“Luck is what you make of it.” – Ozzy Smith
I first discovered the anime series Space Brothers on a lark in 2012. At the time, I was working for another website and randomly watching whatever I could find each season to discuss on the site’s podcast. Out of everything that I watched that season, however, I knew this series was special. From the first moment I saw Space Brothers, I knew I was hooked and now, almost ten years later, I’ve found a new purpose in life: get more people to partake in this series!
Originally a manga series created by Chūya Koyama, the series first launched in Weekly Morning magazine in 2007 and has been running continuously ever since. The manga is being released in English by Kodansha and has 38 volumes in print in Japan as of August 2020. They adapted it into a 99-episode anime series that ran from 2012 to 2014 and received a prequel movie in August 2014.
“I’m more Watson than Sherlock Holmes.” – Mutta Namba
In this semi-realistic sci-fi drama, the story follows two brothers who are each chasing their dreams in their own way. The first to be born is Mutta, who was born on the same day as the agony of Doha. The second to be born, three years later, is Hibito, who happened to be born on the day Hideo Nomo pitched a no-hitter in the major leagues.
In 2006, while out exploring one night, the brothers see what they believe to be a UFO flying towards the moon, which solidifies in their hearts and minds that they both want to be astronauts when they grow up. Fast forward to the year 2025 though and viewers find that while Hibito has chased his dream all the way to NASA and is preparing to be the first Japanese astronaut on the moon, Mutta has strayed from his dream and instead is finding himself unemployed after he headbutts his boss for talking poorly about his brother. Trying to help his brother out, Hibito asks their mother to send Mutta’s resume to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to give him a kickstart down the path to becoming an astronaut and realizing his childhood dream.
Over the course of the first 26 episodes, the story follows the two brothers who are at different points of the same path. Mutta will undergo multiple interviews, exams, and physical evaluations, while Hibito continues to train for his lunar mission.
“Ka-pe!” – Fuuka Makabe
Space Brothers will always hold a special place in my heart, and these first 26 episodes set will hook you too. In the first quarter of this television series, we meet a large cast of characters, all of whom are brought together by their common love: space.
Even if you’re not a huge sci-fi fan or if you only have a passing interest in outer space, the show’s characters will make you care more than you ever thought possible, just because they’re so passionate. Nobody feels like a caricature, they feel like they are as real as the many real-life astronauts named in the series or even the ones who guest star along the way. It’s because of this that I can’t fault Space Brothers for having such a large cast. When you have a series like this, one that mimics reality so closely, you realize how many people you meet in your day-to-day life. Some of them will end up playing a significant role in your life and some only stay for a short time, but every single one of them is important because it’s those daily interactions that help shape who you are.
“When in doubt, don’t worry about what’s right. You’ll run out of time. Don’t use your head. You’ll find the answer lower. Your heart knows what’s right. Choose the answer that will be fun.” – Sharon Kaneko
This is especially true for Mutta Namba. Mutta feels like a real average person you would meet while walking around. He’s perfectly capable of everything that is put in front of him; he’s smart, clever, and a genuinely good person. The issue is that Mutta is an eternal pessimist who always thinks that his luck has run out. Even after successfully making it through interview after interview with JAXA, he’s always convinced that he has used up the last of his luck until the very end of this block of episodes when he is chosen to travel to Houston to undergo one last interview. An interview that will tell him if he qualifies to move to Houston and work for NASA. It’s only at this point that he realizes he isn’t coasting by on luck, he’s just finally being seen and supported by the right people who believe in him.
At one point during the final exam, Mutta remembers back to his childhood when he tried to get some friends to come to the observatory with him, only to be made fun of for his trouble. After he remembers that, he thinks about his present and realizes that he is surrounded by people who love the same thing as him, which makes him happier than he’s ever been.
The only issue with this presentation of Mutta is that while it’s interesting, it’s also vaguely problematic. On one side of the coin, Mutta is a relatable main character. He’s an average guy who is chasing a dream that he’s had since childhood, thanks to the support of his loving family and friends. Along the way, he meets other people from different backgrounds and ages, including a young doctor named Serika Itou and an older man in his fifties named Naoto Fukuda, who all want to do the same thing. The issue is that the series tries to paint Mutta as an underdog who is fighting against the odds to achieve the dream that he had nearly given up on. In reality, Mutta isn’t an underdog. He’s actually quite qualified and just needed the right opportunities to prove it.
“It takes more than ability to become an astronaut. You must also have luck on your side.” – Tadashi Hoshika
What amazes me the most about Space Brothers up to this point is that this series finds the time to give so many of these characters an origin story. This is a series that will introduce many people, some of them are instantly unlikable for certain reasons but they all have their own story and motivation which the audience gets to see in detail. In particular, audience members should pay attention to Serika’s first story, where she learns what her name means. Also note Yasushi Furuya’s arc after the final exam, when he gets to meet his hero. These are just two of the major characters that we’ve met so far, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what this series offers.
The supporting cast who help push Mutta forward are absolutely amazing as well. There’s the owner of the observatory that Mutta and Hibito visit regularly, both as children and adults. Then there’s Sharon Kaneko and Tadashi Hoshika who works at JAXA. As these first episodes progress, these two will play a continually larger role in Mutta’s career development as they help push him forward whenever he’s ready to give up on himself.
Leaving off on a dramatic moment in the middle of his final interview, the first quarter of Space Brothers quickly reminded me of why I love this series so very much. This is a series that is moving in its own unique way and inspires me to keep chasing after my own dreams, much like Mutta does with his. I’m looking forward to continuing on with this one all the way to the end.