What They Say:
Taking a makeup exam after learning the test results of Sharon’s condition, Mutta stands on the verge of achieving the first major step on his journey to the stars: officially becoming an astronaut. But the written test is only a prelude to the most hazardous trials of all. Strapped into the seat of a T38 jet, flying faster than the speed of sound, and learning to fly on instruments only, a single mistake on Mutta’s part can mean instant disaster. On the positive side, if he’s going Mach 1 when something does go wrong, Mutta probably won’t have to worry about it very long. It’s time to kick in the afterburners and aim for the stars in the sixth 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 voices. There is no distortion and a clean audio transfer. This set had a few episodes where the soundstage needed to compromise between foreground sound and dialog, for example jet noise with voices filtered to sound as if coming through a headset. The clarity and separation remained strong throughout.
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. I saw no distracting artifacts from a normal viewing distance, and the clean transfer looks good for a standard definition disc.
The standard size keepcase holds two discs with hubs on the inside of the front and back covers. Like previous sets, each DVD is printed with a moonscape and the repeated words “Space” and “Brothers” shadowed over in shades of blue. The cover maintains the collector theme.
The spine continues the image of sets 1 through 5. On this one, the right side of Mutta’s face looks into the distance. He is standing in a pinstripe suit holding Apo’s space suit-covered torso. With sets 1-6 lined up, we see Hibito standing in an orange space suit holding a helmet with Mutta’s right side holding Apo whose tail and torso are visible.
The front cover is divided into thirds. The top third has a moonscape and title. The middle third shows Mutta and Hibito wearing space suits on a black field with the earth reflecting in their helmets. The bottom third has blue skies with clouds and the volume number. The back cover continues the series theme. The top and bottom of the summary is images from the episodes. The sides of the summary are bordered with rocket shapes shaded with a moonscape. The special features are clearly marked, and the bottom third, like previous sets, has credits fill in the space above the technical grid. The copyright information appears in small white on black print at the bottom.
The menu screen continues the style of the previous set. In the top left corner, there is a small view of the moon, with space and light effects in the mid ground. The foreground is a large section of the earth on the right side of the screen. The episodes are listed in a vertical column. The special features are on the first disc menu. The selector is a blue rocket shape that goes through the episode title.
The only extras are a clean opening and ending.
Sometimes a series shocks me. Space Brothers, episodes 65-75, keeps developing both the narrative and characters with a slice of life realism at its core.
After having to retake his exam, Mutta gets teamed up with Deniel Young as his flight instructor. They meet in a hallway when Deniel hits him with his powered wheelchair. Mutta is the first person to move in the direction Deniel steers. The elderly pilot trained Hibito, and his methods are as unorthodox as his demeanor. Deniel tells Mutta he will train him faster than the others, but what Mutta doesn’t know is that Deniel’s alterations to his jet makes it more difficult to control. In many ways, the old man becomes Mutta’s sage, offering him new perspectives on how to look at what he is learning and how he should go through his training. Deniel wants Mutta to learn lessons both intellectual and emotional. There are several action sequences in this set where flying sequences offer moments of exhilaration.
Upon completing his flight training, Mutta is offered a place in line for the International Space Station. He knows his chances of getting to the moon to work on Sharon’s telescope will be unlikely on this path, so he turns down the mission. Mutta then finds he has been assigned to work with NASA’s engineers on a project to make moon buggies immune to the damage Hibito’s took when it fell in the ravine. The engineers seem to have given up, but Mutta knows for him to move back to training, he will need to find a way to meet NASA’s goal.
Throughout all of these episodes, the human side of Sharon’s struggle with ALS and Hibito’s panic disorder create both a motivation and obstacles for all involved. Mutta has not been assigned to lunar training because NASA worries that would hinder Hibito’s attempts to recover. During Mutta’s training and throughout, Hibito keeps his panic disorder a secret, but we learn if he doesn’t fully recover, he will never go back to the moon.
Sharon has tried to convince Mutta and Hibito that she will be fine as she finds was to fight the degenerative effects of the disease. As we know, she can’t be cured and the progression may be quick or it may take a long time. Hibito goes to Japan for a JAXA debriefing and speaks with her. He confesses his problem to her. As the set ends, we see Sharon evaluate her life and come to terms with her condition.
These episodes have a short at the end. It is a funny animal anime based on Hibito’s crew and their lunar mission. This is referenced in several episodes where Hibito’s fans wear bunny ears and the Mr. Hibbit stuffed animal appears in the Sharon episodes. These seem to be completely disconnected from the actual show, so they can be skipped. Some American viewers might see racist elements in the character designs, so be aware they are here and consider how you might approach them if you are viewing with your kids.
This set is worth owning even for those who may not have been following from the beginning. The flight training episodes demonstrate the heart of characters through subtle development, and they hold excitement in the scenes where a novice pilot is pushed to his limits and beyond. The humor takes the edge off the more dramatic elements, but it never undermines the serious themes. Never have I seen in animation such an honest portrayal of an individual coming to terms with her limitations and declining health. This set has a very slice of life focus, and the episodes hold both a resignation of mortality and the joy of being free to fly.
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, Clean Opening and Ending, Sentai Trailers.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 1st, 2015
Running Time: 275 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.