Amazing Stories

The story so far: Space Brothers

Hello there! I’m going to be doing weekly discussions of current sf anime episodes and previews of upcoming shows in this slot. Since we’re going to be dropping right into the middle of a few series, I’ll start with a look at where they stand now. Let’s begin with the one that’s earned a slot on my Hugo ballot…

Space-Brothers

International stream: Crunchyroll (North & South America, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Portugal; subtitles in English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese)

One night, Mutta Namba and his little brother Hibito saw a UFO. They promised each other that to find out about it, they both would become astronauts when they grew up. Hibito was able to keep the promise, but Mutta gave up somewhere along the way and became an engineer instead.

Now, in the year 2025, Hibito is about to become the first Japanese citizen on the moon, as NASA sends up a crew to establish a permanent human presence there. Mutta, meanwhile, is suddenly unemployed after losing his temper with his boss– and Hibito sees the perfect opportunity to get Mutta’s dream back on track…

The first thing about Space Brothers is that it makes you realize what a tiny narrative box science fiction is crammed into on Western TV. There are no saving-the-world heroics here, no raygun shootouts, just the story of a guy taking one last shot at his dream. The drama comes mostly from very human moments– like Mutta slowly learning to cope with the possibility of success, or a JAXA staffer who just barely failed to become an astronaut once taking up Mutta’s cause, or his and Hibito’s mother panicking the night before the moon launch, as it suddenly hits home for her that one of her kids is about to go somewhere extremely dangerous.

Running through all this is a deep reverence for space and science, combined with a can-do optimism that is often claimed to be lost to science fiction these days. NASA can still achieve great things, and even though danger awaits on the moon, with Hibito and another astronaut nearly being killed, all things can be solved with technology and teamwork.

You can jump into Space Brothers at any point and be completely caught up in an episode or two– no fast-paced action or convoluted plots here. But it’s worth watching at least the very first episode before skipping to later, because it gives such a great introduction to the two brothers’ personalities. If you’ve got a lot of spare time, check out all of last years’ episodes (1-38), and then you can put them on your Hugo ballot under Best Dramatic Presentation, like I have.

If you want to start where it’s currently airing, then here’s the state of play: Mutta and the four other candidates selected by JAXA have just been shipped off to Houston with their minder for two years of astronaut training at NASA. There they will meet a diverse international group of trainees, a trainer who appears to be set up as the antagonist for the next while, and a NASA director who looks eerily like Isaac Asimov. (Incidentally, the current closing theme is called “Goodbye Isaac”.) Meanwhile, Hibito and his crewmates settle into the routine of life on the moon…

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