It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about the still-running anime based on astronauts, space, NASA/JAXA, and everything in-between, and that is Space Brothers. It’s been on the air now for a little over a year, crossing the fifty episode mark a month and a half ago, but with a few recap episodes airing recently, I didn’t care to really get back on until they ended last week opening up with a new arc in the ASCAN saga, building a rocket that deploys a parachuting rover.
Space Brothers is the sort of show that 12-year-old me finds absolutely fucking fantastic. I grew up in the golden age of NASA’s space exploration, during the Space Shuttle era, before the launch of the International Space Station, MIR, and so on. When I got to visit Johnson Space Center in Houston one year, it was something out of a book to me. I’ve always been fascinated with space, and one of my biggest regrets to this day was that I let my dream of space exploration die, that I didn’t go back and do well enough in school to become a NASA astronaut. Even if I fell short of becoming an astronaut, I would have wanted to be a NASA engineer. It would be the career of a lifetime.
Perhaps that is why I like this show more than I should Nanba is by all intents and purposes my age (give or take) and has an outlook on things that aren’t far from my own. The only difference is I don’t have a little brother, rather I have a little sister, but she won’t end up on the moon anytime soon. The show likes to believe that you aren’t too old to pursue your dreams, which is nice of it to do, but for those of us watching that let that dream go long ago, it’s just good fun entertainment now. That’s fine though, I’m okay with that. I always like to think that the mass of humanity will reach space before the end of my lifetime, but realistically humanity will probably take another several generations to make it to space, but it’s my hope we do. We need to make it to space, not just for our planet, but for our people as a whole. Space exploration needs to happen.
Now back to the show, Nanba’s trials through the astronaut candidate program have been incredibly fun to watch. Throughout the first fifty episodes you got the impression that once they passed that first test in the groups, they were home free, and in a sense, they were, but the show continues to put them through more trials and hardships on the difficult path to becoming an astronaut. I’m not intimately familiar with the actual process, but I assume the writers and staff for this show at least got most of the details and research from JAXA, and their process is no doubt similar to NASA. It’s no doubt a long and grueling process.
The best part about this show though is all of the little references, especially to America. A large part of the show takes place in Houston, and although they did get the American home and yard down early on, as well as Texas Roadhouse, they don’t fully replicate the experience. That doesn’t matter too much, after all, it’s not the focus of the show, but you can tell they zing Americans quite a bit, such as Lowry and his Japanese word obsession, or the fat engineer eating a burger, fries, and a candy bar in the most recent episode. The US has never been very flattering in anime, and rightfully so, most people outside of the US don’t see the US favorably, and vice-versa. A lot of anime companies use actual cities and towns in Japan as backdrops for their stories, and they often turn out beautiful. I’m not holding out for an anime that takes place in a small US town done well, but it’s a shame American animation companies don’t try to go for something similar in their own ballpark.
Case in point, Space Brothers is the show to watch for space, and really it’s like a land-based Star Trek sometimes. It’s full of interesting space facts, great characters, and an awesome story that any space fan should watch. Bonus points if you break out your Lego or real space shuttle models.