company looking to launch a Japanese reusable vehicle into space (indeed, this is the growing trend in space exploration today). So his dream, perhaps, is not over – and his gratitude to Mutta for the way he treated him in the pod is spot-on for his character. It’s fitting that Fukuda should be the one to reveal the truth – Mutta has made the cut, and he’s off to Houston with the other seven survivors. And he’s most happy that he’s finally accomplished this on his own – no help from his lucky charm Apo, or from his surname. Of course he did have help – from Hoshika, and probably Nasuda – whether he knows it or not, but that’s support he earned on strength of character.
Another very strong element in the episode was the return to Houston to check in with Hibito and his team. I loved the sequences with Apo staring at the clock as Mutta was staring at the envelope, and the little slice-of-life bits with Ozzy and with Jennifer lecturing a group of kids at NASA. Best of all for me was the way Hibito’s teammates hang on every development with Mutta almost as much as he does, and the way they celebrate with him when the good news comes. This show really gives a sense of the incredible degree of teamwork that exists within this tiny community of space exploration, and how much everyone supports each other – because they have to. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that they got the chance to know Mutta when he visited and made quite an impression…
There’s apparently going to be some time before the actual Houston trip starts, because next week looks to be a focus on Mutta (still technically a candidate and thus, unemployed) faces pressure to actually earn some money. Hopefully this interlude will also include some development with Serika, but before that there’s the matter of Kenji, the most prominent cast member not to make the cut, whom Mutta refers to as his “best friend”. It’s a bit of a surprise that Kenji’s plot armor didn’t carry him through, but he has quite a parachute in his loving family. I know Mutta will feel survivor’s guilt when they meet, but I can’t imagine Kenji letting any resentment he might feel show – that’s just the sort of guy he is. And as much as anyone, he seems like a prime candidate to make the grade the next time there’s a selection.