Looks like next week could be a big one for Space Brothers, one of those watershed episodes the series builds up to every cour or so. We may see Hibito at last confess the truth to Mutta about his condition, and we may find out the fate of our three erstwhile Japanese moon-walkers. Or we could get a tease and a cliffhanger, as this show is a little too prone to do with those big moments sometimes. With no New Years break planned, there isn’t so much need to have a dramatic moment to finish the season so anything’s possible.
One of the basic truths about Uchuu Kyoudai as a series – perhaps the most basic – is moar Mutta = moar win. This show is just better with him in it, plain and simple, and in looking back I can’t think of a single episode I’d feature in my top 10 or so that didn’t feature him in a prominent role. He was more of a supporting player this week, though we did get to see a bit of interaction with Fuka (and Nitta, who’s been a bit underused since the desert training arc). The Japanese dearly love their puns, and one of the great things about Mutta is his ability to relate to anybody on any level – including six year-olds. Kids are pretty sharp about who’s for real and who’s a phony. Also bonus points for the can of “Spanky!” cola on the table.
The main focus was on what’s most definitely the most important B-plot of this series, Hibito and his long journey back from his panic disorder. Unfortunately more and more this had become hopelessly entangled with the Olga story to the point where they’re basically inseparable now, and I must admit that the more we see of that the more it’s a near-total miss for me. I don’t dislike Olga but the whole premise of her story being such a huge inspiration to Hibito seems rather silly and trite, and I continue to find the whole thing has a solid creep factor to it. And if I were Olga I’d be seriously pissed off at having every moment of my childhood obsessively filmed with annoying voice-over commentary. Enough with the whole thing, already.
The larger issue of Hibito’s recovery is what counts, and it’s a big one. He’s made all the progress he can with his therapy, and now the moment of truth comes: trying to sell the bosses that he’s recovered. The shot of Butler in the Gendo Ikari pose was absolutely fabulous, but I have worries about where this is going. I think Hibito’s recovery has already been a bit too rapid in order to satisfy dramatic needs, but there needs to be some serious deliberation before any decision is made to allow him into space again. The stakes are just too high here – if he has an attack on an EVA or on the lunar surface, it’s not just himself at risk but the astronauts who’d have to save him. In truth I wonder if NASA would ever allow someone like that back into space even if he seemed cured – there are so many qualified astronauts who never get into space at all – but at the least, Hibito wouldn’t have been on the next lunar mission anyway having just been up there already. Realism check is coming quickly.
I think the moment where Hibito finally comes clean to Mutta is a big one. We haven’t really seen him rely on Mutta as a big brother for the entire series – Hibito has always been the assured and successful one. Much as it seems with Eddie and Bryan, from what we’ve been shown – which is one reason why I’m a bit disappointed that we keep getting scenarios where Eddie should appear, and he never does (this time it was visiting Brian’s grave on the anniversary of his death – maybe Eddie is still up on the ISS?). Eddie remains, for me, the character who has the greatest gap between the role he should have in the story and the one he actually does – symbolically he’s at a crucial spot but practically he barely exists. Maybe that will change in the next few episodes, as Hibito ponders Azuma’s advice and Mutta learns who his companions on the next lunar mission will be.