Uchuu Kyoudai – 70

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I think I’ll just pretend that bit after the credits never happened.

Another pretty solid episode of Space Brothers this week, as our story begins a distinct new phase.  One thing that’s always impressed me with this series is the way it seems to have a firm understanding of the way office politics works – it’s perhaps even more impressive (and more accurate) that its knowledge of the space program.  I think what it amounts to is Koyama-sensei being a huge space geek, and writing a knowledgeable space geek’s version of the space program – but most likely being a guy who know the corporate environment, management and group psychology not as a geek, but as a participant with first-hand experience.

The decision which fell on Mutta this week is one that many who’ve been involved in corporate careers will know well.  There’s a general belief that when the bosses offer you a promotion (and to a newbie astronaut a spot on any backup crew amounts to a promotion) you should say yes, period.  Why?  Because if you say no, there’s a chance they may not ask you again (Naval officers reportedly face this same syndrome when it comes to being offered a command).  Bosses like people who show appreciation for what they’re offered and take any opportunity that comes their way, even if it isn’t their preferred path.  If you say no to any offer – for whatever reason – it amounts to taking a huge risk with your career.

We can debate Mutta’s reasoning for turning down Butler’s offer to be on the backup crew for the next ISS mission.  Was it truly selfless, and he simply wanted to stand aside for Serika?  Was it simply a matter of his desire to go to the moon trumping all else?  I have no doubt that Mutta legitimately wanted to help Serika, but my own view is that it wasn’t his main motivation – in truth, it probably amounts to some combination of both.  It’s to his credit that Mutta didn’t go out of way to tell Serika of his role in her selection, and presumably Butler (who correctly sussed out that Mutta was in love with her) never mentioned it.  In any case, the first half of Operation Sharon is now pretty much in place, and it’s on Mutta to work on the second.

Vince’s role in all this is not to be underestimated.  You can bet that as the officer in charge of ASCAN training for Mutta’s class, his recommendation was the most vital in getting Mutta offered the ISS slot.  He was legitimately irritated that Mutta turned it down, and it’s a sure bet that Butler himself – already being a skeptic – is even more turned off by Mutta now.  But Vince sees something in Mutta and hasn’t given up on him, and as usual what seems to be the booby prize for Mutta (Deneil Young, Vince, Pico Norton) is actually exactly what he needs.  This buggy-improvement assignment is the perfect fit for Mutta’s talents – not only is he a vehicular engineer, but a genius at problem-solving.  There’s no way NASA was going to get someone with his private industry experience to work on this project any other way, and it’s a chance for Mutta to tackle an assignment with a very specific goal in mind, and produce tangible results.  Thanks once again to Vince, for having Mutta’s back.

I can’t ignore the gorilla in the room – though I may just pretend the “Mr. Hibbit” segments don’t exist from now on.  Not only is this abomination beneath the dignity of Uchuu Kyoudai, it should be beneath the dignity of any series.  It’s hard to believe no one stepped up and pleaded for sanity here, and this made it to the airwaves – as far as I know it’s not part of the manga, so I don’t want to throw Koyama under the bus if that’s the case.  This is not a matter of political correctness – this is abject, disgusting racism – to portray an African-American as a gorilla could hardly be a more offensive stereotype.  To say that I’m disappointed in the series is an understatement – frankly, I considered dropping it on principle.  It’s so egregious that it bleeds over into the way I view the show itself – why, for example, was the African-American engineer the only one on Mutta’s new team who was never introduced by name, and had no dialogue?  Maybe that’s innocent enough, but when you tack on a minstrel-show level display of bigotry like “Mr. Hibbit” you’re going to poison the well generally speaking, in a big way.  It’s a real shame A-1 decided to go down this road because it’s doing significant damage to what’s otherwise one of the more thoughtful and humanistic anime out there.

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  1. G

    I just tune the Hibbit segments out when I see one starting. They don't belong in such a great series.

  2. M

    Someone on MAL said they hoped the Mr Hibbit show would always appear. I told them "I'd sooner commit seppuku.:

  3. T

    One of the first animes to portray AA relatively well goes and screws it up with this.

  4. e

    My optimistic take on the Mr. Hibbit segment given the series TV slot change – it's an all-ages one now, isn't it? – for the series is closer to a 'think of the children!' gone horribly wrong. It's still so very wrong. And even if it wasn't it's simply not funny. Waste of airtime.
    On the good part of the episodemy first thought at the mention of ISS was "he's going to propose Serika as a candidate in his place", because she's better suited for the job. I think love was merely a collateral although a welcome one that made him happier about his decision. Between his thoughts at the end of the chat with Kenji and his childhood flashback it's pretty clear I believe.
    And I had to smile broadly as soon as the buggy was on camera. Now Mutta's perfect for this job instead. Go Mu-chan go!

  5. R

    Seriously, I hit the stop button as soon as the Hibbit segment came on.

    Back to the episode, I was thinking along the same line. Should you stick to your path and even turn down an offer or simply take whatever opportunity that comes to you? I really don't know the answer and was worried for Mutta when he was with Vince in building 9N. Vince turns out to be a person with good intentions at heart, and giving Mutta the buggy-improvement assignment is a great opportunity for letting Mutta shine. We may see some challenges that he will face, but he will definitely prove his worth to NASA.

  6. l

    I just ignore that segment. Once the end credits and next episode preview is done, I stop and move on.

    Don't get your knickers in a twist over it.

  7. Just OOC, leongsh, are you an American?

  8. l

    Nope. Not an American.

  9. Forgive me for saying so, but I think the whole gorilla travesty is a little harder to piss away as "get over it" trivial if the history behind it is your own national history.

  10. l

    Forgive me for saying so, but all this righteous anger that you're having over that segment is just for your self-satisfaction because unless you can do something to affect the anime producers in Japan to drop it, it's all empty bluster as:

    (1) You do not buy the Japanese DVDs or Blu-rays of the anime;
    (2) You do not buy the manga;
    (3) You are not the targeted demographic in Japan;

  11. A

    Apologetics is always amusing, especially when it tries to hide bigotry and chauvinism under transparent hand-waves.

    I admit I didn't watch anything past the credits, so I didn't see the Hibbit segment, but I did notice the strange mistake in the Moon Buggy crew. Perhaps the writers intended this, as a plot device for the next episode or something?

    They have been pretty on-the-ball for most of the show, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of doubt.

  12. l

    Starting off with an ad hominem, Awet M? "Apologetic"? I'm not defending that segment of the show. I ignore it because I disagree with it and do not want to watch it.

    '..hide bigotry and chauvinism under transparent hand-waves." – The ad hominem attacks come fast and thick with you. Where is the bigotry and chauvinism that you are alluding that I'm supposedly hiding? Transparent handwaving? What transparent handwaving? About not buying the materials and not being in the demographic? That's a reality check. Unless you can start something that effects the change to make the anime producers aware, it's just being self-righteous, patting yourself on the back.

    You, are the one doing transparent handwaving, offering nothing in support for debate and using ad hominem attacks.

    For what it's worth, I'm a Malaysian of Chinese descent. My home country still has active racial discrimination (including by government policies), bigotry and chauvinism against those who are non-Malay descent. I live and deal with it on a daily basis.

  13. A

    Dysconscious racism comes in many flavors.

    Deal with it.

  14. So your argument is that unless I have any power to make the producers drop the segment, I shouldn't even point out the horrific nature of the bigotry it displays?

    Your overreaction aside, my point is simply that that gorilla thing has a history for Americans, and that it resonates in a way it might not for someone who isn't American. It's like dredging up one of the most shameful elements in our history and parading it around like a flag.

  15. K

    The black member of the Moon Buggy crew is going to remain be a problem. The entire crew is a riff off the main cast of Ghostbusters. The black guy is analogous to the Ernie Hudson character, who was essentially a hired hand and the "token black" in the movie. The representation was kinda-sorta insensitive in the Hollywood source material, and so it's probably going to be insensitive here.

  16. A


    Hand-waves that it is "japanese" or that "Americans aren't the demographics of the show" are no longer valid in this age of globalization, where an anime show drops allusions to 80s Hollywood comedy without much self-awareness.

  17. While I admit there's some superficial similarity between the Trader Joe's shirt guy and Venkman, I think the Ghostbusters analogy is a bit of a stretch. I can't say whether Koyama was thinking that, but it seems pretty unlikely to me.

    And anyway, Ernie Hudson ended up being a pretty important character and they actually made light of the whole "token" aspect of his character in satirical fashion, so I'd hardly call Ghostbusters up as a symbol of racism.

  18. K

    Enzo, come on. The four white engineers are named Peter (Bill Murray as Peter Venkman,) Dan (Dan Akyroyd as Ray Stantz, wearing the same goggles,) and Harold (Harold Ramis as Egon Spengler.) Not only do they look just like the original Ghostbusters actors, even their personalities match. And Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore, in the first movie at least, was the very definition of tokenism. All his interesting traits were left out of the final cut. He had almost no memorable lines at all. They didn't flesh him out until the later movies and spin-offs.

  19. Were they really named Peter, Dan and Harold? I didn't notice, TBH. If that's the case, I give – yes, it's a Ghostbusters parody. Although I'd hardly say we saw enough of their real personalities to say whether or not they match.

    I disagree about Winston – I think he was an intentional parody of the trope, and I thought he had his moments in the original. I'd actually feel better about Koyama if he used this situation the same way.

  20. S

    I don't think that the director is using "gorilla" as a racial insult. It's just a common Japanese nickname for big muscular guys, for instance Akagi in Slam Dunk. The director probably isn't even aware that it's considered a racial slur in the US.

    BTW I also hope that the Mr. Hibbit segment goes away because it just isn't funny. It doesn't help that the mini-recap at the beginning of each episode is getting longer and longer (more than 3 minutes!!).

  21. Y

    From what I understand, the gorilla thing doesn't have the same connotation in Japan. I'm not Japanese, so I can't be sure, but I tend to believe it, for the simple reason that they allowed this to go on TV…

    And as far as: '"Americans aren't the demographics of the show" [is] no longer valid in this age of globalization', sorry to bring some more stereotypes to the table but… This is a typically American way of thinking! Yes, anyone can now see this anime anywhere in the World. But it's still made by Japanese, for Japanese. They don't owe you anything.

    I'm not saying it's awesome or anything… But it's easier to get offended than to try to understand others. Peace!

  22. g

    I second you and the guy above.
    Theres quite the interesting discussion about this topic on the page posted by Maxulous (above). A lot fo people used the same argument and I tend to agree with them.

    Also, assuming that Buddy had to be represented as an animal.
    What other animal could he have been?

  23. And those who ignore (or are ignorant of) history are condemned to repeat it.

  24. L

    i'm cool with the gorilla and i'm american.

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