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!
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. The separation remained clear, and the balance between voices, special effects, and background music creates a dynamic soundstage.
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. Colors remained vibrant even during the many underwater scenes.
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 with the spine adding Mutta’s left side and Apo’s upper body in a space suit. With collections 1 through 7 lined up, Hibito stands in an orange space suit holding his helmet in his right hand. Mutta stand in a suit and tie holding Apo in a spacesuit and helmet.
The front cover top third shows a moonscape with the title and episode numbers. The middle third is a seated portrait of Hibito and Mutta as children. They are sitting back to back in grass as they look up at a night sky. The bottom third has an image of blue sky and white clouds with the collection number and Sentai logo. The back cover continues the series theme. Images from these episodes line the top and bottom of the summary. The sides of the summary are bordered with rocket shapes filled in with a moonscape texture. The special features are clearly marked. The bottom third 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 screens continue 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 chapters are listed in a vertical column. Disc 1 includes episodes 76-81 and the special features. Disc 2 has episodes 82 through 87. The selector is a blue rocket shape that goes through the chapter title.
The only extras are a clean opening and ending.
Collection 7 opens with Hibito in Russia where he talks on the phone with his mother. Still suffering from the panic disorder that originated in his accident on the moon, he has been secretly sent for unofficial therapy from a sympathetic cosmonaut, Ivan. While there, he meets Ivan’s daughter, Olga, a dancer and 15 year old anime fan. When she first sees Hibito on the street, she gives a little leap that mimicked both Hibito’s and his anime counterpart, Mr. Hibbit. When Olga returns home and learns Hibito is her father’s guest, the first symptoms of a crush appear. While she looks mature, at only 15 she walks the line between trying to appeal to Hibito and naively wanting him to act more like Mr. Hibbit.
Hibito loses his sense of self, and through his interaction with Olga, he begins to remember who he has been and what it takes to overcome imposing obstacles. In a good sense of realism, Hibito follows a regime where he progresses through a series of challenges similar to wearing the EVA suit that triggers his panic. By wearing sunglasses, costumes, and motorcycle helmets, the exercises are designed to help him learn confidence while experiencing success until he can wear the EVA without an attack. Before he can finish his training, NASA leadership learns that the panic disorder has made wearing EVA’s impossible and decides to remove Hibito from the program. When they realize that doing so could be seen as an attack on a national hero, they decide to “promote” Hibito to Safety Supervisor, a role reserved for retired astronauts. When Hibito returns to America, he continues trying to rehab while learning the drudgery of his new role.
While Hibito finds his position jeopardy, Mutta finally earns the break he needs to join training for astronauts who will go to the moon. He reunites with friend Kenji as the two become teammates in NEEMO training. They, two veteran astronauts, and a dive specialist spend time living in an underwater module while they build a model of the moon base on the ocean floor. When Mutta and Kenji learn that only one of the new trainees will go to the moon, their communication breaks down. Kenji becomes competitive, and Mutta worries that Kenji will be the best choice. Tensions grow and their work suffers.
By the time we get to the end of the collection, Hibito faces a last chance to regain his place as a lunar astronaut. Mutta and Kenji will need to overcome the immediate challenge or face the end of their friendship and maybe their chances to get to the moon. In his dank ocean floor room, Mutta learns that the plans for Sharon’s lunar telescope have been shot down by NASA decision makers. Everyone seems to be facing the possibility of their dreams dying, regardless of their effort and will.
Something about this show remains intriguing after 87 episodes. While the narrative has always positioned Hibito as the golden child, his struggle threatens not only to end his career but his belief in himself. The show swings from a Hibito who does not seem to be affected by any challenge to a man struggling with his ragged will and skewed identity. Mutta on the other hand seems to be gaining confidence, and when things look bleakest, he listens to a voice of experience and remembers who he is and what he brings to the program.
After so many Space Brothers episodes, the characters continue to become more complex. We now understand the psychology, or at least many negative perspectives that could drive their actions at any time. The arcs in this set develop Mutta, Hibito, and Kenji by focusing on motivations and challenges that have remained outside of previous narratives. While these episodes may not stand up as well for a new viewer unfamiliar with the characters, they continue to enrich the world of the show.
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: February 16th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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.