There’s a lot of sadness in Aunt Sharon’s story, there’s no two ways about it. It’s a risky move for Space Brothers to focus on this development, frankly, because even if this is a series that’s plainly not aiming for a conventional anime audience this is pretty heavy material. We’re watching the decline of a vibrant, brilliant and kind character into someone unable to care for herself. Everything she loves is being taken away from her, one by one, including her dignity. Of course this is how it really is with this terrible disease, and there’s only one possible ending for this story. Not many anime go to a place like this – it’s a courageous direction to take.
I don’t think the symmetry we’re seeing in Mutta and Sharon’s arcs is any coincidence. As Mutta is slowly but surely slipping the surly bonds of Earth, Sharon is becoming a prisoner in her own body, the shared fate of all those who share her illness. Ultimately there is an uplifting side to Sharon’s story, because through her own goodness she’s amassed an army of people now ready to do for her what she can’t do herself. Mutta quests to get to the moon in time to see her telescope built. Dr. Morrison, the University of Hawaii astrophysicist we met in Texas – who clearly fell in love with Sharon – pledges to be her hands, and take the lead in fighting to get the telescope funded and developed.
In the end, I don’t think that’s what Sharon wants – of course, she wants to do what she’s always done, to be the strong one who can do anything and teach any skill. But these are the small victories she’ll have to settle for (assuming Serika’s research doesn’t yield an unrealistically rapid miracle) in the time she has left. If this episode brought anything new to the table, it’s just how much her relationship with the boys means to Sharon – they truly were the children she never had. Presumably when her husband died, she never found another man she loved enough to start a family with – though there may be others reasons as well – but as far as Mutta and Hibito are concerned, each side got something wonderful from the relationship.
Meanwhile, Mutta is continuing his unorthodox and erratic journey into space. Butler wasn’t nearly as upset with Mutta for pulling off the vertical climb roll (in Deneil’s souped-up Max, no less) as I thought – though we don’t know what he planned to say to Mutta at Ellington Field. Mutta’s second aerial maneuver didn’t go so well – a heart for Serika at 6:33 PM, which she sadly could only see from the side because her bus was late. I seriously don’t think we’ll ever see any development in that relationship even if Uchuu Kyoudai runs a thousand episodes, but at least he’s shown her how good a pilot he is, and Serika’s less clueless female colleagues have seemingly figured out what really happened. The more immediate impact is that Butler thinks it was the heart that Mutta had called him to the airport to see, a rather middling stab at comedy that doesn’t quite work. But it does seem to spook Butler enough that he’s willing to accede to Mutta’s wishes in order to buy himself some breathing space. Another example of the man who considers himself cursed being blessed with some very good luck.
Quite resolutely absent (apart from Racist Cartoon Theater) from the drama of the last few episodes has been Hibito. But it looks as if he’ll finally be back in the spotlight next week, and he really did go to Russia, which by this time is apparently the epicenter for psychological research into panic disorders. I have no real idea where the story is going here, apart from the fact that there’s a hot female doctor involved in Hibito’s treatment. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the new of Mutta’s selection to begin lunar training, contrary to Butler’s worried but just as Azuma predicted, provides the impetus for Hibito to get on top of this and start moving forward.