What They Say:
Contrary to popular belief, the hardest part about becoming an astronaut isn’t being shot into orbit while sitting on top of the world’s largest fireworks display. Nor is it coming back home in a fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. No, those events, while momentous, are easy compared to all the studying and training required to actually get to those points.
The hardest part of all is the waiting: waiting to see if the technology for a mission will be ready in time. Waiting to see who gets selected for each crew. Waiting to see if the weather is clear for each launch. And waiting to see if everyone makes it back home alive. That’s a lesson that Mutta is now painfully learning twice over, as he waits to find out the result of his JAXA exams and watches while his younger brother, Hibito, prepares for his own historic journey to the moon. Will Mutta finally pass and move on to the next stage of his own training? Will Hibito’s mission end in success or tragedy? The tension mounts as the countdown begins!
Contains episodes 27-38.
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 twelve episodes kept to just one disc, which doesn’t change the quality level here from what we can see. 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 the disc against the interior wall. The front cover gives us another really fun piece of artwork as we get Hibito and Mutta together, along with Apo, while out in the park. The fun part is that we get Mutta being all “American Cowboy” with his outfit here while Apo plays with him. 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 it as unlike past volumes, it eschews character artwork and just goes with the logo. 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)
Space Brothers brings us a new batch of twelve episodes with this release and it goes through a few production changes. With it now being one disc, that keeps costs down (and hopefully keeps the releases coming) and we also get just twelve episodes instead of the thirteen we had before. We also end up with a really bland at best menu design for it that just expands the feeling of cutting costs and simply trying to get things done. That said, what matters here is the show itself and what we get in these twelve episodes are pretty strong and fun as the dynamic continues to shift. While we follow Mutta’s path throughout the series, it’s smart enough to diverge well to the supporting characters and expand their stories, since their orbits do tend to intersect with Mutta’s again as time goes on.
There’s a lot of things going on in the twelve episodes here, though it does roughly get split into two halves that you can break down a bit. The first half has more of a focus on Hibito, though through Mutta’s eyes, as he and the others have come to Florida for the Mars V and Mars I launch that will take Hibito and the crew he’s with to the moon. This is also playing alongside some of the encounters going on as the final phase of Mutta’s own candidate trials are going on, which leads him to spending some quality time with Azuma since he knows he has to impress him in order to pass this final exam. There’s humor to be had with Mutta being forward in a way, but as we learn more about Azuma in a way that really humanizes him, we also learn more about Hibito as the two have their own past as well. Azuma’s a solid and serious guy, but when we see Mutta spending time with his family, and his children, we learn why he is like he is and why there really isn’t any tension between him and Hibito over Hibito going to the moon first. That turns into an interesting subplot itself as it goes on.
Hibito’s story in the first half plays throughout it in creative ways, allowing for everyone to have their time, but also to deal with the seriousness of a launch and all that’s involved with it. Particularly since their parents are there as well, which means we get treated to more of their father’s awesome English language t-shirts. The mission itself is one that builds well here as we get some of the details on it and the launch itself, watching Hibito’s excitement because this is what he’s worked towards for so long, and also some time on the moon itself so that we see what it’s like for the team to live and work there. There’s a lot of pressure that’s there for Hibito in being the first Japanese to set foot on the moon and it’s covered well through the media in Japan and the way people talk about it. Hibito’s oblivious though, focused on the job at hand itself, but there’s also a really great sense of wonder that comes from him as he makes that first footprint, and first leap, that you can see really being the kind of phenomenon that can inspire a generation as it plays out afterwards. With the kind of stories and mythology that Japan has towards the moon, it plays out beautifully.
The second half is something that plays to a different kind of tension as it brings Mutta back to Japan, partially to deal with what Hibito has done, but also to await the call from JAXA for NASA about who has passed the final exam. There’s that kind of pause in Mutta’s life at this point where he realizes that he’ll go forward either as an astronaut or someone looking for a job somewhere. It’s given some decent time to percolate, along with some of what we get from his parents as they play it rather cool and aloof in their own weird way. Considering their reactions to Hibito going into space, this isn’t a surprise. For Mutta, he’s just in this weird place where he’s not sure what’s going to happen and that has him feeling listless. At least he was able to bring Apo to Japan, which provides for some humor.
But as we get to the phases where Tsurumi begins to make his calls from JAXA, the show takes on a different tone. Mutta’s involved from time to time, but it instead changes to some character focused episodes as they get their calls and find out whether they made it or not. Since only five are going through and there’s a good bit more than that who went through the program, it’s a difficult piece. What makes it really enjoyable is watching how we learn more about them on top of what we knew about them before. We’ve gotten to know Kenji pretty well so far and getting a bigger look at his personal life, what drives him and what motivated him to take on this challenge enhances his character all the more. Particularly since it’s going to make such a big change in his family life. Just seeing his view on his place in the world and how he’s shifting his “office” is great.
Similarly, we get a great background story for Serika, as we see when she was a younger child and was dealing with the first blushes of illness that her father had which turned out to be debilitating. The exploration of how this impacted her is both beautiful and haunting with the way she made her notebooks for him as diaries and really made him feel connected to her amid all that was going on. While she wasn’t into what he was into prior to this, the illness is something that draws her into her father’s home office and all that he has there, which inspires her to take up the mantle of figuring out a cure for his rare and somewhat unknown disease. We get some good time with Serika in the present as family have arrived to be there for her as she gets the news, but the focus on the past is wonderful and sad here at the same time, making it a really good part of the show with a character that has definitely needed greater expansion.
Mutta’s story does eventually get told, but naturally his has to play out in a different way simply because nothing is ever easy for Mutta. While he’s waiting, hours after when the calls were starting, he ends up getting a call to visit with the JAXA rep in the park. That’s surprising to him, but it makes sense to the audience since it’s the administrator that had known and been aware of the brothers when they were young boys visiting JAXA all the time. Though Mutta doesn’t recall him at first, when the news is shared, it has a great emotional component to it even though they both keep themselves composed. Because there is a shared history there and we have Mutta realizing he’s finally taking a truly big step towards his goal, it’s fantastic to see such accomplishment and to know that it was worked hard at through everything that we had seen over the course of the series so far. Balancing that with some fun of the press conference and some of the awkward pressures there due to his relationship with Hibito, it’s a whirlwind of things going on but it plays out so well and with such strong character material that it’s easy to be caught up in it all.
Space Brothers has delighted in its first two sets and this third set is no exception either. While there are some curious choices in how the disc has been put together, the content itself and its presentation is spot on and very appealing. This is one of those shows that has so much going on, such a level of attention to detail to it, that you can really spend some time just going through all the motions of it and enjoying it on several levels. Which adds greatly to its replay value. This set in particular is a strong one as it closes out the first main chapter in Mutta’s life and now moves him forward in a new way that will have a lot more challenges, interesting challenges at that, and some great character connections that have been touched upon an teased for so long. This series is one of the riches ones out there, the kind of mature storytelling that I crave and wish more shows each year would employ, because it accomplishes so much and results in a truly engaging work that will stand the test of time.
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: June 30th, 2015
Running Time: 300 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.