I have some issues with the direction Space Brothers has gone over the last few months. I miss Mutta, though I think the decision to devote this arc entirely to Hibito was arguably the right one – his character desperately needed the depth, while it’s as if Mutta is a member of the family already. A much bigger problem is the fact that the episodes we’re getting are basically half-length, what with the long recaps at the beginning and the almost indescribably useless cartoons at the end (which seem, if anything, to be getting longer). Mutta we’ll be getting back next week – Racist Cartoon Theatre seems to be here to stay.
But when you consider the not inconsiderable creepy factor that goes along with the Hibito-Olga storyline, this ep was surprisingly effective and on-point. Rarely has anime handled lolicon with this much dignity, and what’s really surprising is that Uchuu Kyoudai never fully backed off the notion that Hibito was actually thinking about it. As far as Olga’s dancing proving an inspiration and the pains of a schoolgirl crush, that figured to be handled well, and it was. But one could hardly walk away from this episode without thinking there was something more there, which only disturbs me not in the moment, but after the fact.
It was also nice to see the tie-in to Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut “whose smile lit up the cold war”. No space-based story should every leave Gagarin on the sidelines, as he was not only the first man in space but at unspeakable risk to his own safety. As well, at the time where animosity between the West and the USSR was at it’s most vitriolic Gagarin was an international hero. While he had some slip-ups in his private life, as a public figure he was gracious and charismatic to a fault, and his determined agitating for more safety precautions in the Soviet space program eventually got him pushed aside to a largely ceremonial job, just as seems to be happening to Hibichov.
I was disappointed there wasn’t a longer goodbye scene with Ivan, but he handled the news from his boss (who knew they had Tully’s coffee in Russia?) – all bosses are alike, it seems – with dignity. He told Hibichov to suck it up and keep fighting, though it’s going to be an uphill battle for him to earn another chance to prove himself with NASA. I also liked the farewell scene with Olga quite a lot, and not just because of Gagarin – she behaved exactly as a young girl trying to be grown-up would act, and managed not to cry in front of the man she thought she loved. The gift of the DVD was actually moving – again though, in the moment, because the more you think about it the creepier it seems. It was a nice finish to Olga’s story, which was a nice showcase for Hibito to show some real growth – but I really think it’s best for the show and everyone in it if that story ends here, once and for all.