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. Meanwhile, Mutta has never been working harder, continuing to prepare for his own mission to the moon while serving as Vince’s backup. But Mutta’s team is still incomplete, and Chief Butler has yet to assign a captain to the CES-62 backup crew. Will the unexpected new addition to the roster change everything? Get ready for a rendezvous with destiny as the brotherhood of space meets its greatest challenge in the eighth interstellar collection of SPACE BROTHERS!
The Japanese 2.0 audio is encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. This set had some sound effects, but most of the audio remains vocals and background music. There is no distortion or dropouts, and the stereo soundstage seems well balanced. This series does offer several scenes where emotion is conveyed through vocal inflections, and the audio supports this important aspect.
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. While there are few action sequences in this series, the transfer looks great when challenging sequences do appear. Colors remain very strong, and there are no distracting artifacts from a normal viewing distance. I’m not sure that the transfer remains consistent throughout because I believe several flashback sequences were recycled from earlier episodes. In hindsight, I remember some scenes with new characters appear with less detail than normal, but that seems to be an artistic decision and not a problem.
The final collection in the set, the packaging continues the collector theme. The standard size keepcase spine has the title and volume number above the left shoulder of Mutta. Apo’s head in a spacesuit appears above a partial earth view from space. When all 8 cases are lined up together, the spine shows Hibito standing in an orange spacesuit holding his helmet in his right arm. Mutta stands beside him in a suit and tie holding Apo who has a white spacesuit with helmet on. In the background of the bottom third is a space view of earth and a distant moon appears between the brothers’ heads.
The case has a hub inside the front and back cover. On the front cover, the title and episode numbers appear on a geometric moonscape. Apo in a JAXA spacesuit floats on a black field with a rocket-shaped section of blue with clouds. The back cover is formatted like others in the series. 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.
Like previous sets, each DVD is printed with a moonscape and the repeated words “Space” and “Brothers” shadowed over in shades of blue.
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 88-93 and the special features. Disc 2 has episodes 94 through 99. The selector is a blue rocket shape that goes through the chapter title.
The Special Features menu screen is a vibrant moon in a black field of stars.
The only extras are a clean opening and ending.
Collection 8 begins with Hibito preparing to demonstrate he has overcome his panic disorder by doing a suited demonstration in the underwater training area. Hibito finally confides in Mutta that a panic disorder is responsible from removing him from future moon flights. Mutta responds by researching the disorder, and believing that the condition is manageable, he attempts to convince Hibito to think of the anime Pretty Dog whenever P.D. comes to mind. He even sends Hibito a pretty dog mirror before his test. Even though Hibito makes it through the test without having a panic attack, one of the NASA brass undermines his potential to ever go back to space. Upon learning the news Hibito disappears.
Mutta moves one step closer to his chance to go to the moon. Working as the backup for Vince, he trains with a group of misfits including the wife of one of the astronauts who died in the reentry accident with Brian Jay. While the group seems unlikely and really a collection of caricatures, the connections to the past tragedies offer a sense mortality and struggle that gives a more profound context to Hibito’s situation. When Hibito disappears, Mutta loses his focus and endangers his standing in the space program.
As things come to a close, many of the characters important in earlier episodes reappear in natural situations. Nitta finds a distraught Mutta sitting in a parking lot, and in an effort to help Mutta regain his faith, Nitta tells him about the progress of his little brother who has been attempting to overcome his shut-in past. Kenji welcomes a new child into the world, and he and Nitta learn the details of their mission. Serika trains near Mutta, and she still flusters him. Even a wheelchair-bound Sharon returns to Houston with a new proposal for the lunar telescope.
During these episodes, the character interactions demonstrate the level of development that has occurred over the series where now a one-scene interaction between Mutta and a secondary character offers the natural attributes of real people who know each other and share a back story.
On the flip side, the Mr. Hibbit funny animal parody returns. Out of nowhere, we watch him suffocating and pass out trying to save his crew on the moon base. If you are watching this with a sensitive child or adult, be prepared to fast forward to the next Mr. Hibbit segment where the gruesome end turns out not to be what you thought. These segments actually validated the character for me, and it explains why a 15-year-old Russian ballerina might be a fan of the show.
Collection 8 concludes the 99 episode series with a bittersweet twist. We visit old friends as they help Mutta and Hibito move onward in their journey to follow their heart. These episodes don’t have the consistency of most earlier collections as new characters have been added who offer no development or purpose. In some ways, a few of these may be among the weaker episodes, but this does not damage the strong ending the anime gives the main and secondary characters.
When I was an undergraduate, an elderly professor told us that he read the same Mark Twain book every year. He regarded it as a classic because it meant something more to him every year because as he grew, he understood the world, and the characters, from a slightly different perspective. Space Brothers is a classic. More than once, a story point or a character’s action took me to my own life in the past. Through the series, we witness self-doubt, the courage to live in the face of nothingness, mistakes that injure, and the silliness of sexual attraction. By never forcing a single narrative, Space Brothers offers the complexity of interpersonal relationships that cause us to reflect on ourselves and our world.
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: April 26th, 2016
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.