Space Brothers (Crunchyroll) must be the slowest-moving anime series ever. After 38 episodes the hero has finally been accepted into the astronaut training program. Most shows would have managed this before the end of the first episode. I can understand why some have called this an “astronaut slice-of-life show.” But that’s not really right. There is a definite storyline here. It just progresses very slowly.
Yet I have to admit that I am still watching it. Maybe I haven’t watched every episode. It’s not the sort of show where you will get lost if you miss one. But I find it engaging enough to keep an eye on.
For a show marketed to kids this has a remarkably adult sensibility. (It’s a typical Japanese adult viewpoint. Stoic. Ironic. Shouganai na!) This is of course a daytime series but the viewpoint is much more grown-up than the majority of late-night anime. Not coincidentally this is one of the very few anime series to have an over-30 hero.
As with most anime there is a wish-fullfillment element. Changing careers in midlife to become an astronaut is a classic adult daydream. So this is adult wish-fullfillment.
As if trying to suspend the disbelief of adult viewers the show puts great emphasis on plausible technology and interpersonal dynamics. I doubt anyone will question that if America and Japan really wanted to they could combine their efforts and in a decade or so have constructed a small moonbase and be ready to start planning a manned mission to Mars. (And the social benefits would probably be greater than spending the money on agricultural subsidies.) It is only from a political standpoint that all this is as ridiculous as Dragonball.
If you can overlook this absurdity the show does have a lot to offer: good acting, solid animation and a lot a dry whimsical humor. There isn’t a whole lot of nail-biting drama. The whole point is that space flight requires years of meticulous preparation so that you don’t get killed.
Thus the refusal to gloss over the slow selection process. You spend months selecting the right astronauts, then probably years in training and preparation, all for a flight that might last only a few weeks. (And you hope that the flight will be the least dramatic part.)
This may be very realistic but how does it work as entertainment? It all depends on how much you like the characters and the humor. (And the unintentional irony. The show pokes gentle fun at Americans’ misunderstandings of Japanese culture, while itself making similar mistakes about American culture.) For me it actually works pretty well.