A new season, a new OP and ED, and to some extent, a different sort of Space Brothers.
OP4: "Small World" by Fujifabric
Thanks to “Hugo” a lot more people thatn used to know about “A Trip to the Moon” and Georges Méliès – then importance of both to the history of film cannot possibly be overstated – but it was still nice to see it as the theme for the new OP this week (and that it was sung by Fujifabric, who also did the OP for Tsuritama). All in all this was one of my favorite OP animations ever – insanely clever and funny, relevant and respectfully irreverent. We also get another very clever ED featuring the Nanba boys in action, this time setting aside sports for music (with similar results). Given how overwhelmingly successful the manga remains in Japan, I haven’t given up hope that this series will be extended beyond this cour, so hopefully these aren’t the last OP and ED themes we get from Uchuu Kyoudai.
There was an episode as well, of course, and a damn good one – albeit with an ending that felt a bit out of character given what we’ve seen so far. The focus can now well and truly turn to space – on the older brother’s first halting steps to getting there, and the younger’s trials in the very real and practical world of space exploration. It started, fittingly, with a reminder that astronauts are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to space – a point demonstrated most eloquently by Nasuda with his “hito” analogy. Nasuda plays the buffoon well, but he’s proved over and over that it’s all an act – he’s as sharp as a tack, and got where he is despite his odd personality and unusual bluntness, not because of it. As Murasaki says it takes hundreds of support staff to send one person to space – and Nasuda’s image fits perfectly with Murasaki’s explanation. Just as all those others – even the director – exist merely to support the astronaut, the astronaut exists to support the hopes and dreams of all those others (and the public, too).
Indeed, it’s a long road to becoming a “real” astronaut – a month of insanely boring classroom lectures followed by 1.5-2 years of training in Houston before they even stop calling you a candidate. As always Nitta is stone-faced even as Mutta and Serika struggle to stay awake – and as usual, Kenji is the perfect teacher’s pet. Meanwhile we get an entertaining behind the scenes “Happy Moon Night” TV segment starring Buddy and Karen, sharing the details of growing food (deep-fried silkworms?) and generating oxygen on the moon. The latter involves a rather ingenious system of refining O2 from regolith and the water inside it – a system that the astronauts have renamed “BRIAN-01” for the man who first deployed it during his final mission. And that turns out to be a bit o foreshadowing.
Brian Jay’s appearances – in person or in spirit – have been some of the most powerful in Uchuu Kyoudai, and usually signify moments of significance. The series takes pains to never let us forget that no amount of technological advancement can change the fact that space travel is inherently a tremendously dangerous endeavor. The reminder this time comes as Hibito and Damian take the buggy to try and find the missing Gibson probe (which may have been the flash that Hibito saw in the distance). I like the reminder we’re given here that human frailty – in this case tricks of vision – is always a threat, but the scenario with the buggy seemed a bit odd to me. Would the astronauts not have detailed relief maps digitally projected in the vehicle? Would they not have a sonar system telling them of any elevation changes in their path? Especially after one near-miss, would they be so careless as to get themselves into such trouble again?
Ending an episode with this sort of cliffhanger (literally) is certainly a change of pace for Space Brothers (though plot armor seems a pretty relevant factor here). We’re not used to seeing that sort of conventional dramatic device used – and while my initial reaction isn’t a positive one, I’ll wait and reserve judgment until after next week’s resolution. It seems as if we’re going to get an episode that further explores the influence Brian had on Hibito, and if that’s indeed the point of this development a little convolution is probably justified.
ED4: "Goodbye Isaac" by Motohiro Hata