Uchuu Kyoudai – 77

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Ah, Russia – the land where nesting dolls are everywhere. refrigerators have nothing but vodka in them  and every man is named Tolstoy…

I think it’s fair to say that for most of its run, I would have been quite skeptical if you’d told me that we’d see an episode of Space Brothers like this one.  But hell, in its way it was pretty effective, even if it’s nothing like the series I’ve come to expect.  I certainly like the fact that we’re seeing another side of Hibito, because that’s something his character needed badly (and I’m not talking about Mr. Hibbit).  I’m always missing Mutta every time he doesn’t show up (not that it happens that often) but in this event it was for a good cause.

That said, this was about as low-key and melancholic as we’ve seen Uchuu Kyoudai.  It’s certainly gone for its share of sad moments, but they’ve tended to be more of the grandly emotional variety – Sharon’s struggle with ALS certainly comes to mind.  Here, we got 22 minutes of grey Russian skies and dour characters.  It was mostly Hibito staring at video of Olga Tolstoy ages 5-10, as she struggled through her ballet lessons under the watchful eyes of her parents.  It was also Hibichov and Ivan sitting in a bar, the latter staring sidelong at the former, brusquely urging him that the first step on his recovery was ditching the near-beer and drinking like a real man (I wonder if there really is a “CCCP Bar” in Moscow).

No doubt, there were some intriguing moments here, and Ivan is emerging is a pretty interesting addition to the cast.  He manages to escape most of the ethnic stereotypes this show is wont to engage in (apart from the drinking) and offers a mature, hard-headed but sympathetic take on his young colleague’s struggles.  I especially found his criticism of the aftermath of Hibito’s accident interesting – he excoriated the Americans for being too cautious about getting Hibito out on an EVA soon after the accident, stating that the Russians would have had him out there as soon as he got medical clearance.  I have no idea if there’s any basis to this as it generally relates to the way the two counties manage their space business, but there’s something to what Ivan says here I think.  Now, as he says, Hibichov’s only chance is a slow recovery.

Judging by the way Hibito’s face looked (strikingly similar to after his accident, in fact) it’s safe to assume he and Ivan managed to find the bottom of a few glasses.  The life’s lessons he gets from Olga’s home videos are pretty broadly played, but for a guy at low ebb any inspiration is good inspiration.  That’s all the more true when he goes to record her performance (asked to by Ivan as a condition for not reporting to NASA that he’s bugged out on two days of training), only to find that the bumbling little girl is now the star of the performance, appearing in “The Astronaut”s Daughter” (which really should be “Cosmonaut’s Daughter”).  Given that Hibito was seemingly an overachiever even as a kid and never met much resistance in anything he tried, his story and Olga’s journeys are obviously somewhat different – but for now, I think that’s the point, someone who’s never struggled watching someone else who has, and got past it.  If Hibito needed a lesson like that he’s certainly had a living example he could have been looking at all this time, but sometimes the hardest place to see is right in front of us…

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