Uchuu Kyoudai – 86

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In returning to the surface, Uchuu Kyoudai comes back down to Earth a bit.

There was some very interesting news today – Space Brothers will be getting a theatrical animated film next summer.  It’s already had a live-action film of course – and a hugely successful one at that – but this is the first venture for the animated Nanba brothers onto the big screen.  It’s original material but will be written by the mangaka Koyama Chuuya (Watanabe-sensei will direct), so my expectations are pretty high (please – no Racist Cartoon Theatre).  It’ll be interesting to see how Koyama manages not to mess with the anime/manga timeline – it’s not like he wants to give away how things turn out, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of room for side-stories in the present.  I wonder if we may get something focused largely on the boyhood of the brothers.

But that’s then, and for now, the series is focused squarely on the trials and travails of the Nanba boys and the arc of their astronaut careers.  Space Brothers has been on very firm footing during the last several episodes, executing the sort of material that’s clearly its forte just about flawlessly.  It remains a joy to watch Mutta in his element, and the first ten minutes of this episode are its best, as they focus on the NASA reaction to his time in the NEEMO program and the mystery idea he arrived at when Dr. Sharon’s telescope got kiboshed.

What was that idea?  I’d say it’s classic Mutta – simple yet unorthodox, the same kind of unconventional sight that allows Mutta to consistently see the possibilities others miss.  This truly is a very simple idea – to use the mirrors intended for the telescope to reflect the Sun’s rays into the perpetually ill-lit (for energy reasons) base interior.  On the moon there will be no windows because of radiation, but this allows the base to capture the ample sunlight in an incredibly easy and cost-effective way.  And it shows, as his team’s observer pointed out, that Mutta was the one “thinking like he was on the moon”.  An astronaut on the moon will spend most of his time inside the base – why not do something to improve conditions where they’ll most matter to their quality of life?  As I said last week it’s awesome to see Mutta being awesome, and it’s clear Butler and his peers are impressed – if there’s anything NASA loves it’s technical fixes that use existing technology and don’t cost much.  But will it be enough to get Mutta a place on the next lunar mission?

But it’s here we leave the warm cocoon of this arc and venture back into other areas where the series hasn’t been as consistently successful.  Mind you it was time to check in on Hibito, and it was almost heartbreaking to see what sitting in boring meetings does to him – all of his boyish ebullience is absent.  It’s definitely a vital part of the story, and inevitably there are beginning to be issues with his secret plan – others are noticing that he and Dr. Olivia seem to be involved with Hibito in some way.  Lowry – whose weaboo humor can be hit-and-miss – manages to stall for time by passing the whole thing off as he and Olivia getting Japanese lessons – but it reflects a larger problem with the whole scenario that no one has really addressed yet.  Even if Hibito seems to have cured himself – and he’s making good progress using Ivan’s system – will NASA ever be able to trust him in a live mission again?  Wearing a pressure suit in controlled conditions without panic attacks is one thing, but doing so on an EVA – perhaps in an emergency – is another.

I confess I still find it a bit creepy to watch Hibito as he watches video of a little girl practicing ballet.  I get where Koyama is going here in terms of Hibito’s motivation, but the whole subplot is a bit of a mixed bag for me.I really hope we don’t wade too deeply into that again in the next couple of episodes, but rather keep the focus on Hibito’s personal struggle and indeed, his struggle with Butler and the brass.  And generally speaking, one thing we haven’t had much of lately in Space Brothers is the space brothers interacting with each other, so hopefully that will be remedied soon.  Hibito needs to trust his brother enough to be honest with him about what’s happened, for the sake of their own relationship if nothing else.  It seems from the preview as if thoughts will turn to the Jay Brothers next week, so perhaps that’s an indication that we might see some development along those lines.

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