Just a Small Town World
One of the reasons I will continue to push Space Brothers to the top of any AOTY consideration, as I did in 2012, is simply because it is one of the best shows being produced that bothers to actually capture everything vividly and accurately. Most animation studios don’t bother to make non-Japanese characters or settings realistic, and I can understand that, their target audiences don’t care. But when they do, I feel like they really capture the story they want to tell more accurately than if they had not, and when it comes to astronauts, engineers, and space, this show really pulls out the stops to document space travel from fictional points of view.
Episodes 58-60 were by far some of the best episodes in the series, right behind Hibito and the moon. I was convinced Vince and Pico were going to be “throwaway characters” in the respect that they’d be used for the ASCAN trials and discarded for the next arc, but they wove an even more impressive and more true-to-my-heart story than I could have imagined.
Much like Vince and Pico, I grew up in and around small town America. In contrast to the larger cities and suburbs you see, I lived in the suburban Midwest. In the episode, the story of Vince and Pico reached back to the same small town America and told the story of how the friends built rockets while going to high school, and dreamed of becoming astronauts and mission controllers in order to realize the dream of going into space, to board the ISS, and to work with Brian Jay. But living in a mining town, they were pressured to follow their fathers and fellow townsmen to working at the local mine, as either miners or engineers. Their pay would be sufficient, their lives would not be bad, but it would not get them into space.
By contrast, I cannot compare myself directly to them, because if I really wanted to, I could have become something to get me into NASA, or at minimum become an engineer. It’s a lot of hard work though, and while that came easy to me for most of my elementary school life, I didn’t have many friends and was very introverted and shy. My parents worked a lot, and when they weren’t working, they were doing house work, yard work, drinking, or whatever else. I don’t want to imply that they did not love us, or that they tried to interfere with our lives or futures, much in the way the episode shows Vince’s father and school officials pressuring them to going to a technical school to join the mines, but I was pushed in neither direction really. Early on in my childhood I wanted to either be part of NASA, or be a computer programmer. My father was a programmer, but he never really taught me any programming. I tried to teach myself some, but it was difficult at that age, and I instead started tinkering with hardware and software, breaking things, fixing things, modifiying operating systems, hacking essentially. I didn’t have a clear direction in computers, and by high school I was convinced that I just wanted to work with them somehow, which wasn’t going to work when I realized it many years later. My parents used to yell and scream that I needed to do better in school, get a good job, not get a girl knocked up at 18. Don’t do drugs. Stay out of trouble. I played it extremely safe for over a decade and a half, and as it turns out, you can’t play it safe. You have to take risks, you have to fail, and you have to learn from failure.
In many ways, that’s what this show means to me, the entire plot and premise is a man who has lived under his younger brother’s shadow for so long, he has become content with life and never thought to change it until he was fired for headbutting his manager. His original dream was to go to space with his brother, and thus he decided to re-pursue that dream, and everything else that has happened is the result of his dream and dozens of others colliding and forming this incredible story about space exploration and humanity’s role within. It’s probably too late for me to realize one of my biggest childhood dreams, but the events of the last year or so, and especially the last six months, have motivated me to try to fix some of the past I broke for myself. As Nanba said, my biggest enemy is myself, and he is absolutely fucking right.
Goddamn this show. Seriously. These feels.