Space brothers is about two brothers’ journey to space. Its a feel good comedy about reigniting your passions in life and chasing dreams you thought were impossible.
Namba Hibito is cool, carefree and about to become the first Japanese person on the moon while his older brother Mutta is down on his luck, having been fired from his job designing automobiles. He gave up on his dreams years ago but a little nudge from his little brother starts him on the journey to realise his childhood dream of joining his brother in space.
So first off this is not a show about adventures in space. There is of course some space travel but it is more of a character driven comedy that showcases a lot of training as well as the grueling selection process on the road to becoming an astronaut. But even though that may sound boring it does manage to keep interesting plots happening most of the time, and its a pretty funny show so I think that makes up for it. It has a bit of a lull around the 25 episode mark but if you keep going it ramps up again, it is a very fun series and will make you (in the words of the opening song) feel so good.
So as I mentioned this is a character driven show. There are a lot of great characters. I particularly enjoyed the cringeingly awesome parents, and Lowry the American Weeaboo astronaut who is always misusing Japanese phrases but the whole cast is pretty colourful. Our hero Mutta is a loserish 30 something year old with hidden talents. He is the perfect hero for people in their thirties (or late twenties like me) who want to start dreaming again. It is a bit more mature that a lot of the anime out there but still has those awesome Japanese elements I love like a celebration of lofty dreams and the determination and resolve to realise them.
As for the art I felt like this wasn’t a focus for the creators. The individual pictures are a bit more on the realistic side and while they mostly look ok on their own the animation itself is often stilted and awkward. After a while I stopped noticing it most of the time but every now and then there would be some really awkward movement, for example there is a particular dance scene that looks borderline creepy. But for the most part you are just watching simple animation and it does the job.
One negative thing I will say for this show is that although the ending is good it kind of ends in an unsatisfying place. The last episode was exciting and resolved stuff and didn’t feel rushed, but you will see when you get there (if you watch it) that it doesn’t end where you want it to end. I do sort of hope they start the anime again because even though I liked the ending there were some things I wanted to see happen.
This show is incredibly feel good. It has some more real moments but overall its the kind of show that is always a bit warm and fuzzy. They are basically a bunch of lovable space nerds fulfilling their dreams, and triumphing thanks to determination and hard work. So yeah if you are turned off by things that are too happy, or where things work out too well for the cast you might find that annoying. Personally I found it suspended disbelief really well. However it did have the unfortunate side effect of making me wish I was an astronaut. So be warned.
At first glance Space Brothers seems to be an anime about two brothers that just go space and do astronaut things, but oh ho, dear reader, it is so much more than that. It is a realistic journey delving into one of the most difficult professions ever conceived by man. Now that the series has concluded [for the time being], a proper review is in order. But first, we better shake hands.
Space Brothers cleverly depicts the pursuits of Mutta and Hibito, converging their storylines at some times and following them separately at others. This structure is beneficial to the flow and progression, and earns top marks from me. It also uses an intriguing method of linking the past to the present, showing the audience how the brothers' upbringing helps them with the challenges on the path toward fulfilling their dreams.
This leads me to the most notable aspect of Space Brothers – its insanely realistic plot. The amount of research that author Koyama Chuuya had to have done is mind-boggling. In fact, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) actually helped out on it, which is noticeable throughout. Plainly stated, you just can't make some of this stuff up! Which brings me to an important question potential viewers always ask: why is it so long?? It takes a lot of time and effort to become an astronaut, and it is quite clearly portrayed in this anime. To condense any of what is shown would be an insult to real astronauts. As a rare "long seinen," I approve.
Additionally, it's difficult to NOT be impressed with immense detail that the mangaka put into the setting. For instance, whenever the main characters travel to the United States, American fans are simply blown away by the accuracy of the places illustrated, such as the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Texas. Though I've never been to either of these locations, it almost feels like I've been on a virtual tour, just by watching an anime.
This leaves me with the literary brilliance of its themes. As is evident from the title, family plays an important role, and not just the Nanba family; though it is crucial to note that "family" is not limited by blood. Although this is a comedy [and it can be pretty funny at times], it is well balanced by its serious moments. Furthermore, this is an anime about going to space.. which is a very scary place where the consequences of failure are colossal. This anxiety gives the experience an even keener flavor. Of course it deals with moral issues and other difficulties in life as well. Sacrifice and the test of friendship is a prevalent theme as the journey to the top requires leaving many behind – not everyone can be a winner. The anime also tackles psychological and neurological hardships, in addition to exposing the stress put on the families of the astronauts. However, the theme that Space Brothers always comes back to is that hard work and guts [and a lot of luck] will always pay off, even if the immediate results appear unfavorable.
Though there isn't very much "action" in this anime, A-1 pictures does a great job in the animation department. Movements are fluid and expressions are believable, to say the least. In terms of art style, Space Brothers uses an interesting blend of intrinsic "anime-ness" along with the natural proportions and appearances of.. well.. real life. Something that caught my eye was the attention to heredity. Characters of the same family tended to look like each other and/or their parents, which is an uncommon trait in anime. It's a nice addition to the realism this seinen provides. Hair is also quite interesting. Each character's hair style/color stays within the bounds of reality while still remaining unique from other shows. Bonus points to Serika's hair for somehow making me smile every time she's on screen.
Now, I feel this is the weakest part of the show. Don't get me wrong, it's still good, just less so in comparison to its strengths. The music is used to enforce and empower the displayed emotions and elicit the intended feels from the viewer, but the anime reuses the same songs... over and over. I actually made it a game to see how many episodes it could go without playing the same "feel this now" song. I guess you get used to it after a while, but it is worth mentioning. The last third of the anime gets better at diversifying its music. The OPs and EDs are pretty good though, my favorite being ED5, "BEYOND" by Miho Fukuhara [yea, the same Fukuhara that did Brotherhood ED2].
My favorite part of this anime is the incredible characterization! Practically every character is memorable due to the depth in which each is described. Their motivations and actions logically follow the person that they've become. You can easily fall in love with any number of them, and palpably feel heartbroken if things don't go their way. Viewers with weaker hearts be wary, though I never cried myself, I acknowledge that much of the anime can bring you to tears. There are several instances in which a character's reactions and facial expressions deliver far more emotion than any amount of words could. This attribute alone makes Space Brothers stand out from other anime. Simply put, the entire cast is a rainbow of personality. I don't really want to go much further into detail.. that would ruin the magic!
This is a great show, easily one of my favorites. Whenever I found myself in an anime rut, I just sat back and watched a couple episodes. Another thing that's worth noting is that the anime is very inspirational. Seeing Mutta go through so many tribulations gave me hope for my future, and that my efforts in the present will yield fruit down the road. Maybe that's just me though.
Space Brothers is an excellently constructed anime that combines a heartwarming story with delightful comedy, using realistic characters to show the audience just how difficult it is to become an astronaut.
Oh yea, we can end that handshake now.