Damn it, this is a series that seriously knows how to milk a cliffhanger. That’s certainly something that requires a lot of skill, but it’s no less irritating for that. The agony drags on for week after week, just as it did with Mutta’s final exam results. The difference here, of course, is that unlike the episodes that dragged out that ordeal these last few have been riveting – but the trade-off is that we’re getting ever closer to the end of the series, and with it any chance of seeing Mutta actually living out his dream as an astronaut. I feel like Uchuu Kyoudai’s time is running out right along with Hibito’s oxygen.
I guess the fundamental dilemma of this arc for me is that it’s probably the most conventional thing the show has done, yet it’s being executed exceptionally well. I like Space Brothers best as an unconventional anime, and as arresting as the drama is here I don’t want to see the series wrap up with an arc that doesn’t feel true to it’s most elemental nature. But I won’t deny that my nails are worn to the nubs, and this was another one of those episodes that felt like it ended far, far too soon.
I’m seeing some irritation among viewers with the Flight Director at NASA for not following Mutta’s hunch and sending Freddy and Buddy to the spot Mutta said Hibito was likely to be. I don’t share it – in my view, Houston did exactly what they had to do. They have a flare sighting that gives them a confirmed location where at least one astronaut is alive, and a S.O.P. that dictates that the astronauts should stay put until help arrives. What’s one trainee’s hunch against that? Having no way of knowing what Damian’s situation was they had no reason to think Hibito wouldn’t have followed the procedure. I don’t blame Hibito for what he did, and I don’t blame the F.D. for what he did. When accidents happen on a space mission, there are rarely any easy answers.
Hibito’s decisions are interesting to analyze here. As we’ve seen, he’s not all that big on plans and procedures – he’s an impulse and determination kind of guy, and I could see that being his biggest failing as an astronaut. Let’s just imagine, for a moment, that Damian had succumbed to the cold before Hibito got him to the sunlight. In that event, the only reasonable conclusion is that Hibito would have died as a result of disregarding procedure and not prioritizing his own survival. If Hibito had stayed put, he would have been rescued with time to spare – he had plenty of O’s and a fully-functional suit. Yet we also see that his “go with the gut” side might also be his greatest strength – he took lemons and somehow made lemonade through unconventional thinking. Strapping Damian to Gibson and leaving the crash site, and most especially using a flare to keep him alive a little longer – I have no idea if that’s even feasible, but it’s definitely a wild idea. It can’t be denied that as a result of Hibito’s improvisations Damian is alive when would otherwise surely be dead. Which is the right way of thinking – and which kind of astronaut do you want in your crew? I don’t know the answer, but it’s something to muse upon.
There’s a little bit of national chauvinism going on here with the way everything is playing out, but it’s understandable. It’s Mutta who pegs the spot where Hibito is likely to go, while NASA ignores his advice (he has the advantage of having grown up with Hibito of course) and I suspect it’s Azuma who’s going to end up having saved the day. How? By sending Brian to where Mutta suggested – a sensible if convenient development. I assume that’s what he was whispering to the Flight Director anyway, and though I guessed that Brian would end up saving Hibito this isn’t quite what I thought it would look like. In fact it appears to be the double of the “Eddie” doll currently orbiting Earth with Brian’s brother in the I.S.S. – just how it got where it did I’m not sure (maybe Brian left it there as a kind of statement or jape) and I also don’t see the direct connection to the Brian oxygen generator, unless it’s strictly a poetical one.
There’s a lot of poetry to the situation though, I have to admit – Hibito following the flash as – in his mind – the last thing he does in life. Curious to the last – the mark of any true explorer. Perhaps it will be following the flash of mini-Brian that somehow leads Hibito to the Brian that matters, which would be a bit of a reach if you ask me, though certainly sentimental. In any event it seems as if Brian is Hibito’s only hope now, as there’s no way the Beetle will arrive before his O’s run out. At least Damian is safe, presuming his body didn’t suffer any lasting damage from hypothermia (that’s why doctors go on space missions). The way this is all being played is both beautiful and shameless, but I won’t try and deny I’m completely on tenterhooks to see what happens. And “Bravo” to A-1 for not spoiling everything with the preview. I find myself very torn on this: I’m desperately hoping both Hibito and Damian survive, yet that would be the far more conventional way to end the arc. I still believe plot armor protects Hibito, but it would be one hell of a powerful moment if he died.