Space Brothers – 01-03 Review
Although it often seems like Mutta is trying to compete with Hibito on some level the story mostly follows Mutta finding his own way into space. But it makes for an interesting characterization to see this brother-relationship not interpreted as an obvious antagonistic conflict but actually a very emotional relationship without any melodramatic exaggerations.
Space Brothers 01-03: Why Are There Aliens in This?
One thing I’m really interested to find out in Space Brothers how exactly the finale will look like when the introduction of the first episode apparently introduced aliens to the scene. I hope it won’t be some cheesy deus-ex-machina-moment of aliens delivering a cheesy message to the audience and the characters. Far better than that would be a down-to-earth realization that there never were aliens in the first place but that it doesn’t really matter in terms of what the event ultimately meant to the two brothers. Although a weird change of pace where the show turns into a sci-fi-exploration-of-the-unknown-story would be interesting, too, I guess. Anyway, this series is one of the best ones of this season, I think. My Top 3 of the current season looks like this: 1. Sakamichi no Apollon. 2. Space Bros. 3. Fate/Zero II.
The brothers Mutta and Hibiki spent their childhood dreaming of going into space someday. 31 years old Mutta loses his job as car-designer and realises once again that he’s the loser of the two with his younger brother already being on the way to the moon. Hibiki, though, knowing of his brother’s qualities encourages him to also try fulfil their dream. With that Mutta’s struggle starts to get past the exam for becoming an astronaut at JAXA…
Hiroaki Hirata’s great voice-acting adds a lot to the image of the likeable fool. There are really some moments that probably wouldn’t have worked with a lesser voice-actor.
There are so few series out there where the characters are reason enough to watch a series but I have the feeling this is one of them. It’s amazing how the story takes flashbacks and actually makes them work. One of my major complains about Naruto always was how flashbacks became the fallback-plan for any sort of explanation. That’s not what you have flashbacks for. Flashbacks should be as much about the present as the past in that for example Christmas is still a happy holiday when you’re forty because of the happiness you felt around that time in your childhood. Most of the time, though, flashbacks become part of a logic saying that in the present happens b because in the past happened a we never heard of before but get to know now in a flashback-sequence. This series treats flashbacks far more dynamic than that and actually makes the characters more sympathetic instead of just giving them an irrelevant background for their personality.
In the beginning Space Brothers is the story of two brothers trying to solve the mystery of a childhood-event basically. Flashbacks play a great role in the first episode and they’re handled really well, I think. There’s often this now-and-then-mentality with flashbacks where’s a choppy obvious transition between past and present so that even the last idiot realizes he’s about to watch a flashback. Here in the first episode after a prologue it’s treated more as a memory relating closely to what happens in the present. It’s also great to see a near-future-sci-fi-series. Science-fiction just becomes another kind of fantasy (where technology replaces magic but ignores science nonetheless) in your typical sci-fi-anime-series and here the story bothers to reference recent events which make it easier to relate to the story as far as sci-fi is concerned. So the first episode was really well done, I think as far as storytelling is concerned.
Now the story is supposed to be about these two brothers trying to get into space. It’s weird how this is approached because what is the story ultimately about? Is it about how great the two brothers can work together? Or is it a contest? It certainly seemed more like the former with the way it concentrated on Mutta and Hibito supporting him all the way. Clearly the audience is supposed to cheer for Mutta who’s the unknown hero. He has success but he still ends up looking like a loser and with Hiroaki Hirata as seiyuu for the role I can’t help but think of Kotetsu from Tiger & Bunny, it’s practically the same role. The naïve but honourable middle-age guy that is basically a loser and who keeps on smiling all the way while trying to make other people’s lives better. And this trope of having a far more successful brother who secretly supports his brother since he alone knows how great of a man he truly is: it’s nothing new. It certainly has slice-of-life-feeling to it how the episode concentrated on the passage of time instead of showcasing the important moments.
Humour isn’t the strongest part of the series but a big part of the series’ charm comes from these little moments when it’s not taking itself totally serious.
After that first impression, though, the series goes on with Mutta trying to become an astronaut and meeting various people. But it’s all pretty much character-driven as that it seems like the series still wants to introduce us to the characters and how they interact with each other. Add to that the great use of the flashbacks and with the third episode the series got this dreamy slice-of-life-pacing to it that reminded me of Usagi Drop. You know what’s sorta happening and that at some point this other thing will happen but what I cared about while watching was just seeing the characters interact. There’s something very natural and endearing to it but I guess you could partly blame the characterizations itself for it because no character seems particularly menacing (except the boss who fired Mutta, he seemed like quite the jerk) or evil. All the characters are somewhat naïve, I think or at least innocent. And what’s so great about this series is that Mutta is a kind of anti-hero so when he’s confronted with ‘evilness’ he doesn’t get all high-and-mighty, he actually reflects on it and then decides whether he should be angry or not. I mean, you can see the character actually having a personality when for example some other candidates for the astronaut-exam accused him jokingly of using his brother as inside-source and Mutta’s first reaction is the exasperated revelation that he should’ve done that actually. It’s a bit strange, though, how Mutta has these self-esteem-issues like he already got used to the idea of being the loser in the family despite the fact that he was quite successful in his old car-designer-job. There is really this tendency to go with the innocent answer instead of a complex mature one to questions like that. Not that I think that’s bad, the series certainly has established a certain tone at this point and Mutta’s character definitely suits that tone.
After Apollon this is definitely my favourite new series of the season. The storytelling is very coherent in terms of tone, characters and pacing which makes it very entertaining as a slice-of-life-series. The innocent atmosphere of the series also made the first three episodes very endearing. If you like slice-of-life this with a bit of innocent humour this is definitely a must-see for you.
1st episode: 8/10
2nd episode: 8,5/10
3rd episode: 8/10