I’m not a fan of the Amanti fortunetelling plotline for reasons I’ve already discussed in these pages. It’s a racial stereotype, it’s a stretch of credulity, it’s been dragged out way too long. In short, it’s a thread that allows this very good show to indulge some of its least desirable tendencies. But as ever Chekov’s Gun can’t be resisted – this is out there, and now that it is it has to be dealt with. So if this is the start of that process, I can live with the irritation of seeing it referenced so often in the episode.
Enter Aunt Sharon. I like this character a lot, not least because she’s a sort of direct conduit to the sentimental side of Space Brothers, the part that replies on the bonds between people who love each other for dramatic impetus – in short, she allows the show to indulge some of it’s best tendencies. There’s a lot of weight to the story of how she inspired the Nanba boys to become the men they are today, and their interactions with her have generally been handled very successfully. I also like the way she represents yet another element of the diverse coalition of those who love space explanations – the ones who can never go to space, but “can see father than anyone else”. Her moon telescope project was one of Mutta’s inspirations, and it’s likely to be a part of the story when he actually begins focusing on missions in space.
That’s why I have mixed feelings about her appearance this time, because it looks as if she’s going to be the vehicle of Amanti’s plot device. When Amanti finally womans up and tells Mutta the truth, she says someone very close to him will become very sick – and not Hibito, since he’ll be just as upset. Haha and Chichi seem as annoyingly genki as ever, so Mutta is basically left lying awake at night wondering who the victim might be. It’s not until Sharon calls Mutta to let him know she’s in the US (for a presentation at the Goddard Center) that he connects the dots and wonders if it might be her – and when she drops the phone during their conversation, it’s all the more reason to be concerned.
Frankly, this development could go either way. I could see it being really powerful, but as good as Uchuu Kyoudai is with sentiment it has overreached a few times already. One potential side benefit could be that this is the twist that finally brings Serika back into the story in a meaningful way. She’s been mostly comic relief and a prop after a promising introduction, but she has obvious connections to Sharon. For starters, she’s a fan – her reaction when Sharon called Mutta was probably her best scene in months. She’s also a Doctor – and she became one because her father died of a brain disease. All we know so far of Sharon’s symptoms is that she has a loss of motor control, and while that’s not much to go on it could suggest early-stage multiple sclerosis, or ALS, or even Parkinson’s. We were never told what disease took Serika’s father, but ALS seems like one strong possibility – and even if Sharon doesn’t have the same illness, this is obviously a subject very near to her heart and within her realm of specialty. It also offers a chance for she and Mutta to connect over something more meaningful that foor or his infatuation with her.
It would be sad to see Sharon used as a plot driver in such a way, but it would be a very interesting direction for the series to go. And she’s certainly been a driver of many developments up til now, including the revelation this week that she told Hibito as a child that he had to always “lead the way” for Mutta. It’s a curious thing to tell a younger brother, but it explains to some extent the drive Hibito has always had both to forge ahead and to goad his brother to follow. At the moment Hibito is something less than his normal ebullient self, suffering from the effects of Earth’s gravity and more or less at the mercy of his parents’ well-intentioned ministrations. Meanwhile Mutta is finally getting ready to start his pilot training at Ellington Field – apparently even in the future, it’s still the T-38 that astronauts must be licensed to fly (even now that plane is a bit long in the tooth). Does this mean an imminent return of Deneil Young?