Space Brothers #98: The Ultimate Astronaut
Hibito's missing upon understanding he won't be going to space anymore, after a talk with Chief Butler. The situation persists for several days, which has a negative impact on Mutta's performance.This recap contains spoilers, you've been warned! Also, this recap is about a much newer episode than others reviewed on this site. We do recaps of this show in two rhythmns: one covering the newest episode as soon after it comes out, the other starts at episode 1 and will eventually "catch" up with the newest episode.
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Apparently Hibito can't take it anymore. After suffering and overcoming his anxiety disorder, he's now facing a dragon he can't beat: NASA's bureaucracy personified in program manager Robert Gates. Chief Butler of the Astronaut Office vehemently disagrees, but he doesn't have the authority to assign Hibito to a mission without Gates' approval.
So Hibito is stuck in a dark place and his days long disappearance without telling anyone anything is kind of dragging Mutta with him. His performance is slipping right when he has essential training to become CAPCOM in the simulated Mission Control Center. First he makes a few small mistakes, but eventually a big one that will definitely haunt him for a while.
The serious phone conversation between Butler and Mutta was refreshing, with Mutta being able to level with Butler and saying some sensible things. The best being: "After the lunar accident, he saved his fellow crew member from the bottom of a dark ravine making all the right decisions to return alive. Afterward, he demonstrated that he had conquered his panic disorder. Hibito knows the fear of being in space better than any other astronaut, and he has overcome that fear! If you ask me, he is the ultimate astronaut."
It's clear Mutta has a great deal of respect for his brother, and a lot of empathy for the situation he's now in. Luckily he's not the only one (Azuma Takio, Freddie Saturn and Eddie Jay are the others). Damian Kweller, the astronaut whose life Hibito saved on the moon, is one of the four veteran astronauts who signed a petition on Hibito's behalf. He thinks it's wrong that he, who made a near-fatal mistake, gets the chance to return to the moon, but not Hibito, who made sure that Damian's mistake didn't cost them both their lives.
Hibito's problems, present for dozens of episodes now, still aren't resolved. It's about time that they do, as the audience's patience surely has run out by now. You can find many complaints online about Space Brother's story telling pace, and some definitely have a point. Not to mention the fact that after nearly 100 episodes, Mutta still hasn't gone to space. After all the hurdles Hibito's overcome, this time it seemed he's finally reached the end. However, the episode closes with Hoshika Tadashi, Mutta and Hibito's sponsor at JAXA showing up, wanting to talk with Chief Butler. Maybe he will be able to save the day, and allow us and Hibito to move on.