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.