The sense of new beginnings is strong with Space Brothers this week. This is what I’ve been asking for all along – the story of Mutta as an astronaut, being brought to our screens at last. The danger of course is that my expectations have been cranked up to eleven for so long that the actuality doesn’t measure up to them, but we’re off to a pretty solid start. As much greatness as there’s been in the first 45 episodes of this series – I think of it as the first half – it seems odd to think that it’s all been effectively a prelude, with the real story starting now. But in a very real sense that’s exactly what I think is happening.
As usual I’ll get my beef out of the way early, so I can get to the stuff I liked with a clean slate. I haven’t always been crazy about the extended side-stories about supporting cast members in Uchuu Kyoudai, but this was a time when I felt it was entirely appropriate. Getting a look at the Itou clan on the eve of Serika’s departure was nice – and bittersweet too, a reminder of what she’s lost before she had the chance to keep her promise. Even nicer was a look at Kitamura Ena, the member of the JAXA Five (heh, I like that) whom we knew least about. But why no Nitta? We now know less about him than Ena, despite the fact that he was on Mutta’s team in the isolation pods. In fact, we know less about him than Ena’s sister. It seems as odd oversight, and I hope it’s one we see corrected before too long.
In any event, once the pleasant but forgettable vignette of Ena’s family life is behind us it’s off to Houston at last. The signature moment of the departure sequence is the fact that Mutta puts on his jumpsuit when he gets to Narita – the only one of the five to do so, in fact. I initially interpreted this as a sign of his desire to revel in his new celebrity a bit, but it turns out it was a joke by Murasaki – a mail he sent (only to Mutta and Kenji – interpret away) with a tine “j/k” that was only visible after extended scrolling. Which the anal Kenji did of course, though the anal Mutta did not. Kenji later credits this to Murasaki testing the pair of them, sending them a coded message to pay close attention to details and act like an astronaut even if not dressed like one. Personally I think that’s horseshit, and Murasaki was simply being a smart-ass and Mutta fell for it.
Whatever the truth of the matter, it made for some interesting moments as Mutta experienced his first unscripted encounter as a celebrity. There were interesting moments in Houston, too, where Mutta’s pairing of blue jumpsuit and ten-gallon hat made an altogether cooler impression. The big new player in Houston seems likely to be Vincent Bold, as mentioned last week played by Tsuda Kenjiro. Bold’s M.O. so far seems to be pretty stock material – terrorize the newbies by driving too fast, dismiss the foreigners as lost causes, race through life at breakneck pace. I will say this – for someone who was in the military, he has a very odd habit – he never lets anyone finish a sentence. I get the idea – he’s in a hurry in every respect, no time to waste – but if you try that with a superior officer, there’ll be hell to pay. He has no problems disrespecting his NASA boss, Cmdr. Jason Butler (Tachiki Fumihiko, Gendou Ikari himself) by finishing his sentences, entering his office without permission and leaving before his orders are explained. With Bold set to take charge of the new candidate training, there’s some potential for formula conflict and redemption here, but I hope the series doesn’t stoop to that.
Ozzy and wife (shouldn’t she be named Harriett?) met Mutta at the airport, and off they whisked him and Kenji to Hibito’s house. Will Mutta continue to live there after Hibito returns from the moon (and re-adaptation to gravity) I wonder? As Kenji and Mutta watch an American sitcom (I’ve missed to wry but affectionate take on American culture in this series) Kenji begins to tell his friend about an “odd question” Murasaki asked him – something about the training being held every two years – but uncharacteristically becomes hesitant and never finishes his thought. It’s an odd moment, and clearly the lead in to next week’s plot.