Posted on 26 September 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

The past four episodes: character-development. It’s slow and steady, but definitely there, and in all kinds of forms. Mutta changed and finally realized his strengths, gaining lots of confidence from it, and also becoming mature enough to forgive his former employer that he gave the Zidane, Sharon’s condition subtly gets worse, the chief of Nasa gets some unexpected background (also I love that small scene of a young Deneil Young). And whoa, Hibito actually left with a big post-traumatic stress disorder after what happened on the moon.

I like that recently, the series has at least remembered to be varied: a few months ago I remember complaining that the arcs take too long, and that the series got too monotone. This arc again solves this by focusing on many things at the same time, so that we’re not just stuck with just one scenario. It’s still nowhere near the levels of the first 40 episodes, but I can’t deny that these events really pushed the characters further.

This reminds me of the reason why I don’t consider the Legend of Galactic Heroes to be the best anime ever. Sure, it’s amazing. Among the smartest anime out there. However, like Space Brothers, it was just so incredibly long. At times it really felt like a chore to try and sit through it, and it sometimes spent a bit too much of its time meticulously developing its cast and storyline, at the expense of pacing. The same has happened with Space Brothers: technically it’s doing everything right, but I want to see that amazement again of Mutta hearing that he gets to become an astronaut. The meticulous team building in an environment you could trust nobody thanks to the red cards. The longer a series goes on, the more chance it has of becoming stale in one way or the other. I’d like to view this with a bit of a broader perspective, using other, really long series and how they coped with their length. Generalizations will follow:

– Monster actually did this perfectly. The key was that it was built up meticulously: as it went on every single episode continued to deliver thanks to the build-up of the early episodes.
– Gintama also could not keep up for me after 100 episodes. The reason for that was that it ran out of jokes and started trying too hard. The other side of the extreme.
– Touch also had points where it got really stale, but what saved it was that it kept you on your toes. Although it only barely got away with this.
– Maison Ikkoku is another odd one. Helped by immense character-development and a ridiculously strong climax. It also didn’t play all of its cards immediately.
– Hajime no Ippo is a strange one: it also suffered from getting stale a bit, due to the entire series being about boxing, not the most varied topic. And yet the second season came and improved upon it by being much more over the top and doing this really well.
– Hikaru no Go had some amazingly strong episodes, but it too suffered from being stale despite how it just kept being intelligent. Again, the way in which every episode was about Go had something to do with that.
– Kodomo no Omocha is also a weird one, because its worst arc was in the middle of the series, and it picked itself back up afterwards
– Jigoku Shoujo was helped by that it was about three distinct parts that all had a clear beginning and ending and purpose.
– Hunter X Hunter is only now getting really good because we’ve finally gotten to the actual point that everyone has been waiting for ever since they first announced the new series.

I can see the following patterns from these series:
– Monotony can make things get stale, but not always.
– It’s not enough to only be ridiculously knowledgeable about your subject material. It’s just a very important and welcome ingredient. like having a steak dinner be so much better if it’s the meat from one of those Kobe cows or something.
– The best solution is: meticulous planning. Knowing exactly what you’re building up for, and knowing exactly what you want to do with it. That can excuse a lot.

How to relate this to Space Brothers: what I feel like it’s missing is planning. Up to the arc in which Mutta became an astronaut, the creators felt like they were in full control. Right now it feels like they’re just adapting the manga chapters as they come along with a steady pace, without really giving the extra mile.

so yeah, another reason why it’s wrong to adapt manga that are still currently ongoing. If you don’t know where the plot is going, then you’re going to be limited in one way or the other. I get that it makes sense from a commercial standpoint, but there are more things that do that that are just not right.
Rating: 4,5/8 (Good)

Posted on 30 August 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

For the past months I have been losing interest in Space Brothers, due to the huge standard that it set in the past. Sure it was still great, and had great moments, but it was not as good as what it once was. It lacked that spark. Even Sharon, while really sad, didn’t have that. A character is about to die: in essence every show is doing that (though granted, this series did it different from usual). I missed that spark: what made Space Brothers really special.

Now, these past four episodes. Nearly all of them reminded me why this series stands out. Sure, the pacing still is very slow, and the recaps at the start of the episodes have become even more annoying. But it had what I’ve missed for quite a while now: scenes that really hit me, whether they’re large or small, serious or comedic.

Episode 67 stood out not because of one moment, but how Mutta and Deniel grew closer together. The bond that developed between them in which they could just do stuff without saying things out loud, and how they both very well understand the dangers of being a fighter pilot.

Episode 68 had me laughing harder at an anime than what I’ve done in a really long while when Mr Hibbit appeared. Oh, how Hibito’s words come to bite him back!

Episode 69 again had me laughing again just as hard at Mutta’s photo that was taken. Sure they’re small things, but for some reason, that face he made really cheered me up. Also he’s an astronaut now!

Episode 70: Mutta actually got an offer to go into space that was not what he was after. It would realize his dream of becoming an actual astronaut, but he’d get nowhere near the moon. It really forced him to think about his future. Also holy crap, Vincent hasn’t been to space yet?!

It’s one thing to write a good story about astronauts. You can also get in pretty good character development. If you have that you generally have a pretty good series. What Uchuu Kyoudai did in the past was more than that. It’s the thing that is hard to describe, because a lot of it lied in the details: in both the script and the characters it went the extra mile and threw in lots of nice details and touches. Ever since the desert arc, that has been lost a bit (honestly, it started showing when Hibito was stuck on the moon). It’s all hard to describe, but I think a variation: don’t stay hanging around the same thing for too long, and if you do: spice things up. That was something that the first forty episodes of this series were just brilliant at.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 2 August 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

Thank god I finally managed to catch up to this series. And don’t get me wrong, Space Brothers is awesome, but it’s also so intimidating to fully watch through. I remember that a few years ago, when the average series length started to change from 26 episodes to 13, that I lauded the series that went on really long. At this point, I see that things just are not so simple: ideally, series should go on for like 26 or 39 episodes (on average, there are always exceptions): that way they aren’t cut off early, they’ve got their time to build up their story, but they are also forced to be concise. As much as I love Space Brothers, it drags. A lot.

These episodes comprise two arcs: the first one focuses on Sharon, the second focuses on flight training. Sharon’s arc was really good here. I nearly got a bit teary-eyed when Serika brought the bad news to her, that she really should see a doctor. In terms of character-develooment, these episodes added so much to Sharon’s character.

The pilot training, I get why it’s important, but I also feel like it’s reusing a lot of things from previous arcs. It was nice to see this one character who appeared months ago to reappear again, but this is the second time that Mutta ends up with an instructor that everybody finds weird but is actually secretly brilliant. It’s again some sort of astronaut training.

Don’t get me wrong, these episodes raised plenty of good points. I mean the past number of episodes showed the first real hints of why Mutta will set himself apart. First of all he now has the motivation with Sharon, plus he also has the instructor who can bring him to the top. I also like that it criticized the ranking system for astronauts due to the arbitrary assignment of teachers, and it did give some insight about flying a jet and all. Overall the episode just was not THAT interesting to watch. Build-up is awesome, but you do need to keep in your audience’s attention.
Rating: 4,5/8 (Good)

Posted on 11 June 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

Something weird is going on here: ever since Mutta became an astronaut, his climaxes have been a bit mellow. I mean, at the end of the first, second, and third exam you could cut the build-up with a knife, and the resolutions were all really well developed and had a ton of personality behind them. Here it’s like “Oh, you became fifth”. It’s all very straightforward, and while things were done to spice things up with the rain and mud and all, I still feel like I’m missing something. This edge, some sort of wit, that made the first year of this series so incredibly addictive.

Not to say that this is bad though. I’m not looking forward to Space Brothers in the way that I used to, but these two episodes again were very realistic: they took the build-up of the previous episodes and with that in mind, things happened exactly like you thought it would. Everything of the past three or four months was leading up to these two episodes, and so much preparation has been put into it. Yeah, there was very little that could go wrong.

And I don’t know whether these episodes were special or not, but the recaps at the beginning were cut down significantly. Now keep it that way! I mean, the pacing in these two episodes was perfectly done. Also, the animation and particle effects were also very well animated on Hibito’s reentry.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 26 May 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

Strong emotions. They are always difficult in anime, and it’s so easy to just overact these things. Yet it’s also crucial to nail them in the parts that need to be serious, otherwise you’re just going to end up looking cheesy. An added difficulty is that it’s usually just incredibly difficult to watch people lose control of their emotions.

Having said that, the creators did a pretty good job on Pico and Vince. Space Brothers is a master of subtle emotions, but here they needed to be big. Vince needed to be just completely shaken up by what happened. In this episode, you couldn’t just have pulled the usual “let’s not show our biggest emotions”, because even though he’s completely stoic, he was a child once. We needed to have seen his development.

I think that the backstory could have been done in one episode (especially with around three minutes of bloody recap for both episodes!). And don’t get me wrong, the slow pacing also had its set of big advantages. Because of that the creators could just dedicate so much time to two side-characters to make them really memorable. They especially used the silences really well to build up atmosphere. This episode may have had characters break down, it still was subtle: there were so many scenes in which nothing was said, but instead the creators just let the images do the talking.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 18 May 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

This episode really showed one of the advantages that a series with an old cast brings: everyone has already had extensive backgrounds. Mutta: he has had a whole career in car design already. He knows how to design stuff like that, and he thinks like an engineer. This is much less apparent in series about teenagers who went through a lot less passions in their lives.

Pico also is getting together. We had his introduction and backstory already, and now it’s time to add some emotion in him. This show does it by pretty much establishing that even though he looks like he doesn’t care, his engineering heart can’t hide the fact that he has enthusiasm for his job. I especially loved the cliff-hanger of this episode. Something will happen next episode!

The rest of this episode was a lot of robot building. Oh, and those very nostalgic fishing games that I loved playing when I was a kid. It really shows that this series did its research, and I like that a lot: the kinds of shows that are able to teach me things.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 6 May 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

Storytelling is a matter of balance. Not doing too much, and not doing too little. At one point, Space Brothers managed to nail that balance perfectly. I wasn’t bored for a minute and it stood consistently among my favorites. I think the height was where Mutta heard that he got to be an astronaut.

The pacing already was a bit wonky during Hibito’s arc, which took a bit too long, but really: that desert arc was just not good. They spent ages in there, and what was it all for? A bit of development for Nitta, plus the cast fot fleshed out a tiny bit (but way too little for the standards of this series). Not to mention those huge amounts of recaps. What was supposed to be a small build-up arc took bloody ages to get finished. I don’t care whether this is for its timeslot or manga. The creators could have easily just made a second season in 2014 or something. This decision to keep going really brought down this series.

Episode 56 thankfully picked up things again, and it’s now up to that druk Pico guy to make up for all of those mistakes. This episode made a good start, but they’re not quite there yet. I like the whole story around the malfunctioning parachutes, and how they’re really going in-depth to how the acident could have happened (using Hibito as the next one to use that system also really helps). I also like how the current assignment requires everyone to use their own unique talent (like Mutta with his automobile experience). Now get the pacing of this arc right!
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 12 April 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

I’m just including episode 52 in this entry so that I can comment on the new OP and ED. I love them! They are unmistakably Space Brothers, but they feel so retro! The OP reminds me of this cheesy beach music, while the ED starts out dull and boring, and suddenly explodes in this really well sung piece that actually perfectly symbolizes parts of the story, and the quest of both brothers to reach space.

But yeah, episode 52 WAS a recap. That’s the only flaw of Uchuu Kyoudai at this point: the excessive flashbacks. Episode 51 took nearly five whole minutes before it got to its new content. What could be the cause of this? Budget restraints? Is the manga not long enough ahead? Not enough staff?

Either way though, when episode 51 did start for real, it was really, really good. It really took its time again, to focus on the difference between Nitta and his brother, and Mutta and Hibito. I really like how Mutta and Nitta both are jealous of each other. The episode also showed some progression in Nitta’s brother, and it did so with a lot of heart. Nothing that Nitta did when he was in the desert had any effect on that, but it was the fruit of Nitta and his mother, constantly having patience with him and encouraging him to actually do something with his life. With this, the first step was set.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 26 March 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

With this episode it’s finally time for Nitta to tell his story. We’re at episode 50, and he was already building up to this episode from the moment that the second exam started. Back in like, episode 13 or something. It only became obvious in the current arc, though. Nitta is basically the opposite of Mutta: the older brother, whose younger sibling is just a complete failure. A neet who refuses to do anything.

That cliff-hanger of last week indeed was really evil, but in the end what made it the most annoying was not the fact that I wanted to know what happened to Nitta’s brother, but that it ended just as it got really good (that’s something I noticed with a lot of other series with nerve-wrecking cliff-hangers). This episode just commenced to head for the most obvious solution as if it’s nothing. Of course, an astronaut should not be allowed to head into his own direction. That’s complete suicide. Sure, they will lose the challenge there and there will be some consequences, but in the end it was the only right thing to do here.

And with this we’re nearly one year in, and still going strong. At the start of this series I never imagined that this show would go on for more than a year. This would have been a crappy episode to end with by the way. “Yeah, we’re in the middle of the desert with a ton of potential left. Bye bye!”
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 19 March 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

Damn you, Space Brothers! Damn you!

Uchuu Kyoudai is a brilliant and amazingly inspiring series, and at the same time it’s completely evil. Now that we’re back on a training mission again, this evil side of its has really shown again, in the form of some of the most addictive cliff-hangers I’ve seen since Giant Killing. The reason why this show is so evil is because it seems to make a sport out of it: how can it make the wait for next week as frustrating as possible?

These past two episodes. They were so chock full of hints for the future of this series. And this series didn’t even attempt to hide them: it’s like: “har har, you’ll only find out about this later!”, with “later” varying from five minutes to 20 episodes. As if the prophecy wasn’t enough already, these episodes just kept referring back to it, fully aware of what they did. Uchuu Kyoudai is a series that’s always looking to the future. And god, I love this series.

The thing also is: every time it hints at something, the eventual pay-off is something different from what it seems at first. This was most obvious with that snake (god damn whoever thought of that), but also Nitta and his brother at the end. I knew he had issues with his brother, but I never expected things to be as serious for him to blow off a survival mission like that. And then there are the little things. Like that shirt. Damn, it’s completely irrelevant, but I want to know what’s on that shirt!
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

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