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. And 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? And will Hibito’s mission end in success or tragedy? The tension mounts as the countdown begins in the third spectacular collection of SPACE BROTHERS!
The Japanese 2.0 audio is encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. The show mostly focuses on dialog and characters’ nonverbal sounds, and the soundtrack does a very good job of keeping the voices at the forefront. While the series tends to have a focus on voices, the music creates and complements the image and balances with the action. The sound stage feels natural and intentional. There were no noticeable audio compression problems or dropouts.
Originally released in 1.78:1, these discs are encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. Artifacts are at a minimum, and the colors look good. As a DVD release, they don’t pop like the HD release, but they offer rich nuances that allow the intricate backgrounds and skies to complement the tone of the action. One negative tendency is when a panning effect is used over a static background, the image may become jumpy and distracting.
The two DVDs come packaged in a standard sized keepcase with a hub on each side. Since many of these episodes are set in Johnson Space Center in Texas and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the front image shows Mutta dressed in his American hat and sunglasses and Hibito dressed in a blue jacket with an American flag on the sleeve. Hibito holds his pug, Apo, up to Mutta, and a public rocket display stands in the background in a park setting. The spine has Hibito looking at the viewer, and it continues building a picture with sets 1 and 2. Owners of these three covers see Hibito wearing an orange space suit and holding a helmet in his right hand. The back cover has small images mostly showing secondary characters and settings from the episodes in this volume, and it hints at outcomes, so don’t look too close if you haven’t seen these episodes.
The menu has a side image of earth and the moon with space and light between. The menu of disc 1 includes each episode and special features in a vertical column. Disc 2 has only episodes listed. The selection highlight is shaped like a rocket. The menu selection is natural and responsive.
The only extras are a clean opening and ending, and trailers for other Sentai Filmworks shows.
For those who may be new to the series, it follows Mutta, a 30-something who loses his job and takes the opportunity to try to live his dream… become an astronaut. His younger brother Hibito has already been selected for a moon mission, and while he prepares, Mutta has his third and final test to become an astronaut. The episodes in this set cover both Mutta’s wait to learn whether or not he has been chosen, and we see Hibito preparing for and going on his moon launch.
As viewers of sets 1 and 2 know, this series focuses on human emotions and relationships. In episode 27, we see Mutta confronting the Japanese astronaut his brother leap-frogged to be the first on the moon. We are shown the effects of celebrity and the strain of the media on astronauts who have to try to live up to the media attention while overcoming personal obstacles to do their job. Episodes 28-32 follow Mutta as he tries to come to terms with his brother who has succeeded to live his dream while we wait for the moon mission to take off.
We see Mutta being bullied in school after he and Hibito had let others know they had seen a UFO. The story offers a sense of nostalgia and demonstrates both brothers willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the other. When the Japanese contingent goes to Florida to see Hibito’s launch, we finally get a glimpse of Mutta’s parents worried about Hibito’s safety. In an unexpected separation, Mutta loses Hibito’s pug Apo, and while searching for the dog, he meets a gnarly old man who seemingly kidnaps Mutta and takes him to an abandoned section of Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch. It turns out this man knows Hibito, and he offers Mutta the kind of encouragement needed for him to remain objective about his future.
In the second half of the shows, we see episodes that give the backstories that have led secondary characters to pursue being an astronaut. One episode focuses on Kenji, his family, and how he moved from being an explorer in college to routine worker in his job. While we have already seen Serika’s backstory of a father who became terminally ill when she was a child, one episode develops how she became driven to be a research doctor in space. We also get more detail in Mutta’s past and finally, we learn whether or not he passed the third test.
I have seen no other show, outside of a documentary, so concerned with the history and realities of space travel. I would not classify this as a show for space otaku, but for anyone who has been to one of the many space centers in the US, elements of the show recall a time past. Mutta watches Hibito take off from an abandoned blockhouse, the place where scientists and engineers waited out launches and tests. Many scenes show rockets going through launch and docking in space. I learned why they spray water at launch. While much of the show is a slice-of-life drama, I feel that the creators have a passion for their chosen topic. Whatever the creative motivation, this set of shows builds the characters in more depth, and it introduces more humor based on our believing that the characters would act as they do.
Space Brothers feels like a story that spans many demographic groups and caters to varied interests. This series plays up the character development and shows us why a young daughter dedicated herself to becoming a doctor in space, why an overachiever was passed over for a position in the space program, and several reasons why being qualified for a job doesn’t make one the right person for it. We see cultural confrontations, and we see cultural conflicts among the astronauts and their careers under the focus of TV cameras and audio recorders. With 38 episodes down, this series has not slowed in developing the characters and plots. The series has only let us understand the settings and motivations of a few characters, and it promises to continue the purposeful development of understanding an everyday man can aspire and work to live a dream.
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, Clean Opening and Ending.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.