Uchuu Kyoudai – 33

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“I feel so light.  No weight on my legs…  No weight on my chest.”

I’d like to say I wondered if this episode would break me down, but I pretty much knew that it would – it was really more a question of what would be the trigger.  And interestingly, it was the two things at polar opposites of the spectrum – the flashbacks to the Nanba brothers as kids, and the shots of  stoic old Dad and Azuma dealing with their emotions as the moment drew near – that really did it for me, more so than the more obvious emotional crescendos (though they hit the mark too).  In a medium where overplayed melodrama is often substituted for genuine emotion, Space Brothers should be held up as an example of how powerful restraint and understatement can be at communicating deep and profound feeling.

I haven’t talked about them much, but Cho and Tanaka Mayumi – too wily old seiyuu veterans of the highest caliber – are doing a fantastic job with the roles of the Nanba parents.  I find Nanba-papa especially moving, because he’s such a model of Japanese restraint (and not just Japanese, when it comes to Dads) – he keeps his emotions to himself, and doesn’t turn to others for comfort in his tense moments.  He simply lies awake at night, staring at the wall, worrying about his son and what he’s about to do. It was a typically unorthodox decision for Uchuu Kyoudai to make him the focus of the moments surrounding Hibito’s moon landing, and a typically wise one.  His little fist pump (of course unseen by his wife and anyone else – though I suspect in RL TV cameras might have captured the moment live) and Azuma’s tiny smile said so much with so little about the universality of human emotion.

I also probably haven’t talked about Kenn and the role of Hibito in general (who knows, maybe I have).  While the focus of the series is Mutta and the star performance is certainly Hira-Hiro, Hibito has really emerged as something special over this arc – a man-child with a profoundly direct and innocent view of the world.  His “I feel so light” summed up Hibito perfectly – he’s not so much a person as a force of nature.  His first step on the moon was a leap, and his profound first words?  “Yay!!”  Why would Hibito change in that moment, of all moments?  He’s Japan’s moon rabbit, and he was never really anything else.  Those of us (like his brother) who live with the reality of gravity can only envy Nanba Hibito.

When it comes to Mutta, his role has largely been defined as it related to Hibito over the last ten episodes or so, while the reverse was true prior to that.  This is about to revert though, and even here it’s till ultimately Mutta’s reactions that define the moment for the audience.  “I’ve always wondered…”  Of course he has – and of course the answer was always going to be “Both”.  There are some moments in life where no single emotional reaction is enough, and for Mutta, watching Hibito land on the moon is surely one of them.  There’s something very real about watching these momentous events play out through Mutta’s eyes, because ultimately in life it’s only own perspective that we can ever truly feel and understand – everything is most important in the way it impacts us.  It’s selfish, but life is selfish – and Mutta again represents a perfect stand-in for the audience here.

Now, at last, the focus can turn to Mutta himself, and he can finally become the star of his own story.  It seems only fitting that while Hibito’s path to space should have been direct and rapid like a waterfall, Mutta’s should have been halting and meandering, like the twists and turns of a river.  He’ll get there in the end, but for Mutta there will always be a weight on his legs, and on his chest – even when he’s in zero gravity.  But I think that will make him appreciate the achievement of his dream in a way not even the Moon Bunny could ever appreciate it, and the crowning moment will be even sweeter for all the hardships he’s had to endure to reach it.

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  1. D

    Geez… Uchuu Kyoudai, you broke my streak, why you~~~. I admit that when Enzo wrote two episode back that he cried over this show, I somewhat dismissed it since, ahem, I don't cry over a moving picture, ahem (I didn't cry over 1985 Live Aid video of African children suffering with the Cars' "who gonna drive you home"… Billy Connolly cried his eyes out over it, but me? Nah).

    However I also admit that the flashback scene coupled with cut scenes of the backside of Mutta's head + theme music did force me shed my yawn tears (wink wink nudge nudge), I can't remember the time this happened while watching something. Maybe 5-6 years ago?

    Having read the manga ahead, I was aware of this moment and frankly a cynic could easily dismiss it as a cliché setting to get "emotional" response, but man, I didn't quite anticipate that moving pictures+music's impact. The "ants scene" few episodes back (with the same theme music, no less) was one of the most memorable scenes ever for me in recent time, but this one is up there, too, on how it has affected me. It's quite something that this show has made me invest into these two brothers in its 32 episodes to a degree that I was literally being nostalgic looking back to their journey, how they came to this point, as if they were my own -ALL within 1-2 minute of that sequence than… yawn tears.

    It's moments like this that is visual story-telling of the highest order. And it's moment like this tells me that while jormungand is most pure-entertaining anime of 2012 and SSY may be the best of fall 2012 + also one of the most thought-provoking anime in the recent time, but, through it all, Uchuu Kyoudai IS the best anime of 2012, bar none. NO contest.

  2. B

    Yeah pretty much have to agree with Doddle's last sentence there. From here it's really really hard to see a way for this show to screw up so badly that it will fail to be #1 of the year. I really don't think there is a way for not to be at this point, it could completely turn to shit starting next week and we'd still have 33 episodes of uninterrupted quality. But we all know it ISN'T going to turn to shit, which means the streak will be longer than that. Having difficulty remembering a show of this length that was so consistently good. Even my beloved Monster had episodes that seemed like boring filler (1 or 2) but I can't remember a weak episode of this show, even the "filler" ones were entertaining enough that I didn't care.

  3. D

    My reaction concerning this episode…

    Hibito assisted in the lunar landing, but what's his official position aboard the shuttle or in the lunar base? We haven't seen much of a specialty aside from his physical strength and high learning capability.

  4. S

    God I forgot that scene of Dumb and Dumber. Love that movie. He seems like he has the pilot function mostly. In the past we saw the crew learning to operate the cleaner thing (although everyone is supposed to learn in). He also had a lot of flight manuals that Mutta read quite a bit on how to operate the lunar module.

    Although, it seems like all of the crew would be able to do that.


  5. e

    The part that undid me was Hibito leaping so happily. He looked so light.

    … it's a bit hard to comment this week. Y u so good Space Bros and Enzo writing about Space Bros? Crying – and laughing – now. Again.

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