What They Say:
Once, there were two very different brothers who conceived a dream: that someday they would go into space themselves. However, brothers being brothers, once younger sibling Hibito announced that he would go to the moon, older brother Mutta declared that HE would go to Mars. Unfortunately, Mutta’s adult life isn’t going the way that he had hoped. Despite his hard work, his situation at his job is deteriorating and he ultimately finds himself transferred back to Japan. To make things even more frustrating, luck has been kinder to Hibito, who has already begun training with JAXA to become an astronaut. But Mutta isn’t ready to quit just yet. Four years before the events of the epic TV series, a new space race begins as brother chases brother on the path to the stars.
The audio presentation for this film comes with just the original Japanese language track in 5.1 form that’s encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The feature is one that mirrors the TV series for the most part as it 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 through the 5.1 elements. 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. I do wish that they had gone and tried to dub this film since it’s a shorter work and could have drawn more attention to it.
Originally released in 2014, the transfer for this feature film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. We get two editions of the film with the regular and one that has five extra minutes and is called the Chuya Koyama version. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the film takes the quality of the TV show and bumps it up a few notches but doesn’t have too far to go. The series was one that was strong its technical details and that carries through here, giving it some great consistency. The character designs are definitely a good strong point to the show as they capture the diversity of a large organization like NASA and other agencies that use it, 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. The front cover uses one of the visual used to promote the film in Japan as we get the two leads together in a field while their younger selves are in front of them, both versions of which show off their varied personalities really well. It’s light and colorful and looks good with the detail and overall color quality. The back cover is done up as the TV series was 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. I believe the spine will connect to the previous TV releases as well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The only extras included here are the clean opening and closing sequences.
After bringing out ninety-nine episodes of the TV series, Space Brothers wrapped up in the winter 2014 season. An anime feature landed a few months later in August and it’s taken several years but it was finally picked up for license, four years after Sentai Filmworks finished releasing the TV series on Blu-ray. The property is based on the manga by Chuya Koyama which began in 2007 and has thirty-six volumes to its name so far. The work did so well that in addition to spawning just under a hundred episodes – still a rarity these days – it also got a live-action film made back in 2012 which launched alongside the anime. The TV series was something that I was a huge fan of, reviewing it weekly, and loving the block batch revisits of it on Blu-ray where Sentai gave it a strong presentation.
With the manga still ongoing to this day, I knew that the TV series wouldn’t have any closure, but the idea of a movie was certainly enticing. The titling of it as Space Brothers #0 is key, however, because this isn’t taking us forward to any big new time or material from the manga. Instead, with a screenplay from the original creator, we get a story that takes us back before the beginning of the series and provides more of the connections in clearer form. I’m hard-pressed to say whether this should be watched first or last. If you watch it first, you can see some of the connections formed in “real time” as well as understanding more of where the leads are in their lives. But it may spoil a few things too much that are delights when introduced in the show. The other side is that if you watch it at the end, it’s a nice way to look at things full circle and to see just how far both Hibito and Mutta have come over the years.
With it going back some, we get to fairly distinct tracks to follow. For Hibito, it’s one that I think works well to show how he is as an astronaut at this point, going through the program and making friends and doing the hard work. We see him becoming friends with those in the program and building bonds that really makes it a community. We also see how he gets closer to Brian Jay more than anyone else and the impact that he has on his life. With the main mission that comes into the film focusing on Brian’s trip to the moon, which has one of the key moments playing out on a lunar walk, it also means we get to see him and his crew come back, which leads to the tragedy and heartbreak of the episode. But these are good to show how Hibito was a part of the community, accepted like everyone else, and how he was able to grieve in his own way along with everyone else that had mattered to Brian.
Mutta’s story is a little more complicated but I really appreciated it for what it does. We know from the TV series that he ends up out of his job and unsure of what to do, but here he’s assigned to one of the satellite offices and ends up working not on cars, at least not at first, but on tractors. There’s a lot of good stuff in showing how he connects with all sorts of different people that are older than him and he’s able to draw on them as a resource without it being too blatant. The result is that he ends up gaining a lot of knowledge himself as they work to repair one of the tractors, which earns him a lot of acclaim, and you can see how a lot of this will be useful later as a lunar explorer in knowing how to manage the land. It’s a slow but solid storyline as it unfolds and seeing Mutta come away so happy by the end is a huge plus, even if we know it’s a rarity for him and he has a very hard path ahead of him.
I had a couple of great years watching the simulcast for Space Brothers – a show I watched as a joke initially just because it’s name sounded so awful. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it over the course of eight Blu-ray collections where binge-viewing altered my take on it somewhat. And now I’ve been able to flesh it out a bit more with the prequel movie that helps to set the stage somewhat and expand our view of these engaging characters. I wish we had more seasons of the show or some further adaptation of the work because it’s one of the more impressive projects out there in how well it deals with it, especially in contrast to other series. Sentai’s release of this is pretty solid throughout, even though I do wish they’d risked a dub for it, and it’s an absolute thrill to finally have seen this and added it to my larger Space Brothers experience.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 18th, 2020
Running Time: 95 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.