This is without question one of my favorite shows of 2012, but when your favorite moment of the episode is the sign-off from Sanpei Yuuko after the preview (“Nan ja kore??”), you know it wasn’t one of your favorites. I’m all for long series that take their time with character development and storytelling, but as an audience, I think we’ve paid our dues with Mutta enough to find out what’s going on with him without suffering through an extended torture session first.
This was a fine (though certainly not great) episode on its own terms, but there are issues both with content and context that simply didn’t work for me. In simplest terms, I found the ep a little boring because, to be honest, Kenji isn’t the most exciting character in the world. To be blunt, he’s too perfect – nice guy, nice wife, great Dad, straight shooter, hunk. Yeah, I get it – I like Makabe fine, and I’m sure he’d be a great guy to work with. But dynamic he isn’t, and what’s more, it was such a foregone conclusion that he’d pass the exam that what was supposed to be a suspenseful buildup felt rather like a long slog through flashbacks that had their moments, but didn’t really add anything to our picture of the man. And I could have done without the fake-out at the end, which was quite predictable and utterly unconvincing. Usually, Uchuu Kyoudai respects the audience a little more than that.
What’s more, it appears as if we’re looking at at least one more week of milking the big reveal, as we’re likely to get an entire ep devoted to Serika’s phone call in episode 36 with no Mutta conclusion. What will follow – entire eps on Nitta and Mizoguchi? I’m not prepared to rule anything out at this point, and the scenario I started worrying about with last week’s preview appears to be coming to pass. It’s not that I don’t care about these characters, but this is Mutta’s story and it feels to me as if it’s time for Mutta to take the starring role in it.
More and more what worries me is that we’re looking at an adaptation that will end – more or less – with Mutta walking in the door for his first day on the job with JAXA. I hope not but with little more than a cour left and no conclusion to the announcement arc for at least two more weeks, it’s s possibility that can’t be dismissed. It’s not so much that it’s suspenseful – it’s not impossible that Mutta won’t make it but it would certainly be anti-climactic – but that for me the emotional payoff for all this development will be severely curtailed if we never get the chance to see Mutta living out the dream, at least for a while. I’ve staunchly defended the choices Watanabe-sensei has made with the pacing (and I’m assuming he’s mostly following the manga faithfully) but the direction they’ve chosen for this arc seems quite unwise to me. Perhaps time will prove me wrong, but at the moment I’m not especially looking forward to next week’s ep – and this is probably the first time I can say that about this series.