There were several interesting developments in this week’s Space Brothers, among the most welcome being that the recap was considerable shorter and the episode was full of plot development on both major fronts. That’s even better news because plot-wise we’re at a very interesting point in the series, where the fundamental dynamic that’s existed from the beginning seems to be changing in a very fundamental way.
For me, this is certainly the most interesting development in Hibito’s arc. He’s fulfilled his role in the series well – that of the happy-go-lucky, fearless alpha male always providing inspiration and irritation to Mutta. But that role is inherently less interesting than Mutta’s, so it’s good that we’re seeing a totally different side to Hibito now. I find it telling that despite all the serious implications of his panic disorder for his career, what he seems most concerned about is that he’ll be “noticed” – most especially by his brother, but by anyone generally. It’s not Hibito’s nature to hide from people as he did at the airport, even if the autograph issue was a convenient excuse. For the guy who’s showed no fear, what we’re seeing is that his greatest fear might be having his image as a fearless man shattered.
This is important for obvious reasons, and some less so. The fundamental dynamic of the series has always been that Hibito blazes the trail with ease, and Mutta struggles to catch up. Hibito’s accident on the moon was a major but very conventional plot-twist that didn’t fundamentally change the way we view him as a character, but the aftermath certainly does. It’s good to see Hibito plagued by self-doubt and anxiety like any normal man would be, but even more, in practical terms we’re actually seeing Mutta as the one who’s confident and in his element, while Hibito is the lost boy. And it’s actually Hibito’s problem which is holding back Mutta’s development as an astronaut. It says a lot both that Hibito was willing to open to Sharon only after she confronted him, and that he asked her not to tell Mutta.
Concern for Hibito’s stability being the cause of Mutta’s being sidelined from lunar mission training is an interesting development (it can be assumed that the original offer of a role on an ISS backup crew was an attempt to sidetrack Mutta in the same way). Looking at it from Butler’s perspective, Hibito is a bigger priority to him that Mutta – and he should be. He also recognizes the PR potential of having both brothers go to the moon together, especially in light of the broken dream of the Jay brothers. I like that Butler – a former astronaut who seems loosely based on Deke Slayton – is shown to be very conscious of business considerations, as a man in his position would be. The intervention of Azuma, however, presents a counter-argument – that in fact knowing Mutta was gaining on him and that his own struggles to deal with fear might jeapordize their joint mission prospects would motivate Hibito to get better. It’s hard to know who’s right, but interesting to consider.
As for Mutta and his rover crew, he’s finally making real progress. A meeting with Damian offers the insight that a heavier rover would be more manageable on the moon’s 1/6th gravity – self-evident, as is the fact that it would cost a lot more to send one there. I can’t help but wonder why the rover couldn’t simply be weighed down with moon rocks once it arrived – perhaps there’s a valid reason I’m not seeing, or perhaps this is a matter of plot convenience. Again, though, we see Mutta in his element here – thinking outside the box and using his connections in the business world to circumvent NASA’s budgetary limitations. His old flying car idea is an interesting twist, and it’s no surprise his weasel of a former boss would love any opportunity to get some positive PR for the Miracle Car Company, to cut against the label of “the guy who fired Nanba Mutta”. The final answer will be revealed next week, but it seems Mutta’s idea is more complicated – a “road” on the moon’s surface? It’ll be interesting to see where that goes, but I suspect Mutta is going to get his wish to be in lunar training pretty soon – and that Hibito will simply have to deal with the pressure that imparts on him.