Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) Review

Space Brothers, a unique anime that is praised by critics yet very few have actually seen it.
Space Brothers, also known as Uchuu Kyoudai, follows two brothers, Mutta and Hibito Nanba, who, as children, witness a UFO, and this experience inspires the brothers to become astronauts. Fast forward nineteen years, Hibito is a NASA astronaut preparing for a mission to build the first base on the moon and to become the first Japanese man on the moon. On the other hand, Mutta has recently been fired from his job as a car designer, which eventually leads him to pursue his long lost dream of becoming an astronaut alongside his younger brother.

Space Brothers began airing in the spring season of 2012 and finished its run in the March of 2014 with 99 episodes in total. Despite praise from the few people who have actually seen it, Space Brothers is a criminally under watched anime. Part of the low popularity is obviously the episode count, making the second longest anime that I have finished. Also, it is a series about two men in the their early thirties, not high school students, and it is a drama set in a realistic world without many tropes or fanservice present in most anime, and yet, this is exactly what makes it one of the best anime of all-time. On a side note, even though the series is about adults and is targeted at an older audience, it is, surprisingly, family friendly part in regards to its content for the most part.

Also, I want to give a shout out to my favorite podcast, the AAA (Anime Addicts Anonymous) Podcast (you can check out their website by clicking here).

The Good: Lovable cast of characters, Realistic and believable, Many cheer worthy moments, Never melodramatic, Compelling character drama, Strong character development, Fascinating realistic science, Main characters are adults!, Superb performances, Inspirational, 

The Bad: Lack of conclusion, Some pacing issues, 

| Plot: 9.1/10 |
Space Brothers' story is split into arcs with each of the earlier ones focusing on Mutta's struggle to pass the rigorous tests to become one of the chosen few to enter the NASA space program. Towards the later portion of the series, the focus is split between the brothers, although Mutta is ultimately the main character.

One aspect that series does so well is the drama. Never is the drama portrayed in a melodramatic fashion, nor is it ever overly dark. What happens might be sad at points, but the series is often more uplifting and inspirational than anything else. Also, the series can create surprising tension with some characters being in real peril, and a certain arc is especially riveting.
Unlike most almost every other anime, the series is very much grounded in the real world. Space Brothers' world might be set ten years in the future, but it is portrayed in an incredibly realistic fashion with the future technology being based on realistic science. The characters and the process of becoming an astronaut are mostly realistic from what I know about JAXA and NASA, and it makes real world space travel interesting, even though it is not something that usually interests me.

However, there are two problems with the series; the first being the pacing. Even though most of the series is engaging, at certain points during Mutta's training, the series begins to drag out plot points a little longer than necessary. Also, on two occasions, we are presented with the backstory of a supporting character literally on the last episode we see them. The backstory for the character's motivations are shown, and then you never see that character again, and while it is not a major detriment to the story, it is strange. Fortunately, this pacing issue is only a small problem that only persists for a few episodes. My second problem is the most significant: the series lack of conclusion. While this may not be the fault of the creators, Space Brothers ends its 99 episode run with no sense of conclusion. It does not end on a cliffhanger necessarily, but it concludes at the end of a story arc making it seem as though the series will continue next week. With 99 episodes, you would hope the series would end on a good note, and while it is not a bad ending, it just makes me want more, and whether or not we get more is undetermined as of now.

| Characterization: 10/10 |
Mutta Nanba is the main protagonist. As revealed during the opening scenes of the series, he was born on October 28, 1993 a day when Japan lost a qualifier in the World Cup, which is a bad omen that Mutta refers to as the cause for his bad luck. On the other hand, Hibito was born on September 17, 1996 when Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo threw a no-hitter in a major league baseball game, which is regarded as a day of good fortune, thus the superstitious reason for his success. Interestingly, my brother and I were born on similar dates with a similar age gap between us, which adds another reason why the characters are relatable to me. It actually made me think about where I will be in 2025 when I am in my thirties.

Going back to Mutta, he is one of my favorite anime characters ever. Constantly throughout the series he is presented with obstacles to overcome, and as he overcomes them, the audiences wants him to succeed and when he eventually does, it makes you want to cheer! Throughout the series, supporting characters are introduced and their interactions with Mutta often serve to teach him valuable lessons to both progress the character and to be legitimately inspirational without being too blatant or in-your-face about it. While an anime like Clannad managed to make me legitimately sad, Space Brothers often makes you feel uplifted and inspired, and most of this is done through Mutta's progression and your investment in his character.

Hibito, Mutta's younger brother, is not present through most of the first half of the series. However, his character is further explored in the latter portion of the series with a story that is very compelling and well executed, and if the series is ever continued, his character is likely to take an interesting direction.
Space Brothers has a gigantic cast of supporting characters with some of the more prominent ones being Kenji Makab, Serika Itō, and Sharon Kaneko,and while not the focus of the series, their interaction with Mutta and Hitibo is a crucial aspect of the character development. On occasion, a few of the minor characters are annoying or overly silly, but this does not detract from the overall experience.

| Acting: 9.7/10 |
Hiroaki Hirata as Mutta is the standout among the cast as he gives a very distinct performance that makes Mutta's comical goofy antics work, while still delivering a strong performances in the more dramatic scenes. Kenn as Hibito is equally distinct in his role, and the supporting cast is all around fantastic. My only issue is that the series runs into some awkward language barriers since a large portion of the series takes place in the US with American characters, and as expected, the English speaking characters speak Japanese for the most part. The problems arise when an American character does not understand something in Japanese when he/she is speaking in perfect Japanese. It is not a major issue, but it is kind of strange at times.

| Animation: 7.1/10 |
A-1 Pictures' animation is the weakest aspect of the series. Being a long running drama with little need of complex character designs or fluid animation, most of the series is simply talking and inner monologue, and in that respect it is entirely functional. The character designs are simple, yet effect as to portray generally realistic characters, while still being distinct enough to never confuse one character for other in the large cast, and Mutta’s reactions are very expressive, even if they are reused often. The animation does shine during some of the space scenes though.

| Soundtrack: 7.2/10 |
Toshiyuki Watanabe's score features some great tracks. However, a small handful of tracks are used repeatedly throughout the 99 episodes. You can almost predict when certain tracks are about to be played during scenes, and while they certainly create the proper mood, they are reused too often.

| Humor: 8.7/10 |
While not a comedy, Space Brothers manages to maintain a light hearted atmosphere between the more dramatic scenes as to ever bore the audience. Mutta's character in general is humorous with his sometimes goofy antics being hilarious at times, yet nevering undermining the seriousness of the drama. Some of the supporting characters also provide comedic relief.

| Opening and Ending: 7.5/10 |
Space Brothers changes opening and endings every 12 episodes or so, and while some of the OPs and EDs are fun to listen to, most of them are only worth listening/watching a couple of times before you skip them, although the last opening is a lot of fun.

| Entertainment Value: 8.7/10 |
Due to the occasional pacing issues, Space Brothers did drag at times. However, as a whole, it is an easy to watch series, which is crucial for watching something with such a large number of episodes.

Uplifting and often inspirational, Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) is, ironically, one of the most down to earth anime to date. Despite two minor issues, the characters, cheer worthy moments, and compelling drama makes Space Brothers one of the most unique anime ever made as it sets itself apart from just about anything in the medium.

If you have the time for a long anime series and do not mind a less than conclusive ending, Space Brothers is highly recommended for just about anything that prefers more mature anime.
Watch if you like: Drama, Lovable characters, Sci-fi, Space travel, Seinen, Long anime,
2012 - 2014 | 99 Episodes | PG-13 | A-1 Pictures
Comedy | Drama | Sci-Fi 

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1 comment:

One rule: No strong profanity. If you want to link to one of your posts, please do; I am always interested in other reviews and such.

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