There’s an old saying – “Dance with the girl that brung ya”. In other words, stop screwing around and stick with what you’re good at. It’s not a code I would want to live by in every situation, but for Space Brothers it seems good advice more often than not. This hasn’t been as good a year for Uchuu Kyoudai as 2012 was, to be honest – it would have been a lock for my 2012 Top 10 List if it were eligible, but while I haven’t gotten down to brass tacks yet I’ve been wondering if that was going to be the case this time around. I don’t know if it will be or not, but I can say this much – this is the first time I’ve felt genuinely excited about this series for quite some time.
What this episode really boils down to is Mutta being awesome, and it’s awesome to watch Mutta being awesome. He’s a hero so unlike most in anime, a truly unique and seminal character and when given the right material, Hirata Hiroaki continues to deliver an astonishingly genuine and subtle performance. There’s another old line (the first time I ever heard it was from Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who): “Courage isn’t always about not being afraid. Sometimes it’s being afraid and doing what needs to be done anyway.” The truth of that presents itself in places like Otoyomegatari’s recent chapters, but in Mutta’s case I see it this way – it’s the fact that Mutta carries the same fears and anxieties and has the same shortcomings so many of us average people do that makes it so satisfying to watch him be exceptional. And make no mistake – he’s exceptional.
We’ll see what happens with the issue of Mutta and Kenji going to the moon – as I’ve been saying, I hope Uchuu sticks to its guns and makes the hard choice between them. But there’s no denying that when both of them are engaged in the task they complement each other beautifully. Paired with Andy’s raw power they make an amazing team, and Kenji certainly offers more than his share of good suggestions this week (especially constructing the small charging stations inside the Aquarius rather than on the seabed). The difference is that Mutta pretty much finds a way to make it work in any situation, no matter how challenging the personality of who he’s paired with (since the head-butt, anyway). If it’s a given they’re great together, the bigger question is – which one of them is likely to perform better without having the other as a crutch?
One of Mutta’s great inspirations in all this is Sharon, of course, but he gets some not very inspiring news from her via email – the original plan for the lunar telescope has been shot down by NASA. This has very practical ramifications – it doesn’t make much sense for Mutta to build something NASA has already decided it doesn’t want. But it’s also another test of his resolve. In a sense it’s a race against the clock for both Mutta and Serika as far as Sharon is concerned, and the odds are long that either of them will succeed in their mission soon enough for her to enjoy the fruits of that success. She as always gives him her signature rallying cry – “It’s a piece of cake!” – though this time it’s via keyboard and with a difficulty greater than Mutta probably realizes. And somehow or another this is the spark that sets Mutta’s strange and wonderful mind off on the tangent that figures out what to do with the materials he’d originally ordered for the telescope model.
Just what is that inspiration? That’s not revealed yet, but it’s clearly made a big impression on the NASA observation team watching the NEEMO project in action. In the words of the head observer of Team II, “Of all the astronauts living twenty meters under the sea these last two weeks, it’s clear that Nanba Mutta is the one person who truly seemed to be on the moon.” This cuts to the core of Mutta’s genius – he’s able to visualize that which is possible in a way few men are. If I can shoehorn one last quotation in, I think the words of Robert Kennedy fit very well here: “There are those that look at things as they are and ask, why? I look at things that never were and ask, why not?” That sums up the difference in the approaches Mutta and Kenji took when debating ideas for the moonbase in the first place, and why Mutta’s vision is so different from that of most people. And it’s also why he seems very likely to be on the fast-track to the moon, when there are others who superficially seem better qualified and more experienced. And damn, that’s a fun thing to root for.