For a moment when I watching the preview I had a weird flash that the series was repeating itself for some reason, and then I realized – I’d seen what’s going to happen in the anime next week in the live-action that I watched on the way over here. I still like the anime’s version of events up to this point better, but it’s safe to say next week should be an interesting one to say the least.
If anything, this week’s episode was about confronting the elephants in the room that Space Brothers has been avoiding to some extent up to now. In the first instance, the nerves of the family members as the astronauts prepare to launch. The series has certainly confronted the mortality issue head-on in a more abstract sense with Brian Jay’s story, but the Nanba clan have been pretty much skating around the issue. I was wondering if they, especially Mom, would crack at some point – and it finally happens the night before the launch, when she can’t sleep and comes to Mutta’s room to seek reassurance. Even more gut-wrenching is the shot of Dad in his own bed, wide-awake but too proud to seek reassurance himself.
I’m not sure how correct Mutta was in saying how nervous Hibito was – if there’s anybody who could face something like this without nerves, he seems like the guy as I’ve never actually seen him upset in any situation. But what strikes me is that there’s a certain selfishness to the brothers wanting to have Mutta follow in Hibito’s footsteps as far as the family is concerned. If it’s terrifying to have one son risk his life in space, how much more two – never mind possibly on the same mission someday? It’s something the Jay parents will have faced, of course, and I’m not saying Mutta is wrong to pursue his dream – but I do spare a thought for what the ones left behind on Earth would be dealing with if he succeeds.
The other elephant is that of Mutta’s feelings about Hibito’s greater success. It’s certainly not the case that this has been ignored – it’s a major theme of the series – but never so directly as it was this week. At the very moment Hibito is about to take his greatest risk in pursuit of his greatest achievement, Mutta’s feelings are “50-50” just like the chances of the launch in spotty weather. It’s not admirable but it’s human and very understandable, and I think it comes down to the fact that Hibito isn’t just first in space, but life. Everything has come easier for him – he’s taller, handsomer, blonder and less burdened by self-doubt and living up to his brother’s admiration. Seeing Serika and even Kenji snap-up Hibito post cards brings it home for Mutta, but it’s an issue that has much deeper roots than that and will really never go away.
As always, Uchuu Kyoudai provided lots of amusing small moments. Hibito’s shoe-kicking weather forecast trick is one I’ve never seen before, but Google tells us it’s a very real folkloric part of Japanese culture. I loved Nasuda’s comment about bringing “Mr. Sunny” Tsurumi along to bring good weather – and Tsurumi’s apology. And laughs were provided by the two kids – mohawked Tim (Yukinari Toa), who knew so much about the Mars launch for a very good reason and ruined Jennifer’s moment, and foul-mouthed Matt (Kohinawa Miwa),who set up the cliffhanger by releasing Apo as a “good deed” – turned out to be nephews of mission commander Freddie Saturn.