Uchuu Kyoudai – 58

Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -4 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -15 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -26

It’s certainly obvious that Kouyama-sensei is one serious space geek.

We’ve seen lots of pretty direct references to well-known space movies in Spacee Brothers, most prominently Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff (especially during the first exam arc).  This time around it’s October Sky, the movie and the book it was based on, the memoir of NASA rocket designer Homer Hickham (who, in case there were any doubt, is referenced by name in the episode).  There were hints that’s where this was going with Vince and Pico’s story, but this week’s episode almost played like a tribute album.

In that context, I’m a bit sad that I didn’t like the episode more than I did.  I know exactly where Kouyama was going with this and I can’t say how well it might have worked in the manga, but in purely qualitative terms I don’t think it was an especially effective turn for the anime.  The original is a good film, not a great one (the book is better) but the problem is, that story was set in the late 1950’s.  Guessing at Vince and Pico’s ages (I would actually have thought Pico to be older before all this started, but perhaps that chalks up to the obvious difference in their lifestyles) and the series timeline, I’d place the flashback scenes in this ep somewhere in the first decade of the 21st Century.

Theoretically, that shouldn’t be a problem.  In practice though, it makes the story feel a bit trite – like a somewhat caricatured view of American culture from a Japanese perspective.  50 years makes a difference, and mining towns like the fictional Pothill, Minnesota, were nearly all on the decline by the early 2000’s.  It’s not unrealistic that the fathers of 15 year-olds with big dreams would be pushing their sons to think practically about their futures, but with the handwriting on the wall I’m not sure most Dads weren’t pushing their sons to find a future outside the mining industry.  And kids with terrific grades (like Vince and Pico apparently had, not surprisingly) certainly wouldn’t have a problem getting into a decent college.  The broader theme of big dreams clashing generationally with adults trying to crush them is certainly still a valid one – I just felt the execution was a bit clumsy.

The wild card in the flashback scenario is Rick, the third boy in this idyllic American pastorale.  He, Pico and Vince have made 15 model rockets, all of which have failed, but it’s Rick who provides the optimism and ebullience for the group.  He dreams of being the next Gene Kranz, while it’s Hickham that provides Pico’s inspiration to design rockets, and Vince dreams of following Brian Jay into space.  The obvious question is, what happened to Rick?  Did he stay behind as the others pursued their dreams?  The overtly sentimental tone of the piece and the cinematography seems to hint he may have died young, perhaps in tragic circumstances.  Maybe he just ended up being a supervisor at the mine, who knows – but he did come up with the “earnest failure has value” mantra that ended up making the connection between Mutta and Pico.

The earlier part of the episode – the conversations between Mutta and Vince – worked much better for me.  In the first place Mutta is the best character in Uchuu Kyoudai and it’s usually better when he’s prominently featured.  It was amusing to see Vince’s reaction when Mutta was completely unfazed by his driving (thanks to old Deneil Young).  And their conversation about enemies was an interesting one, reflecting the difference in their outlook.  For Vincent, it’s a pretty basic “you’re either with me or agin’ me” take, and he lists the media – nor surprisingly – but also the likes of unmanned mission designers and astronomers as enemies.  Mutta’s observation that the only enemy he has is himself pretty much nails him as a character.  He’s self-aware enough to realize it, for starters, but he doesn’t judge people superficially the way Vince does.  There’s an obvious bone of contention between the two of them on this issue, most specifically in the person of Sharon – one which Vince confronts Mutta about directly – the surface of which was barely scratched this week.  The conclusion of that conversation, more than the conclusion of “October Sky II” and the reveal of Rick’s fate, is what I look forward to in the next episodes.

Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -7 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -8 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -9
Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -10 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -11 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -12
Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -13 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -14 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -16
Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -17 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -18 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -19
Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -20 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -21 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -22
Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -23 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -24 Uchuu Kyoudai - 58 -25


  1. G

    Correct me if I am wrong but don't astronauts need to have perfect vision? I'm surprised Vince (who wears glasses) is one.

  2. Pilots and co-pilots would need effectively perfect version, but there are plenty of mission specialists who've worked in space with glasses. It's all about the path – Vince was obviously military but you don't need 20-20 vision in the military, just for certain roles (like piloting).

  3. R

    I have this question in my head for quite some time — why had Vince not get a speeding ticket yet? Mutta answered my question in this episode, but what speed limit is it that made the characters feel the speed? I was pondering on those father-and-son conversation and got curious…wouldn't most dads want their kids to achieve bigger, especially when they are doing well academically? Anyway, like you, I was impressed by Mutta's answer about enemy — which makes him even more likable — and got interested in learning more about Rick — whom I quite like even when he only got a small screen time saying a few lines.

  4. I've wondered about the ticket issue, myself. When they showed the speedometer Vince was passing 100 MPH, so my theory about Mutta's comment is he thought it was KM/H. On interstates the highest limit is 70, On state highways in Texas, it can go as high as 80. But 105 in a 80 zone is still a major ticket.

  5. B

    It's very possible that he has gotten one or more tickets, but as a high ranking astronaut he probably makes good enough money not to be troubled by them.

  6. Get a few 100+ MPH tickets and they take away your licence.

  7. B

    That's the theory but the legal system is fucked. A cousin of mine has gotten picked up for DUI at least 3 times that I know of and the most he's ever gotten is his license being suspended for a couple of months.

  8. B

    So.Cal, but judging by the other laws in Texas the traffic laws are probably more lenient there, everything else is ;).

  9. N

    hah, I also mistook the speedometer to be KMH and thought 'that's barely even fast'

  10. H

    I was also wondering if Mutta was mistaking MPH for KMH, seeing that everyone else seems to be thinking the same thing I guess that's the case (since there's no way in hell he's going under the speed limit if he's passing everyone on an American highway considering just about everyone goes five over to start with….). And I'm glad to see I wasn't the only person who thought that some of the backstory felt just a bit off, it's weird that a lot of Space Bros feels like it's really set in America yet I also had to raise at eyebrow at the idea of people in the 20 noughts thinking that a strip mine was going to last a while, that or a teacher saying "no one from this school has ever gone there before!" since there are so many stories of people from small towns going to large schools (a much more realistic argument would have been about money but I guess that didn't occur to the manga-ka, out of state schools ain't cheap!). Guess we'll just need to see how this all pans out.

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