Uchuu Kyoudai is many things, but one of them is a chronicle of how Mutta’s seemingly bad luck ends up being good in the end. So I have no doubt that drawing Azuma Takio (the stalwart Nomura Kenji) as one of his interviewers will follow the same course. Azuma has every reason to feel resentment towards the Nanba family, having been passed over for a seat on NASA’s lunar mission in favor of Hibito, despite a huge difference in seniority. But Jennifer says “everybody knows” there’s a grudge – despite the fact that Azuma has never said so himself. My gut tells me that the ever-irascible Azuma is just being his grouchy self, and he didn’t get as far as he did in such an elite field by being a slave to personal grudges. He’ll give Mutta a fair shake.
Azuma’s entry into the story recalls another interesting thread that’s been absent for a while, that of Brian Jay, the NASA astronaut who perished when his capsule burned up on re-entry. It was his affection for Hibito, apparently, that led to his selection over Azuma – and now Hibito sees it as his duty to stand on the moon next to Mutta in place of Eddie and Brian Jay, who will never have the opportunity to do so. Brother relationships are complicated, for certain, and while we’ve mostly focused on the differences between Mutta and Hibito here we saw some commonalities – namely, both are quick learners who’d rather get out and do the job instead of read the manual.
Another element of Uchuu Kyoudai is the sly commentary on American culture, and its differences with Japanese. Mutta comments to Rollie Cuomo (Sakamaki Rysouke), Hibito’s backup on the lunar mission, that Japanese brothers are different because “we don’t hug each other, and tell each other everything that’s on our minds”. It’s always interesting to see the Japanese perspective on American culture (starting with the hilarious “Morning Zoo” that opens the episode), especially as it comes to how the Japanese perceive how Americans perceive Japanese culture. Rollie walks around wearing a homemade T-shirt that doesn’t say what he thinks it does, eats with chopsticks in the NASA cafeteria as Mutta uses a fork, and repeats contextually inappropriate phrases Hibito teaches him. American Japan otaku probably do look pretty foolish to Japanese (as one myself, I don’t doubt it) but Space Bros doesn’t spare the rod when looking inward, either, and Mutta still very much has a “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” sense to him as he tries to take America in.
Of course we can’t discuss this ep without a mention of Apo, who pretty much dominated the episode. Quite a character, our Apo – he actually got Mutta to yell “Shut up!” in English and don a goalie mask to avoid his wake-up facewash. Anyone with a cat could tell you that the worst thing you can do when they want you to wake up is let them know you’re awake – they never give up once they know that – but with Apo, it doesn’t even seem to matter. We also got a look at Ozzy’s landscaping business – a one-man operation, apparently, till Mutta came along – yet still capable of landing big accounts like Johnson Space Center. Quite a feat for the old man, I must say.
With Hibito off to Florida in two days, the series is about to enter a transition phase. We’re going to get our first real-time farewell as astronauts go off into space, which is sure to be an emotional moment – the mostly unspoken truth is that they may never come back, and everyone knows it. Once that happens the focus is sure to turn to the final phase of the exam, which is going to be an interview at the very least – though I can’t imagine that’s all it will be – and means the return of the rest of the JAXA cast.