Uchuu Kyoudai – 90

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For the second time in a day I’m forced to ask – do you want the good news or the bad news first?

This was well on its way to being my favorite episode of Space Brothers in a long, long time – maybe as much as six months.  It had everything – suspense, drama, sentiment, even the almost poetical linking of the current Nanba Brothers with their boyhood selves that’s as elegant a way of connecting the present to the past as in any series I’ve seen in a long time.  When the ED credits started to roll I was astonished that the episode was already over.

Then it happened.

The first sign of trouble was the counter – about 18 minutes.  Uh-oh.  Even at that the episode still felt like it had flown by, but that was a troubling omen.  What would occupy those three minutes or so after the credits?  Surely it would be a preview of the movie, or some new omake concept they’d come up with.  They couldn’t possibly go back to Racist Cartoon Theatre again after it was already over and done with, could they?

I don’t want to make this out to be a deal-breaker, because I can – and will – simply skip the post-credits garbage.  It is an extreme downer though, not only because we’re robbed of 2-3 minutes of story every week, but because “Mister Hibbit” is both offensive and utterly stupid.  It seems clear now that A-1 is in the position of trying to drag the series out as much as possible now that they’re getting without shouting distance of the manga – my suspicion is that they want to get two cours (after this season) out of the unadapted chapters and in order to do that, they’re going to have to add a lot of sawdust to the flour.  C’est la vie – I guess it’s nice that this series is still popular enough that everyone would like to keep it around.

The episode itself was, as I said, one of the best Uchuu Kyoudai has offered up in months.  This series always profits when it recalls the childhood of the brothers because it adds layers of poignancy to their current situations, and this was no different.  I love the way it used those scenes as a framing device to the present and Hibito’s test – the mirror nonsense, Hibito and Mutta walking around in homemade spacesuits (it’s always quite noticeable to me how Hibito is taller than Mutta even in their youth, despite the age difference).  It all ties us into the “Pretty Dog” mirror and note than Mutta sends to his brother before the test, and the message the older brother gave to the younger that night when he learned the truth – “The spacesuit is our friend”.

I was quite glad to see that NASA stacked the deck against Hibito in this test, both because it’s realistic and because it’s exactly what they should do.  If there’s the slightest doubt, the error should be made on the side of keeping Hibito grounded – period.  Gates will be seen by some as a villain, I don’t doubt, but I think he’s doing exactly the right thing – there’s no room for sentiment in this decision (and it seems Butler may be allowing sentiment into the equation from his perspective). Hibito had to know a “green card” was coming – I would be shocked if he and Mutta hadn’t discussed possible curveballs before the test – but as Butler said, that astronaut part of him that says there’s a 10% chance this could be real might be enough to set off an attack.

It wasn’t – but when Gates added his own green card on top of Butler’s, things got really interesting.  The fact is, Hibito did panic here.  His heart rate increased to over 150 with the second warning (“CO2 Snsr Bad”) and he almost hyperventilated (which is ironic).  Yes, he managed to calm himself thanks to Mutta’s charm and Mutta’s words, but will that be enough?  We’ll see – I think it’s a close call.  This is an interesting dilemma Uchuu Kyoudai has created for itself here – they’ve engineered a drama with tremendous sentimental impact, but it’s one where sentiment really should play absolutely no role.  I’ll be interested to see how it resolves that contradiction next week – though I won’t be watching the last couple of minutes of the episode.

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5 comments

  1. G

    I liked the episode but shut it off once the racist cartoon started.

  2. o

    They are not "technically" cutting corners as far as adapting manga chapters since they covered 2 chapters as they've always done. The two chapters for this episode were fairly slow one (suspenseful, but not much action or movement), admittedly for anime, and instead of using some anime original fillers between scenes, they regrettably chose to re-introduce the silly Mr. Hibbit yet again. Sure, they could've adapted 2.5 or even 3 chapters when things were going slow, but they didn't do that in the past 89 episodes and no reason to believe they suddenly would do it.

  3. o

    One thing I'd like to add about the whole "Racist" cartoon theatre thing:
    I don't feel like giving the benefit of doubt for the anime writers since my understanding is that Japan as a culture -not individually- is still largely xenophobic and backwards. Some may say that one can find examples of big guy = gorilla (the most famous example I know is "Slam Dunk" where the characters are Japanese) in manga/anime and that it's not necessarily the race thing, but be that as it may, it still doesn't excuse it. So on that note, I'm with you that it's racist.

    What I am curious is that would any of you find it also offensive when other ethnic/racial character other than a black character is portrayed as Gorilla or monkey? Say what if they had the Mustached white guy as the Gorilla instead? Would everything then suddenly be okay and you're offended just on this particular paring due to the nasty history? Calling a Caucasian a gorilla somehow doesn't seem to carry as much stigma, right? Personally I am sadden that religious folks have hijacked this topic and ingrained into the culture for hundred of years that being connected to ape is a terrible thing. In a perfect world, calling someone an ape shouldn't even be an insult and instead be openly accepted throughout all ethnicities since we all are ape indeed and African-descent – and calling someone a gorilla should be merely like calling someone a tiger, a pig, or a honey badger and no more. But that's not going to happen anytime soon, I suppose.

  4. "Xenophobic and backwards"? Yeah, good thing you're not generalizing or anything…

    The reason this is especially offensive is because racists – the KKK, Nazis, the entire honor roll – have a long history of comparing this particular ethnic group to gorillas. It's not as though depicting anyone as a gorilla is flattering, but your question is like asking whether it's offensive to use a well-known anti-Semitic epithet against an Italian or a well-known anti-Asian epithet against a Hispanic. Sure it's offensive – but it's not the same when it doesn't have the ugly history behind it.

  5. N

    I know it's silly, but I always feel a little better when I see that my Japanese is better than Lowry's..
    coincidentally, I once had the ingenious idea of having a shirt printed with "日本語で何かです”, so that when people ask what it says, you could just tell them.

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