Even in a room full of geniuses, it seems like Mutta is always the smartest guy in the room.
There were really no huge surprises in the way things shook out this week on Space Brothers, but it’s nice to see the show isn’t cheating the audience. The clues have been there every time, and the revelations generally seem to cast the events leading up to them as sensible and believable. More importantly, all of this happens in a consistently entertaining way, and the show mixes humor and serious subject matter about as well as it’s possible to do so. There’s an art to being funny without making the rest of a show seem trivial, but that’s just not a problem here.
Mutta is fond of complaining that he doesn’t have much luck, but it’s becoming clear that his trip to America was one of the luckiest breaks of his life. Lucky, yes – but certainly not coincidental. I think Hibito knew exactly what he was doing when he brought his brother to America, and the gang an NASA were trying in their own subtle way to give Mutta a little boost. I don’t remember if the conversation with Jennifer happened on screen (I’m pretty sure I remember it) but now we certainly know what Hoshika-san’s junior meant by “the green ones”. I loved the way the flashback to Jennifer’s speech was handled – really stylish and very funny – and it answered most of the questions hanging over the last few episodes just as I thought they might be answered.
In addition to once again providing Mutta a chance to prove his attention to detail and stellar memory, the green card incidents show something critical about group dynamics. Despite their little squabbles (Furuya’s general testiness, Nitta’s “Onii-san”, the broken glasses, Serika’s tummy noises - “Unleash the beast!”) Team A has a reservoir of trust and general goodwill built up over the course of the isolation. That’s paid off in spades here, as they’re able to cope with the stresses of the green card challenges without turning on each other. We haven’t seen direct evidence of it with Team C (though we have seen indirect mention) but it seems that the other two groups don’t have this – their choices regarding “ranking” each other and the general psychological makeup of the teams have made them much more suspicious and less team-oriented. And that’s probably going to hurt them all in the end.
Giving more credence to the idea that Team A has a major advantage is that it’s strongly hinted that the “two members per team advance” rule is yet another ploy by JAXA to mess with their heads. In theory everyone from Team A could move on – JAXA just wants to see how they choose to rate each other, and what effect the pressure of that has on them as groups and individuals. For all the somewhat light tone, these tests are actually quite brutal – everything is about stressing out the candidates and seeing if they can hold up. The green cards are especially devious, because not only do they test how the team responds to stress and suspicion, but also how the individuals given the cards respond to orders that might seem personally repugnant. And certainly, one could see that happening in a space mission.
We now know that Mutta himself is to be given a green card next week, which should be fertile ground for humor and character growth. He’s disarmed the tension for the team by figuring out the system, but he’s also misread Serika’s overuse of food as a JAXA green card (it wasn’t) and this has the potential to be a serious problem (perhaps it’s better for the team if they believe it to actually be a JAXA order). There’s also the matter of Mutta’s crush on Serika, which I still see a potentially serious problem – much light was made of his elevated heart rate when they shook hands, but hey – that could be a real problem for him as a candidate (imagine romantic feelings jeopardizing a mission).