There’s an internal logic to this confinement arc that, like much everything else in Space Brothers, is elegant in its simplicity.
Sometimes a lack of surprise in anime (or any narrative fiction) can be irritating or disappointment. For me, though, while almost every development here has been more or less as I predicted, in this case I think it’s a positive. In some ways the audience is putting themselves in Mutta’s place, treating this whole affair as a puzzle. So the fact that the puzzle follows the rules, and that the answers were there all along if you were paying close attention, gives me more respect for the writing and not less.
Basically, at the point the jig is pretty much up in both Team A and B. JAXA’s involvement in the green cards is more or less an open secret now, but in a perverse way it’s just as much a test to see how the candidates deal with that fact as it was when they hadn’t yet figured it out. And the differences between Team A and B continue to be striking. Despite dealing with a much more substantive problem in the shortage of food – and it’s one that wasn’t of JAXA origin, though only Serika knows this – their interactions have none of the malice of Team B’s. The difference in tension level between the two groups is really striking – Team A feels like a gang of friends slightly getting on each other’s nerves, but the air in Team B’s pod is filled with genuine threat.
It’s interesting to see the impact all this has had on Kenji. I never really thought he’d succumb to his doubt and give up, but in many ways I think Makabe has gotten the better of him – because Kenji has allowed it to happen. There’s a certain arrogance to the way he’s taken it upon himself to be the savior of his group, to provide them guidance and wisdom. Makabe is a 100% jerk, but (especially given his youth) I can sort of understand why Kenji’s unconsciously arrogant manner rubs him the wrong way. And the points system was a terrible idea from the beginning – as suspected, the whole “two per group” thing was a JAXA stress test in the first place.
By contrast Mutta’s leadership of his group has been much humbler and more effective. Though it isn’t always intentional he has a self-deprecating manner to him, and this makes him much less threatening to his teammates. The green cards in Team A have become something of an unacknowledged joke – Nitta did a terrible job concealing his sabotage of the toilet, and Mutta’s assignment is basically to make a fool of himself twice daily (he’s well-suited to the task). Again, they’re facing a very real problem – especially as someone (I suspect Serika) has actually gotten a green card telling them to sabotage the food supply. But I never get the feeling that they aren’t going to find a way to pull together and get through it. It may seem odd to be reading “200 American Jokes” in this situation, but I think it reflects just as well on Mutta as Serika’s choice does on her – perspective is more important in times of stress, not less.
In the end, I would assume all of Team A comes off looking better than Team B. Kenji seems destined to survive and he has many wonderful qualities, but he’s awfully hard on himself – and a bit presumptive, too. His daughter seems to be his greatest weakness (his constant worry about abandoning her) and his greatest strength (“Ka-pe” = “Ganbatte”). His “devil’s advocate” persona, likewise, is potentially both a strength and a problem, as I could see it proving a bit of an irritant in a confined situation. Kenji is a fascinating figure, a very complicated man – and I still don’t have a handle on just whether he’s cut out for space.