What They Say:
The brutal survival ordeal isn’t over yet, and the strain of non-stop training is taking its toll on Mutta’s health. Struck down by a fever, he has to summon all of his reserves just to keep walking. And that’s before the revelation of an unexpected new challenge: the competing teams must create a rover vehicle of their own design in just two weeks! With an assigned consultant who’s less than helpful, and who may have a conflict of interest centered around the systems being used for Hibito’s return to Earth, Mutta’s own experience with engineering may be the deciding factor.
And even if they make it past that obstacle, the even more dangerous flight training is about to begin back in Houston! Can Mutta power through the survival and rover competitions in order to take a seat in a T38 jet?
Contains episodes 52-64.
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 the disc against the interior wall. Though it sticks to the same background design overall, the character artwork here is priceless as we get the main brothers and a lot of the supporting cast floating around in different positions, most with silly expressions on their faces. It has a lightness that really does work well here. 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 moves firmly past the halfway mark of the series here and it only gets more and more interesting. And that’s even admittedly with three episodes on this set that you can write off right from the get go. Considering the nature of the show and that I’m still shocked that it made it to nearly a hundred episodes, three episodes of recap in a row don’t bother me much. I didn’t even mind it during the simulcast because after a year’s worth of material and all that has gone on, taking the time to revisit some of the connective elements of it was rather welcome. The show may not feel dense at times but it packs a lot in, has a lot of character arcs running and is intent on really making a lot of progress with what it does. Realizing once again how far some of them have come is definitely welcome. But, if you’re marathoning and up to speed, skipping the first three is easy.
With the ten episodes that we do get here there is a lot going on as it moves through three different arcs. The opening arc brings to a close the survival side that began in the previous set as Mutta’s team continues to face more and more challenges. They’ve been consistently last for some time and that hasn’t changed as Mutta has ended up sick and they’ve slowed down even more. It’s good to see how they do rally together and work to make it to the end rather than giving up, since if this was a real survival moment they would truly have to do that rather than just tap out. There are some minor regrets along the way, mostly with Nitta and his belief that his going back for the phone caused this, but it’s not something that really plays badly or comes across in a poor way. Even Vince, when all is said and done, comments about how many obstacles this team has faced and the fact that they worked together to deal with it all without giving up. As Hibito mentions later, it’s not written tests that really determine things, it’s your overall performance and how you fit into the larger whole of NASA.
Where the bulk of this set deals with things when it comes to the new material is the next phase of the ASCAN training. Since Mutta’s team came in last, they get last choice – or no choice really – when it comes to the engineer that they get to work with in the rover competition that’s coming up. NASA runs this with the ASCAN teams and some outside competitors in order to develop a small rover with a few options that it needs to be able to accomplish. The problem for Mutta and his team as that their engineer is a man named Pico, someone who wants nothing to do with anything and is in fact just riding out his time at the end with the actual space mission that’s going on. A mission that involves Hibito’s return to Earth using the parachute plan that Pico had put into place.
What this ends up offering us is two-fold. The first is that we get to see Mutta and his team working through the rover problem with design, materials, execution and the field day problems themselves when the weather takes a turn for the worse. I loved the creativity of it and the general problem solving approach that they take in trying to figure it out while getting no help from Pico for awhile. But as is the case when it comes to someone like Mutta, his out of the box thinking combined with everyone else leads to some really intriguing design choices and Pico, ever the engineer, finds himself too interested to not get involved even if only slightly. The result is one that while it doesn’t make Pico a member of the team in the way some of the other teams worked with their engineers, we get Mutta and the others making a true connection in a deep way while learning some really nice traditions and superstitions of sorts within the agency. It builds a strong narrative here around building a little rover of all things.
The second thing we get out of it is a lot with Pico himself. While he comes across as a one-note character at first, viewers of this series know better. He’s a bit like Denny in a way with his history within NASA, but he’s got a different role to play here as well because he’s childhood friends with Vince. Vince is still riding the teams hard and wants to eject most of them, though that’s softened a bit as they’re showing what they’re made of. There’s a good episode and a half of material here that goes into their childhoods with some of the things they faced and their own dreams, which ties into the accident a few years prior as well that had changed Pico to some degree. It’s a great backstory, if a difficult one in some ways with both the parental side, the difficulty of friends, and the loss within their time in the agency. But it enriches the series as a whole and makes you understand all the more what it means when he does end up befriending Mutta in the way he does.
Where the show goes in its last arc that seeps into the next volume is the most difficult though. With Mutta and the others moving on to the next phase of learning how to fly a T-38, Sharon ends up coming to visit while in Texas as part of a push to get NASA to help with building an observatory on the moon. It’s a solid angle to play and it’s great to bring her back into the brother’s orbit considering what they all mean to each other and where they’ve ended up. Yet it takes an absolutely heart wrenching turn that we see coming very quickly with how Sharon is struggling with motor control of her hands. You know where it’s going, especially with Serika getting involved and understanding her own past with her father, but it’s watching how it impacts the brothers here that makes it even worse. You feel for Sharon in a huge way – even as she puts on the bravest face possible – but those feelings are amplified because you feel the nature of it through Mutta and Hibito. Because they have that connection it makes it all the more powerful, one built over a year’s worth of stories involving all of them at different times.
Space Brothers may be a bit lighter on content this time around because of the three recap episodes but it’s not light on excellence. The show continues to push Mutta and the others forward and we get plenty of storylines across the board that touches on a lot of characters, including a nice callback or two from previous arcs. Mutta is naturally the main focus, and more so at the moment after Hibito had his lunar adventure, so seeing him working through the training and all the problems, adding new connections to his list, and slowly but surely getting closer to Serika in his own very cautious way, Space Brothers simply delights. It’s so incredibly well put together and animated with such attention to detail that it’s hard to believe this show ran as long as it did. Very recommended.
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: October 20h, 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.