What They Say:
Whether in the planning rooms for lunar missions or the claustrophobic steel confines of an undersea laboratory, the one thing that every astronaut must learn to deal with is pressure.
But as deadly as the blowout of a pressurized cabin may be, the peer pressure that weighs on brothers Mutta and Hibito may be even more crippling. As Mutta prepares to journey to the bottom of the deep blue sea for NEEMO training, Hibito’s path descends to even lower depths as his inability to recover sends him into a downward emotional spiral. Will a trip to Russia be the cure for Hibito’s malaise?
Or, having once reached the stars, will he now end up forever grounded by NASA and JAXA? Yet even as one rising star falters, a second prepares for his ascent to the heavens as Mutta’s quest to reach space advances to the next level in the seventh spellbinding collection of Space Brothers!
Contains episodes 76-87.
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 spread kept to a single disc. 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 one that I definitely like as we get the two brothers from their childhood sitting back to back as they look up at the night sky. It’s a simple piece but one that really says so much. 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.
As we get closer to the end of the series and my hopes that we’ll get an announcement that they’ve got the rights to the movie as well, Space Brothers moves into some of the more complicated territory that comes from this period of work for both men. The series has done a very good job of balancing the two and their arcs across it, though I can understand why some feel less inclined towards Hibito and his arcs because the show started and spent so much time with Mutta. I do wonder if the impression would be different if we had started by following Hibito and Mutta was the kind of odd-duck older brother trying to catch up instead.
Part of it is that Hibito’s material largely has been about him coping with things as his training and scheduling was further along. His worry about this brother was always in the background though he kept it in check in a good way. But we spent part of it worrying about his journey into space as well as surviving the accident that left him in the ravine. Since coming back to Earth, he’s struggled with the anxiety that came from that experience and it’s been severe enough that Chief Butler sent him to Russia to try and buy some time. And rightly so as an astronaut that can’t go into space is not someone that NASA nor JAXA can keep employing. Not that they’d throw him to the curb considering his PR value and all the effort Hibito put in on the moon in saving his fellow astronaut, but there’s also that cut your losses element. And it costs a hell of a lot to train an astronaut.
His time in Russia has certainly been difficult as they’re trying to teach him how to cope with the anxiety and move forward, but it’s a struggle, to say the least. There’s little actual effort on Hibito’s part as he’s not quite sure he’s ready to start it just yet and the methods suggested are a little unconventional for him. What the show does do actually works, but it’s not without its weirdness at times because it mostly involves him taking his cues from Olga, the fifteen-year-old of his Russian counterpart. The parallels are there to be sure, just made smaller in a sense, and it takes Hibito a while to really get it through his head. Olga herself is fine and her mild crush is understandable to a degree and it’s welcome that Hibito naturally doesn’t give into it nor does he encourage it. But it just feels a touch odd is all amid the events at play.
What I really like is seeing how Hibito truly handles things once he’s brought back to Houston and is put into a Safety Manager position, a safe place that’s essentially non-retirement retirement. He knows it and grapples with it, whether to just accept it or not, but once he does start working to get better you get caught up in his methods. His enlistment of a couple of folks to help him is spot on and how he works through it while videoing it as well just makes it very enjoyable to watch. Hibito has always had his struggles, different than what Mutta went through to be sure, but getting them in a more personal way with the anxiety aspect here just clicks. His arc serves as the bookends to this set and really does a good job of advancing his storyline overall and providing the reconnect with Mutta at the end so that they can once again move forward.
Mutta’s arc in the middle here is one that works very well with what it has to accomplish. His journey has had us a lot more involved from the ground up and that makes it engaging as we see him dealing with the new obstacles in his way. Having survived his flight training and going further than Chief Butler expected he would, he’s now off for his underwater NEEMO training in Florida. This has various teams working in the underwater habitats where for twenty-days they spend it under the sea working through building scale models of the moon base as part of what their mission would be. Part of it is to try and see how the astronauts work under the conditions, with each other, and with the challenges of time and design to get things done. It’s likely an expensive process but one you damn well want the right people involved in on the moon.
Not surprisingly, Mutta ends up paired with Kenji for this along with two others and they’re in competition with two other teams down there. They’re overseen by dedicated divers that reside with them and in Mutta’s case, it’s Hamilton, someone who absolutely loves the sea and all it entails. The joy in this arc, at least for most of it, is watching Kenji and Mutta working together and enjoying the experience as they’ve both come so far. The two are ideally suited to work with each other and it shows. What throws it all into chaos for a bit is the reveal that they’re actually in competition with each other and only one of them will get selected to go further in this mission. There’s truth to that, though obviously a way out, but the purpose of the arc is to show how the two men handle it. This provides a little more focus on Kenji because of his family and the sacrifices made to get where he is, but both men come across well as they drift apart and then figure out the right thing. Part of that it just what it takes to be an astronaut as there is that sense of the “right kind of personality” for it where the vindictive and jealous types get weeded out.
Mutta wins the arc in the end though because as those watching the session realize he’s the only one that actually treated his entire experience as if he was on the moon as opposed to underwater. That he does so offers him some ways to really stand out compared to the rest with a kind of uniqueness that just clicks and is a revelation for many, though amusingly it’s something that Chief Butler had been hoping for so he could propel him further as well.
With one more set to go that will bring the TV series to a close, this set of twelve episodes brings us some good resolution to two arcs that are playing out. The supporting characters largely aren’t here, though a few filter in from time to time. But it’s really focused on Mutta and Hibito and what they’re dealing with at the moment. There continues to be a lot of really good character material throughout this and it finds a good balance between the two leads and their separate yet connected arcs. The show continues to delight in these mini-marathon sessions, though tinged a bit by the knowledge that there’s only one more set left to go. I cannot recommend this series enough if you enjoy strong character stories and real growth and progress for them.
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: February 16th, 2016
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.