The official Space Brothers Twitter account has confirmed that next week’s episode – the 99th – will be the finale of the TV adaptation. I thought they might go for an even 100, but the ending itself certainly comes as no surprise – only that there hasn’t been an official announcement sooner, and perhaps more prominently. There’s talk of a “plan for the future” being announced at that time, so we’ll see what A-1 has in mind – that might refer to the upcoming prequel anime film, another live-action film, or something else altogether.
It’s a shame that this close to the end, in the midst of a rather sad and pathos-infused storyline, the anime should return to Racist Cartoon Theater – if they choose to end the last episode that way, I’ll really be incensed. That the anime should choose to end by focusing on Hibito rather than Mutta might be considered odd, too, but I think it more or less makes sense. In the first place “Brothers” is half the title for a reason. And then there’s the fact that so far this arc finds Hibito mostly unseen and focuses mostly on Mutta reacting to his absence – fitting because Hibito has always exerted more impact on the story by the way he influences Mutta than by his physical presence.
The direct line between who we are as children and who we are as adults has always been a prominent theme of Uchuu Kyoudai, so it’s certainly no surprise that it should continue to be so as it nears its conclusion. It doesn’t come as a surprise that disappearing without a word has been a habit of the carefree Hibito since childhood – nor that the responsible and neurotic Mutta should worry for him (even as his parents – more sanguine though perhaps too much so about their son’s nature – don’t). To thine own self be true.
Mutta really is a shockingly good big brother in so many ways, and it’s quite touching to see how much he thinks about Hibito in every phase of his life. In essence, what Hibito is doing here by disappearing is incredibly selfish, and this time it can’t be written off as the thoughtlessness of a small boy who doesn’t know any better. Mutta is in a terribly important phase of his own career, and Hibito would surely know – if he was troubled to think about his brother at all – that scarpering off without a word would impact his brother’s ability to focus. He doesn’t even respond to Mutta’s increasingly desperate emails – perhaps he’s out of range, or lost his phone, or perhaps he simply can’t be bothered to think about anything but feeling sorry for himself.
That this is a seminal moment of crisis for Hibito can hardly be denied. As someone who’s always steamrolled through life and met little resistance this is a new experience for him, and the nature of the crisis – his very competence being called into question – could hardly be more unsettling for him. That doesn’t excuse this behavior though. Mutta is left to try and figure out what’s happened, to deal with Butler (running away from your job without notice is hardly the best way to prove your fitness for duty), to reassure their parents – and it impacts his CAPCOM responsibilities. Butler warns Mutta that saying anything to Gates about Hibito would be a terrible career move – and he’s right – but by screwing up during his CAPCOM training (the Flight Director’s toilet break during the emergency was hardly a coincidence) Mutta could very well be jeopardizing his chances to go to the moon anyway.
I’m still not sure just where the series comes down on what’s happened to Hibito, to be honest. That it isn’t fair is something I think most would agree on. But is it right? Sometimes the right thing isn’t the fair thing, and to me this is one of those moments. The reappearance of Hoshika-san (a very welcome one in and of itself) at the end of the episode suggests that Hibito may have gone crying to JAXA about his treatment at NASA, which I really hope he didn’t. Perhaps rather than joining a commercial mission to rehabilitate his image Hibito will return to service directly with JAXA – we’ll see, but I can’t imagine that would be good for the NASA-JAXA relationship. How Uchuu Kyoudai resolves this situation is going to be a crucial moment for its legacy, I think – the series deserves credit for setting up a scenario with no easy answers, so I hope it doesn’t bail out at the last moment.