Uchuu Kyoudai – 91

Uchuu Kyoudai - 91 -9 Uchuu Kyoudai - 91 -19 Uchuu Kyoudai - 91 -24

What do you know, we have another “good news, bad news” situation this week – but Uchuu Kyoudai has completely flipped them around this time.

Sometimes it makes sense to start a post by referencing the last one – specifically, the very end of it:

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.

Let’s go with the good news first again, because it’s simple as can be – I did watch the last couple of minutes of the episode, because Racist Cartoon Theater’s return was apparently a one-week aberration (abhoration?).  We did get an unnecessarily long flashback of recycled footage from Hibito and Damian’s misadventures on the moon (it’s not as if viewers will have forgotten it any more than Hibito did) but I’ll take that over Buddy the Gorilla any day of the week.

That’s well and good, for certain.  It’s probably going to make me sound like the bad guy, but in terms of the episode content itself I didn’t buy what Space Brothers was selling this week.  It’s not so simple as good guys and bad guys, but in effect I don’t buy the simplistic argument that Butler did the right thing and Gates was just being a douche – which is the argument it seems, based on this week’s evidence, that the series is making.  If I were in charge of making sure tragedies don’t happen on space missions, I’d rather have guys like Gates in charge of these sorts of sessions than Butler.

For me it goes back to exactly what I said last week – this is a drama with sentimental impact where sentiment should play no role.  Yet, the resolution ended up being completely driven by sentiment.  It was a reunion of most of Hibito’s lunar crew (maybe with Buddy actually in the episode, Buddy the Gorilla just seemed too tasteless), with Damian joining him in his simulated EVA.  It was Butler reminiscing about his old friend who couldn’t beat his disorder, and how much he wanted Hibito to beat his.  It all amounted to a nice, warm security blanket around Hibito – and that’s exactly what this test should not have provided.  Sorry, I call bullshit on this one.

Butler himself asked a very telling question – in effect, “Is the purpose of this exercise to test Hibito – or to help him?”  If we take Uchuuu Kyoudai at face value, its answer seems to be the latter – and I think that’s completely the wrong answer.  The time to help Hibito was in getting him prepared to be tested – with many good people did, bless them.  This was all about putting him under extreme pressure and seeing if he could stand up to it.  If he’s not able to do that – and to overcome his panic under his own power, with no training wheels – of what value is the test?  Let’s say this test was 98% effective in proving Hibito was sufficiently recovered so that he could safely go back into space (which I think is generous).  For me, that 2% far outweighs the 98%.

The burden of proof is on the defendant here, sadly but unavoidably.  The truth is there truly is no way to completely guarantee that someone in Hibito’s shoes is safe to return to space, which is why NASA should be so skeptical of his return.  Any test of his readiness should be focused on trimming down that uncertainty percentage as much as possible, which means throwing as much pressure at him as possible given the reality that deep down, he knows this is a safe environment.  It should not be on helping him pass by whatever means necessary.  I don’t blame Hibito’s friends for wanting to help him, or Butler for wanting to see him succeed.  But it won’t only be Hibito whose life is put at risk if he turns out not to be ready to have returned to space after all, and only finds out during a mission.

This was a good episode in dramatic terms, no question.  Mutta was great, as he always is – I loved the cafeteria scene with Karen and Serika, and I loved the contrast between his masculine “brothers should keep their distance in times like this” take, and theirs that he should be at Hibito’s side.  The BGM never fails to soar and touch the soul, and the way Hibito’s test played out was certainly artfully done and touching.  I just have strong issue with the message being sent, and I think it’s a departure from realism that doesn’t do a show that needs to maintain a certain level of realism any favors.  There may be more to this story – Gates walked in the middle of the test, having in his eyes seen enough, so he might raise a voice against Butler’s interpretation of the results.  But he’s probably be cast as a villain for doing so, and if he is that will be a serious misstep as far as I’m concerned.

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Uchuu Kyoudai - 91 -25 Uchuu Kyoudai - 91 -26 Uchuu Kyoudai - 91 -27


  1. G

    I LOL'ed at the eating from rice bowls and using chopsticks in the NASA cafeteria.

  2. o

    I think you're missing the point. Or either that, you've developed a negative view on this show (either due to the racist cartoon or a suggested romance between a 30 year old and a 15 year old girl, the two issues I wouldn't argue) and become increasing less forgiving/judgmental over what you perceive as anything short of perfection for you when it comes to this particular show and just not enjoying it or buying it in general. To me, while still considering it as a good to average show, you seem to appear having lost the faith on it for a while now. Keep in mind, this is my opinion, so in the end, there is no "the answer".

    It's an anime show that is about inspiring people, especially Japanese kids, with a bit of realism, above all else; I think you're forgetting that the large target audience for this is kids. if you want realism, you should've watched documentary rather than this. They dug themselves by putting Hibito in this situation and had to do it this way -if Hibito fails here, it won't be space brothers anymore, but just "Space brother and a civilian". Had Hiboto passed this with a flying color, you probably called it BS as well for overcoming PD for easily and quickly. On the other hand, how come you could buy the premise of this many NASA Japanese astronauts (7) at the same time, let alone "two" Japanese brothers? What about 100% Japanese food in the cafeteria? I can name a laundry list of things this show lacks realism or 99.9% of anime in its history.

    While I get your point about the whole sentiment vs realism, I completely disagree with the tone of your summary for this episode. It's your opinion, all right, but if I didn't watch it, I'd have thought this episode was a garbage if purely based on your take. The message of this show is always about inspiration and sentimentality over anything else from the beginning. It's one of the best episode in my opinion, especially cinematically. Very nicely done. Perhaps maybe because I know what will happen with Hibito arc 6-7 episodes later, I'm more biased than you. It'd be easy to dismiss it if one watches this thinking "I don't buy it at all". But above all, I'm surprised that after 91 episodes, you seem to have lost faith in the show and its direction, at least enough for this harsh episode summary, and I see more and more negativity coming in except for a few positive writing here and there over the last 20 episodes or so. It's a pity for me.

    However I do appreciate your effort for keep covering the show -even if you may or may not have the same enthusiasm for it any longer -at least to me, you don't. It's the only reason to come to your blog for me as pretty much nobody else covers it. And I hope it stays that way.

  3. I can hardly even begin to list the inaccuracies in this comment (which one only has to scroll up to the post itself to confirm), never mind the huge chunks of it that are completely (by your admission) conjecture on your part about what I might or might not be thinking about the show.

    This isn't Zvezda we're talking about here – this is a show that purports to maintain at least a certain degree of realism about its subject. It's a seinen, and while certainly family friendly the largest chunk of the fanbase is adults – but never mind that, I don't advocate talking down to kids by dumbing down the material and saying "it's OK, it's just a kids show". Give kids a little credit and they'll surprise you by how savvy to BS they are (often more than adults).

    I don't equate dramatic license issues like having multiple Japanese astronauts (which is an obvious concession to the fact that this is written for a Japanese audience) or two brothers in the program (which makes a lot of sense in the context of the story – i.e. Mutta had a strong personal patron at JAXA and it was rightly seen as a PR coup) with a situation where you're talking about the wisdom of decisions made for the space program itself. I'm pointing out what I feel is flawed reasoning in the way this crisis was resolved, and the fact that a show that often displays remarkable subtlety chose to break this down into a good vs. evil situation where you were either rooting for Hibito to make it back or a bad person. In reality everyone wants the same thing – to prevent astronauts from getting killed. If in fact Hibito had passed the test with no problems on his own – without the test having been rigged in his favor – I would have had no problem with it. Sometimes people do beat panic disorders, especially those that are caused by a traumatic event rather than a deep-seated neurosis, and it's not as though Hibito didn't put in a lot of work to try and get there.

    Also, for the record, while I realize it's never going to change it is irksome that there appears to be no acceptable middle ground when it comes to criticism – if you don't love a show unreservedly, you must hate it. And any calling out of perceived shortcomings is incontrovertible evidence of the latter. I know people like things black-and-white but the world doesn't work that way.

  4. L

    I can understand your point of view, even though the scene felt good and I liked it also felt a little weird. But it still hasn't ended, I will wait and see what comes of it, Gates and Butler, what will become of Hibito's situation…

    I want to believe that Butler's question and explanation is more him saying that NASA will not overlook this kinda of problem and just let peoples career end like his friend or what would had happened to Hibito, at least it was how the scene seemed to me, like trying to help overcome it instead of demanding results. I don't think this test is enough to him to be put back on training to be chosen to a future mission and I think that NASA's staff thinks like this, and I want to think that it will take this direction, nothing's really solved and this test was really more about Hibito being able to recover than him being able to go on a mission.

    Well, this is more of what I want to see and very little of what I think will actually happen, still, I will wait.

  5. You're right, this isn't over and there's still a chance there could be complications resulting from this (as I mentioned in the post). But what I don't think is subject to change is the kind of value judgement we saw in the episode – I think the POV of the show as to who was right and who was wrong is pretty much cast in stone here, and it was a bit too cut-and-dry for my personal taste. Though again, as I said, I thought the execution was excellent.

  6. M

    I think the reason that this doesn't bother me so much (even though I did notice it) is that there's honestly a very real problem with trying to figure out how best to tell if someone's recovered from a mental condition like PTSD.

    There's something to be said in seeing if a person can handle the most extreme of conditions in an otherwise safe environment (which Hibito accomplished, even though that isn't really the point here). It makes sense at face value. If they can handle the worst case scenario, it can be reasonably assumed that the person in question has overcome their problem.

    By the same token, it's not actually clear if that's the best way to deal with the problem from the observer's position. After all, doing well on a test that you've specifically prepared for (even one such as this) is not always indicative of similar performance in a far more variable and inherently hazardous environment. One could make the case that getting someone back into a familiar and more positive state of mind might actually work better in terms of preparing someone for service. After all, getting someone's mentality right can go a long way in helping someone solve a mental problem. If you can get them to behave like they did before the incident, then that may be as good a sign as any that the problem can be assumed gone.

    Of course, that brings us back to the difference between "to test" and "to help." These two approaches are significantly different; and, honestly, I would expect NASA to go with the former in real life. The latter's level of sentimentality is something I cannot see NASA considering in most cases.

    That being said, Uchuu Kyoudai has operated on heightened levels of sentimentality since episode one. It's a shounen series, and despite all its many (and very valiant) attempts at presenting the subject matter in a more realistic light, it can't escape the fact that it tends to ignore the colder side to this entire process that one would expect. If it did take that into consideration, we would likely have a much shorter series where Mutta failed at becoming an astronaut. Faulting it for this problem now, to me at least, seems a little unfair.

  7. Well if you want to bring up genre no, this is not a shounen – it's a seinen, published in a seinen magazine. And irrespective of that,, while I don't deny that it has a sentimental streak (it's a story, for crying out loud) I certainly disagree with your assessment that it's categorically ignored the colder side of the process. When it comes to something as important to plausibility as this, I don't think the series has punted on the realism to this extent.

  8. M

    A seinen magazine, huh? Damn, learn something new everyday, lol

    And I'd say that Mutta getting into the program at all was pretty unrealistic. It took a lot of coincidences to even net him the chance, everything from an inside promoter and a freak accident. I find it harder to suspend my belief over that perfect series of events than this.

  9. M

    Oh, and I forgot to add one clarification.

    I'm saying that they "categorically ignore the colder side of the process." This show should be applauded for how it tries to portray things in a realistic light. I just don't believe that it's so realistic that this particular event is unusual. Having said that, I am interested to hear Gates' side of things when they inevitably confront him about it. If his response indicates the "good vs bad" vibe that you got from the episode, then I would definitely count that as a strike against the series.

  10. A

    Maybe you're overthinking this, because over all this is not a documentary on NASA working practises, it's a fictional drama about two brothers. It's been pretty much a given that Hibito was going to get back on the horse at some point, because the story pretty much demands it.
    It's just a harmless bit of dramatic license, and there's nothing really wrong with that.

  11. The issue was never going to be whether Hibito gets back into the game, the quesion was – how was it going to be handled? And if we don't judge a series by how it handles its watershed moments, where and how should we?

    It's a matter of perspective. If what happened here doesn't compromise what you're expecting from the show than absolutely, it's harmless dramatic license. For me it does, so I consider it a misstep. You're not wrong, because your expectations are just as valid as mind or anyone else's. But I don't have to agree with them.

  12. E

    its a strange world. id been watching and enjoying the mr.hibbit thing till i read what the politically correct way to feel about it should be. now im asking myself if im unknowingly racist. but i know the answer to that is no.
    whats at odds with the rest of your writing, is your devotion to the making it clear that you're offended by the cartoon. repeatedly.

  13. M

    Enzo wears righteousness like a scout badge, and shoulders Amurika's cruel past like a cross. The world follows in feeling their shame…

  14. E

    and i think gorillas are quite wonderful.

  15. a

    Maybe its wiser to consider another perspective about the events that happens in this episode if we want to frame them closer to reality.

    Clearly, the human factor exists and makes people on charge take wrong decisions based on human feelings. After a thorough investigation It was clear that the Columbia and Challenger disasters those factors were important causes (for example, awkwardness, pressure, etc.) . Probably, these kind of decisions are taken every day, when everything goes OK they won't never surface.

    We can consider that Butler is actually being unprofessional taking the decision to support Hibito in his way back to the moon, but that the human factor here is so strong that an underperforming and risky decision is being taken. If by any chance a disaster occurs when Hibito is on duty, a root cause analysis would be performed and they would discover that Butler was unprofessional making pressure on his colleagues to allow Hibito to go back to the space.

    In this context, the question would be if in the current NASA right now (or in the short-term future Uchii Kyoudai is supposed to happen) would be plausible for a wrong decision like this to slip through the astronaut selection process.

    From the technical perspective this happened in the past (Columbia and Challenger are examples) and I personally think that it could and it will for sure happen in the future.

  16. If the series takes the route that Butler made a mistake here and was unprofessional, I'll be very pleasantly surprised. It seems pretty clear he was being set up as a hero. That's a bigger problem for me than the decision itself, as I think I made pretty clear in the post.

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