Director: Ayumu Watanabe
Writer (Of Original Manga): Chuuya Koyama
Animation Studios: A-1 Pictures
Version Watched: Subbed
A while ago I encountered a blog article stating that “pacing” is the feature of anime that viewers complain about when they can’t think of anything better to critique. Perhaps I’m a plebeian, but I disagree. The rate of delivery of new information or interesting events is vitally important to the audience’s enjoyment of a series, with information dumps and filler being related concepts that are often identified as detrimental to a show’s overall quality.
With that out of the way, take a guess as to what I’m going to pick out as Space Brothers’ biggest problem. Accompanying some fantastic characterisation, believable drama and utterly relatable yet hilarious humor is a ninety-nine episode long story that really could have been told in fifty, and that’s incredibly disappointing because Space Brothers could have been great.
Nanba Mutta and his brother Hibito have always dreamed of going to the moon together. Ever since spotting a UFO as children, their imaginations have been captured by space and the astronauts that visit it. Why, then, is Mutta trapped in a dead-end job while Hibito has managed to achieve his dream? Isn’t the older brother supposed to lead the younger? When Mutta is fired for head-butting his boss, of all things, a whole new world of opportunity opens up before him. JAXA is recruiting new astronauts, and it’s not too late for him to catch up to Hibito.
Space Brothers takes a chance with a concept that seems to be rarely explored in anime, that being the reality of everyday living. I mean, sure, we have all those various high school slice of life shows that have barely anything to do with what the actual experience is like, but how often do we see a series with no frills whatsoever? It’s that paradoxical novelty that makes the first thirty or so episodes so enjoyable. You laugh because you can see yourself in the protagonist’s shoes, you cry (on the inside) because you understand exactly what his troubles must feel like and you eagerly anticipate finding out what happens next because there’s every possibility that it could happen in your life. Well, kind of. Anyway, the point is that despite the lack of super-powered villains, gun-toting heroines or larger-than-life romance, Space Brothers is funny, emotional and, above all, believable.
That continues with the characters, who have a depth most anime fail to realize (or perhaps fail to aim for). Mutta, Hibito and just about every other character could very easily be real people; their fears and motivations make sense and are consistent with their actions from every angle you could possibly examine them. Space Brothers does an amazing job of building on their personalities as the story progresses. And there we have our problem. To begin with I was convinced I would be adding the longest series yet to The Geek Clinic’s Recommendations List, hanging onto every line of dialogue the show threw at me, but as time passed the excitement of following Mutta’s journey dissipated. Multiple episodes were passing without any real contribution to the narrative and, to be honest, by the end of the series I was really struggling to sit down and watch it every night. It was never bad per se but sitting at the end of what turned out to be only the first season I can’t see myself coming back for more.
Space Brothers’ art doesn’t win any awards in my book, but it does fit the series perfectly. Some awkward facial expressions and movements are forgivable in the long run for this one considering it’s not a focus. There are some wonderful background tracks that you might well be sick of by the ninety-ninth episode and again would have been better suited to a shorter production. That said, I’m grateful for the extra OP and ED sequences because many of the songs featured are incredibly easy to fall in love with.
Summary – Space Brothers starts out strong, turning the mundane into the entertaining with great characters and humor. Its visuals and BGM do a great job of backing it up in the short term and I would love to be able to give the whole package a higher score. Unfortunately content is stretched to an unforgivable degree to reach the episode count when really the story could have been told with only half the amount of screen-time, meaning that later story arcs are slow to the point of tedium. Overall, while certainly not a series to avoid, I can’t recommend Space Brothers because the return is simply not worth the time commitment (but you wouldn’t see me complaining if you decided to check it out!).
Earlier Episodes Score: 9/10 – Great
Overall Score: 6.5/10 – Average