Episodes of Space Brothers generally fall into 3 categories. First, you have the ones detailing Mutta’s progress as an astronaut. Second, you have the ones dealing with Hibito’s career and missions. Lastly, you have the interlude episodes which serve to establish and build the series’ diverse, while introducing ideas that will become important later. This episode was of the latter variety, and raised some interesting specters lurking in the series’ future.
The grocery trip at the beginning of the episode was an opportunity to do 2 things: show Apo’s antics when confronted with a statue of a bigger pug, and revisit the surprisingly dual nature of Mutta’s relationship with Kenji. It’s been well-established at this point in the show that Mutta and Kenji get along very well. Nonetheless, there have been times before this (such as the after-party between the first and second exams) when Mutta seemed to resent Kenji’s achievements to some extent. This may be a combination of Mutta’s slightly petty nature with Kenji’s lack of ability to perceive when what he says could negatively effect someone. Either way, given the long-running nature of this series, it has plenty of time to fester if it is a real issue.
Having recently experienced a move down south, I know exactly the chain this is mimicking
The fact that the doctors are refusing to clear Hibito for EVA work, but he still insists he can, is a reflection of the same worrisome tendencies he showed during the crevice/disaster arc of not valuing his own health enough. Many people hold that sort of persistence in high regard, but it placed Hibito seconds away from death just recently. And as this own series pointed out earlier, NASA was only able to deal with the sharp regolith problem after someone with a non-military background gave his pain enough mind to mention his symptoms. It’s just a good thing NASA lets their medical staff handle these decisions, unlike a certain other organization.
Outside of the truly main cast, we got to see a little more of 3 characters in action: official team mom Komachi, “Ninja” Murakoshi, and the still-mysterious (although his storyline got more tangible towards the end) Nitta. Komachi showed off her skills by negotiating the price of the girls’ apartment down a pay grade, gently laying to rest any notions people might have had of her as a flighty individual who might not be able to handle tougher situations. If a crisis does crop up later, as a result of Bold’s training menu or Nitta’s apparent deadbeat brother family situation, she could very well play a role in its resolution.
More of a leader than the hair suggests
One other thing I noticed from Komachi’s scene with the rent negotiation was that she was confirmed to be speaking English, but the scene was recorded in Japanese. Though there are arguments even now being made for authenticity, I actually prefer it this way. As a native English speaker, and a viewer in general, it feels awkward and really breaks the flow of the show when you take the Japanese voice actors out of their skill zone and force them to speak a foreign language. Although there are any number of examples, the one conversation in Giant Killing between Tatsumi and Blanc comes to mind.
Meanwhile, Murakoshi, prankster as he was, was used to introduce the idea that some astronauts exist as professional benchwarmers, fully capable of performing missions, but not ever getting put on any specific one. I would like to point out, though, that a good backup is by no means useless (the 2011 Steelers making the Super Bowl comes to mind). The fact that some astronaut candidates drop out of their own will was less surprising; in any given career, people realize they’re not suited in some way and drop out, regardless of how much time they’ve invested in it.
Finally, let’s take a look at the elephant in the room, Vincent Bold. Competence aside, his downright antisocial demeanor is something that I actually believe would get him fired from a lot of workplaces, let alone NASA. The fact that he’s been given the task of handling the candidate training seems to me to be a tad contrived, like the series felt it had to introduce a villain. Even so, I’m sure I’ll continue paying rapt attention to the series as Mutta inevitably wins him over with that glue-guy personality of his.