What They Say:
The single most important element of any mission is trust: trust in your equipment, trust in your crewmates and support team, and trust in yourself. As the trajectories of Mutta and Hibito’s careers continue to alter dramatically, self-doubt and lack of trust become the deadliest of enemies. Once the rising young star, Hibito must now undergo round after round of grueling tests in order to prove that he still has the right stuff for the space program.
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 single disc against the interior wall. Though it sticks to the same background design overall, the character artwork here is one that will please at least some of the fans as we get Apo in his own space suit looking so utterly adorable that I just can’t stand it. The details are great and it just delivers a great way to close things. 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.
Space Brothers draws to a close with this volume as the TV series ends at episode ninety-nine. While there is a theatrical movie out there as well, unlicensed as of this writing, the show brings us to an interesting spot because it does adapt things so well from the manga and doesn’t try to wrap things up in a way that sends us off on a truly happy note or fully closure. That move is one that has me hopeful that we’ll get more of this show eventually as more of the manga has been produced since then. This series has done a phenomenal job in bringing about something that’s fun and (mostly) accurate as to how organizations like this work and the kinds of people it truly attracts in the modern age. And that makes for engaging viewing.
With the final arc of twelve episodes we do work through some good material that pushes our characters, main and supporting, toward some of their goals more. The overarching aspect of this set continues to involve Hibito as he struggles with his Panic Disorder following the events on the moon. We’ve seen him go to good lengths to solve it and he’s worked hard at it, which is certainly getting noticed by some that are aware of such things. But there’s also that element of concern out there from others that would have some astronauts wanting to keep him off their team out of fear of a relapse or something. It’s understandable all around and there’s a really smart view of it that comes in along the way that helps to reshape Chief Butler’s point of view a bit. Butler has really been Hibito’s biggest advocate and seeing him really take this personally considering his own history in the agency sells it very well, making it authentic in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise.
It’s also something that’s explored in how Mutta does what he can to help Hibito as well, which has its own playfulness after Mutta learns the full truth and understands what it is that Hibito’s going through. The whole thing with the pretty dog aspect of it is certainly comical, but it’s the kind of thing that you can see an older brother doing for the younger, even as an adult, to help him while also making him smile because of it. Hibito’s progress is really engaging to watch, especially with all the vested interest and support, while also understanding the wariness of those above over him coming back into the program fully. It’s nuanced and layered so there isn’t a true villain, though one of them comes a little close in the testing moments. That things don’t go well for Hibito, something that we know the series does with many of its characters, isn’t too much of a surprise but it pushes the show in some difficult directions with the fallout. And that kind of material is right in dealing with it, making it better than Hibito always succeeding.
Mutta’s story in this set of episodes is one that feels very familiar to a past arc in a way. While he’s moving further along with his own mission training, serving as the backup crew and to Vince in particular – it’s own special kind of hell, I’m sure – he’s also struggling with what Hibito is going through. He’s doing his best to support him but finds that he’s too late at times in expressing things he needs to as family and an older brother. Mutta went through a lot with Hibito on the moon and the challenges there plus the return home, so it’s natural to revisit it here. But it has a lot of familiar echoes and the kind of diminishes it a bit because it has him being far too distracted at a critical time. Which is admittedly understandable. Things weigh on your mind and it takes its toll even though you know you have to do what you have to do. You end up not doing it well or really badly in some cases. With the kind of training Mutta’s going through, however, doing things poorly reflects in a lot of ways and impacts his own future in a big way.
We do get a good mix of training material for him though as we see the classroom side and some of the exercises that are done to train for the mission from both sides of the CES mission. We also get some remote training with a new team that Mutta’s put with that’s made up of the loose astronauts that are your loner types in different ways. Butler put him with them to try and see if he could make them gel in a way others haven’t, since he’s done that repeatedly since first being an ASCAN, and Butler goes a step further in putting Eddie Jay in charge of the group. It has a lot of potential and we get some decent character background material here for a couple of them, but since it’s not finished out in the anime side of things it’s hard to get too invested in them at the moment. Mutta’s side works well though because we see how Butler views him as being an ideal person in these kinds of situations and that really does raise his stock in NASA and JAXA.
The conclusion of the Space Brothers TV series is anything but a conclusion, but that’s a given considering how the source material is running. The show is one I started as a lark back when it was first simulcast because the title itself just sounded ridiculous and I figured it was a twelve episode show. Almost a hundred episodes later and it’s become one of the best series of this decade for me that should stand the test of time for some time to come. Space Brothers may not give us a conclusion here but it advances its story well. And when you consider just how much story and progress has been accomplished since that first episode it’s pretty staggering to realize what was achieved and that it went on as long as it did. This is a fantastic and must-own show.
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: April 26th, 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.