- Mutta: “SHOW-AH!”
- Ozzy: “Major props.”
- Apo: “Arufu!”
- Nanba-Otousan: “I…would…describer her as…pretty.”
- Director Nasuda: “Start the ending music!”
There’s pretty much nothing like Space Brothers in anime right now, and hasn’t been for quite a while. So much patience, so much loving attention to detail, and so much humor that’s derived from the essence of the characters. This episode reminded me a lot of the great Giant Killing episode that set up the big match with Osaka – and I mean that as high praise, as that was arguably the greatest stage-setting episode in sports anime. If Hunter X Hunter is a glorious example of everything a great and smart shounen can be, Uchuu Kyoudai is an advertisement for everything that seinen can be when it’s at its best.
While I wouldn’t in my wildest imaginings compare myself to him, I’ve found myself identifying with Mutta a lot from the very beginning of the series, and all the more so lately. Like Mutta, so many of us spend far too much time worrying about what isn’t and not enough about what is, at this very moment. I think the world is split into Mutta and Hibitos (you know who you are), and we each have our role to play – but I can’t help be touched by Mutta’s need to bring order to life, to have a roadmap of what the days ahead will bring (“Schedule: Mom talks about nothing for two hours.”). Life, being what is, never seems to want to play along when people like Mutta and myself try and tell it what’s going to happen next – but this a lesson that we’ll never learn, as long as we live.
The reaction to Azuma is a good example of how different these brothers are. Mutta (who can blame him, with everyone feeding him worrying opinions) stresses constantly about whether Azuma has it in for him because of his resentment of his brother. Hibito, on the other hands, says “I’m not worried about my brother” – and you can really sense that he believes that. He also says that Azuma isn’t the sort of person to hold a grudge against Mutta because of his family name, and I believe he’s right about that. I’d bet the ranch (if I had one) that Azuma is being set up as a false conflict – he’s tough as nails and about as friendly, but he seems to be like a resolutely professional man who takes great pride in his profession, and would never dishonor it by letting personal feelings affect a professional decision. Azuma will treat an assignment to help select astronauts for JAXA just as he would a space mission – something to be performed carefully and professionally, with no mistakes.
It goes without saying, but Hiroaki Hirata is delivering one of the performances of the year (again) here. He nails pretty much every aspect of the character, from the wry humor to the insecurity to the borderline-panicked neuroses. I don’t think there’s any question that the emotional highlight of the ep was when Mutta mentioned his brother at the end of an exhausting set of 215 squats, each one accompanied by the name of an astronaut he’s proud of – and this wasn’t an easy scene for a seiyuu to play, being both physically exhausted and emotionally transparent. It can never be forgotten that “Brothers” is half the title of this series, and it’s at the heart of who Mutta is – proud of his brother, and with a dead-serious Japanese sense of responsibility to look after the younger sibling who seems to jet past him in life with a sonic boom at every turn. As Hibito prepares to take that great step into space – beating his brother to the punch – the series is sure to emotionally ramp up in a big way, as this is going to bring all themes of the first two cours to a head. With Team Japan jetting off to Houston and the launch only a week away, Uchuu Kyoudai is about the take things to another level.