Space Brothers–Anime Early Impressions

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Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (Crunchyroll link) reminds me a lot of Planetes, a show that I liked a great deal. Both are high-quality high-minded seinen stories about near-future space exploration. Both are “hard” science fiction and make an earnest attempt to get the technical details right.

But after 3 episodes the comparison is not favorable to to the newcomer. Planetes had a cast of engaging interesting characters. Space Brothers so far has only one memorable character. Planetes had a dramatic story to tell. Space Brothers has at best been slow to get started.

The main character (and the only one who stands out so far) is Mutta Nanba (Hiroaki Hirata), an intelligent and hard-working man who seems to have been born unlucky. As a boy he and his younger brother Hibito saw a UFO which seemed to fly off toward the Moon. Impulsively Mutta and Hibito swore that when they grew up they would become astronauts and go to the Moon.

Now the year is 2025 and a grown-up Hibito has not only become an astronaut but also has been selected for a joint American-Japanese program to establish a base on the Moon as preparation for an expedition to Mars. (So did Newt Gingrich win the 2012 election? Never mind.)

Mutta has not done as well. After starting a career as an automotive designer he has managed to get himself fired and blacklisted for fighting with his boss. Casting around for something to do he decides, at the advanced age of 31, to apply for the astronaut program.

After 3 episodes Mutta has made it only part-way through the rigorous selection process. Presumably still to come: he will be selected and begin the rigorous training process. This is pretty slow going.

I’m willing to give this series a chance since what there is of it so far has been pretty well done. But if all that happens is that they go to the Moon, overcome some technical problems, and Mutta finds his confidence, I’m going to be pretty disappointed. (Please, at least give us aliens on the Moon, or Nazis on the Moon, or something that’s not totally predictable!)