This was, for me, by far the best Space Brothers episode among all the ones that have omitted Mutta (or almost omitted, in this case). Perhaps the lesson here is that it isn’t just Mutta that’s needed to make the series sing, but a big brother – and of course, there’s another big brother out there who’s been waiting for his moment in the sun (or on the moon). And it seems as if that moment has finally come, though it’s been a long time coming.
For starters, we get the payoff to the piece of foreshadowing I noticed last week – that binder on Butler’s desk. It is indeed time to revisit the idea of a space telescope, which brings Dr. Morrison to Houston to make a new sales pitch – but with him comes Sharon (escorted by Hibito) who seems to have drafted the revised plan. It’s interesting that Butler seemed to be surprised by the connection between she and the Nanba brothers, but that’s all out in the open now. A few things are clear from this visit: the telescope will happen. Dr. Morrison is still in love with Sharon. Sharon is still 100% sharp mentally. But that moment when she disappeared into the van – boy, that had death flag written all over it. “Mutta will be upset that he missed you”, for starters – and then the way she waved goodbye to Hibito. Pair that with the fact that Mutta is about to complete her life’s dream, and things are not looking good for Dr. Sharon.
All the stuff with Sharon was well-handled, as it usually is. But honestly, I was checking the clock and hoping the issue of the real cliffhanger would be resolved. As you know if you’ve been reading my posts on Uchuu Kyoudai, I’ve been pining for some development for Eddie Jay for ages. Ever since that brief scene where he talked to Hibito from his lonely place on the ISS, there’s been something haunting and poignant about Eddie’s character – and he’s definitely been the forgotten man in the cast. My hope was that Koyama-sensei was doing this deliberately, building up to something that would poetically bring him back into the story. And as I mentioned last week, I hoped (but dared not hope too much) that he was the mystery candidate Butler had in mind to head the team of misfits training for the moon in Arizona. When I saw the ISS mug, that was when I knew things were breaking the right way.
In a sense, then, this episode is a payoff for an entire series worth of development. It redeems a lot of my faith in Koyama – which he’s tested at times with his tendency to slip into ethnic stereotyping (which in truth is still a problem). But as usual, he and Watanabe-sensei nail the really big moments. The title of this show seems self-explanatory but from almost the very beginning, it’s been clear that there were two sets of siblings it refers to. And the show always returns to this core theme – the relationship of brothers, the promises between them, and the burdens of being an older brother who can’t measure up to the younger superficially. It was always odd that Eddie was such an important character existentially, yet so unimportant in practical terms. Well, no more.
What we have, it seems, is the “Nii-san” crew – the lunar mission that was always meant to be. Who could understand each other better than Eddie and Mutta? And when we finally get to see Eddie fleshed out he’s just as I imagined him based on our fleeting glimpses. Kind, wry, a little tired – an artistic type (he plays the violin), with a seemingly modest self-image. As Eddie plays the violin, Butler plays him – using every psychological trick in his arsenal to get Eddie to accept the assignment he’s initially rejected. It’s clear Butler is a sentimental guy – maybe too much so for his position, but that’s to the benefit of people like the Nanba brothers, and Eddie too. The photos, the Brian stories, trying to play the violin himself (badly) – it’s all part of his master plan.
And, of course, it works. Eddie surely knows he’s being manipulated, but the truth is he really wants to say yes anyway. It’s a legitimate concern – he’s a guy at the end of his career, getting ready to retire (his seiyuu Kinryuu Arimoto is 74 – as for Eddie himself, he’d be in his 50s) and this is a huge undertaking to begin at the stage in his life. But a dream never dies, and a promise is a promise. This is really the moment the entire series has been building towards, and when Eddie sees those photos Freddie took on the moon his reaction is just as it should be (again, not overplaying these emotional payoffs is a hallmark of this series). And the inspiration his son Tommy provides with his “Death Metal Note” lyrics is a nice comedic touch with a bit of pathos to it.
There’s another piece of Uchuu Kyoudai news this week: the movie will, as speculated here and elsewhere, be a prequel. That makes sense given all the factors involved, though it appears it’s going all the way back to the beginning – an “origin story” (“Space Brothers #0”) – rather than fill in the missing years in between the flashbacks and the present. Koyama himself is writing it – he took time off from the manga to do so, in fact, which only hastens the date the TV will catch up, though he’s back in syndication this month. Watanabe-sensei will be directing, and the movie opens in Japan on August 9.