What They Say:
As the competition to become an astronaut continues to heat up, the candidates are subjected to a grueling series of tests designed to test their physical and mental qualifications to the utmost. Trapped inside a sealed environment with his closest rivals, Mutta’s challenge is to force himself to think as a team player even as he jockeys for one of the two open seats to the stars. When things start to go wrong with the test mission, however, the tension really begins to build.
It’ll take the combined resources of the whole team to solve the life and death problems being thrown at them… but what are they supposed to do when it becomes apparent that one of the team members is intentionally sabotaging their assignments? Will any of Mutta’s team survive the ordeal and move up to the next phase of training? Or will they all wash out before they ever hit the launch pad?
Contains episodes 14-26.
The audio presentation for this series comes with just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that definitely uses its forward soundstage well with what it does as it handles the dialogue well as it shifts from the characters talking to particular internal dialogue, but it also handles some of the space and machine based elements in a really good way to give it the kind of attention to detail it needs to come alive. The show is one that is definitely largely dialogue based though with what it does and it plays it well here with solid placement, appropriate depth in a few scenes where needed and generally has a strong and clear design to it that’s free of problems and distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing from 2012 to 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set comes with thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the show has a great look to it overall as it presents a great range of characters across ages, ethnicities and jobs in a way that few shows do, which makes this feel like far more of a real world than normal. That character designs are definitely a good point, but it’s the set and mechanical design that shines even more as it spent a good bit of its time and money on research in order to be quite accurate and well detailed, and that’s wonderfully brought to life here in the transfer with the quality of the animation shining through. Colors have a great look, the detail within the series is given a very solid look and the overall flow of the animation is strong here when it goes big with many sequences.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds two discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us a pretty fun character image, even if the overall framing doesn’t work too great for me, as we get Mutta and Hibito together in their coveralls with Apo being held by Hibito, which just makes it all the more adorable. They’re set against a partial earthscape with a large swathe of it covered in black. The logo along the top has a simple approach with a blue-ish purple that plays to a space kind of theme, but just feels kind of off in general. It’s not a bad cover, but it doesn’t exactly sell it all that well with certain aspects. The back cover is a bit better as we get a bit of the moonscape along the background while over it we get the breakdown of the premise along with a look at the disc and episode count. The shots from the show are decent with a good variety while the rest is given over to the usual production credits and the technical grid which covers everything cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release has a nice touch or two to it, though it has to deal with the mediocre at best logo. The layout is straightforward with a static image for both discs that focuses on the characters in different forms and designs, with space oriented material for the backgrounds to provide the right feel. The logo is stretched across it in a way that may just a be a bit too big, but I like the menu navigation along the right where it uses some lunar designs to it for the background and a solid font that ties it into a slightly near future kind of kind but also something that fits in tone with something more professional oriented like the whole JAXA and NASA angle. Submenus are minimal as there’s no language selection menu to be had here and extras are on the second disc.
The only extras included here are the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Revisiting Space Brothers after the lengthy simulcast has definitely been an interesting experience. While knowing where it’s all going, seeing these aspects again and also having the larger batches of episodes at a time gives it a far more cohesive feeling to it. There’s a large scope of events here and while we do get little side stories in a way, it’s a series that has a very strong feeling from start to finish about what it wants to do and avoids getting trapped up in what you’d consider filler material. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lighter moments to be had, but even those have their own important aspects in getting to know the characters in a better and deeper way. What also helps is that while Mutta is very much the primary focus, the cast as a whole feels fleshed out in a way that some series don’t get after hundreds of episodes. And this set only gets us just about a quarter of the way in.
This batch of Space Brothers episodes takes us through more really engaging material as we watch the next stage of trials that the groups are going through. With them spending their time in the isolation stations in smaller configurations, testing them to see how they work as a group in seclusion and what kind of strains might come from it, it can get pretty fractious. Though there are three different stations being used here, we primarily focus on Mutta’s group with Kenji’s providing a contrast with the way the team there is so focused on their scores and placement, which creates an interesting if expected tension to come from it because it’s very competitive. There are interesting points to each of the people involved in there, and with the way they resolve things, but it all serves towards showing a more traditional route that the teams tend to take.
Seeing what Mutta and his group goes through is definitely engaging to watch as they do the routine of the day, the various chores that come up and all sorts of other basic chores, puzzles and the like in order to test them individually and as a group. There’s some amusing things that happen along the way that puts an additional strain on things, such as Serika cooking way too much food each time and then seeing her trying to come up with ways to tell people what happened without them getting mad as they’re not going to make it easily through the last few days with no food. While it does eventually come out, it turns into the kind of very Japanese bonding moment with them all having the right supplies left to make udon, and it has a very light mood about it all that really works well to show just how much they’ve all bonded. Over the course of the arc, it really does work and feels natural overall whereas another series would have it feeling very forced.
The fun twist that we see throughout this arc, which takes up a nice chunk of this set and really gives it time to explore, is that the administrators of the test employ something called a green card during it. During various days of the test, the individuals are given separately a card that has them doing something unusual to cause tension. Furuya, for example, has to create a buzzing sound when everyone is asleep and that causes a lot of strain as nobody can find it. Mutta eventually hopes to get a pretty good one as he realizes what it is, having heard of it from others before, but his is all comical as he just has to make silly sounds and dialogue out of the blue. The whole green card thing is something relatively new, as we do learn about it, but it’s interesting to see the group being pushed against each other with them each learning about it along the way rather than being all in on it at first. It’s one of those things that adds the right kind of stress to see if and how they break, internally and with those that they have to trust.
The series is one that’s all about forward progress and we achieve a lot in this set even with so much of it spent on the testing phase here. It’s no surprise that Mutta is one of the nine selected to move on, though there is some rather pleasant drama and misunderstanding there, as it all pushes the group towards Houston for the next round of testing and exam. Mutta ends up there earlier than the others as it’s a chance to spend time Hibito as Hibito is moving closer to his own launch date. That provides a lot of good time between the two, and learning experiences for Mutta about the mission and what’s involved with it, and it makes for an educational but solid experience since we get to see how Mutta gets his own special training that will help him in the long run with a lot of things. His family relationship certainly does help him, though he does achieve the vast majority of what he does on his own merits.
And that’s what makes the final act here so interesting as the examination gets into the curious phase. While we’ve had the administrators going at it in checking them all out in different ways, when they get to Houston they start getting checked out by actual astronauts, Japanese ones at that, to get a real sense of them in a way that others can’t. It’s done in a creative way, getting them to be relaxed thinking they had already finished with the exam, and it proves to be very illuminating in a lot of ways for most of them, especially with the playful way astronaut Murasaki messes with Mutta. Putting Mutta and all the other candidates from Japan together in a real Texas restaurant is definitely great to see in general and it reveals so much about them, and everyone from NASA that’s there, that you just get more and more eager to see where it’s all going to go.
Space Brothers continues to weave its various threads together across multiple characters in very engaging ways. While it can still be viewed as the very straightforward story of Mutta, it doesn’t scrimp when it comes to the cast as a whole and most everyone of note has something really interesting about them, both in design and personality, that makes them feel like a real part of NASA, JAXA or just the candidate crowd. The minor sidetracking it does at times with them all serves a larger purpose and we’ve seen elements of that already from the start. With this bringing us through the first twenty-six episodes of the series, it’s covered an immense amount of ground so far and moved the characters through some great hurdles. With a great looking transfer and a fantastic story, Space Brothers continues to be one of the best anime series I’ve seen.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 LAnguage, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 21st, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.