CANSAT – the quicker picker-upper.
Now that I’ve dated myself with that reference, on to Space Brothers #59 – “Rocket Boys Under an October Sky”. As expected, this was the continuation – and seemingly the conclusion – of the show’s homage to Homer Hickham (who tweeted about it this week) courtesy the backstory of Pico and Vince. And to be honest, I’m mostly glad it’s over – there were moments, but on the whole the sequence didn’t really work for me.
I don’t necessarily have issues with the realism of the story. The notion of such a small town such as this existing in the time frame suggested isn’t nearly so outlandish as some younger viewers have complained. Indeed the only real difference between Pico and Vince’s memoir and Hickham’s is time – somewhere between 40-50 years, depending on how old those two are (I’m guessing 40-ish) – and location (Minnesota vs. West Virginia). In the context of the story that latter distinction doesn’t matter a lot, but the former is undeniably important – a lot more mines were a lot less profitable in the first decade of the 21st Century than in the late 1950’s, and a lot fewer fathers would be pushing their sons to work in them. But there are still some, even today, so while the story feels oddly dated as presented here it isn’t totally out of line.
No, my problem is with the execution. Sometimes Uchuu Kyoudai can he pretty ham-handed with the cultural observations of other countries – it tends to do better when looking askance for humor then when trying to be earnest and heartfelt. So even if this flashback was a failure, as we know “an earnest failure has meaning”, and I guess that’s in the stronger bond between Mutta and Pico (and Vince, which will matter more going forward). But dramatically it was kind of a bust – the seiyuu sounded pretty silly, the dialogue was cornball and it was pretty clear all along what was going to happen to Rick Turner (Okitsu Kazuyuki). If Pico and Vince were to be humanized via flashback, I would have preferred a much shorter one – for most of the last two eps I’ve been thinking how much more interesting it would be to listen in on Mutta’s bar conversation with the two of them. We know of at least one interesting thing Vince apparently said – “Team E has had the most accidents, so they’ve improved the most.”
Once that was dealt with, things picked up considerably. We got a very solid dramatic moment when Azuma and his team arrived on the moon – after a rather pompous poem from Freddy Saturn – a scene whose only fault was that I wish it had been longer. Seeing Azuma and Hibito reunited at last was pretty powerful, given what’s passed between them – even Hibito teared up, though to be honest the most moving part for me was the thought that Azuma was finally on the moon himself, after giving up his seat willingly to the Moon Bunny. There was also a tease of the Comeback Competition, which proved Pico really has come on-board with Team Mutta – he tipped them off that there had been spotty rain showers in the desert, which could prove an obvious problem for Mutta’s sponge tires. What will Team E do, likely given only an hour to jury-rig something to deal with mud or even puddles? It seems as if help may come from another Japanese team in the competition, via the man in the “Sea Diver” T-shirt.