Space Brothers #99: Series finale review and Critics Round Up
The anime adaptation of the popular manga Space Brothers has reached an end after 99 episodes, at least for now.In this post we revisit the events that unfolded in this series finale, round up the opinions of several critics and investigate what the future holds for the Space Brothers franchise.
This recap contains spoilers, you've been warned!
Much has been said about the slow pace of Space Brothers, which made lots of people drop the anime all together. Personally I like the thoroughness of the storytelling, the many details and the emphasis on realism, not just regarding the settings but also the interactions between all the characters.
Reaching the end of a series calls for a proper review of the entire series, which I've already done with this post. So in this post I'll just cover what happened in this last episode of Space Brothers. Hibito has checked in again, after he's gone missing upon understanding NASA will never send him on a mission again. Most people would take this as a sign that their astronaut days are over, not Hibito. He's gotten the chance to go on a joint Japanese-Russian mission to the moon. Hence his connections with all three space agencies really paid off.
Mutta regained his focus during his training for CAPCOM in NASA's mock mission control center. We're not really sure how he did it, as there was a for Space Brothers very uncharacteristic flash forward of several months. We do know Mutta visited the stoic Vincent Bold, for whom he's the backup astronaut of the upcoming moon mission, at his family home, to get to know him better.
Apparently bonding with Vincent worked as it was especially he who made clear to Mutta he wasn't performing well enough. Mutta needed to get his act together or be removed as backup astronaut. I can't imagine how Mutta would get back on track towards the moon if something like that happened, knowing NASA's stifening bureaucracy as Space Brothers portrayed it, which already made a victim of Hibito.
The episode ended with a nice feel-good montage of all the major characters, as they looked on seeing the rocket with the next moon mission crew blast into space. Mutta was in the mission control center, performing his duties as CAPCOM in a confident manner. It felt like a series ending, but as explained before, rather incomplete.
The second season
When the first season of Space Brothers ended, there was a big outcry on Crunchyroll, reddit and on several blog comment threads. If Space Brothers wouldn't get a second season, we will never get to see Mutta go into space. Other series would've already send Mutta to space in the same timespan, probably thrice over. There were also a lot of complaints about having invested a well above average amount of time watching a series.
Personally I understand the fuss about Space Brothers' first season ending without a really satisfying conclusion. If there's gonna be a second season this series finale would simply be yet another cliffhanger. One in which both Hibito and Mutta are very close on a concrete path towards the moon. So luckily for us, that second season is gonna happen! The confirmation by the official Space Brothers Twitter account isn't very strong yet nor detailed, but here it is:
Translation: “The final episode airs this Saturday. We’re catching up to the manga, so we’re taking a break for the time being. We don’t know when we’ll continue exactly, but look forward to our exhibit in May and the movie this summer.” (translated by courtesy of a commenter on a Commie-Subs post)
So what's this movie they are talking about? A live-action movie has already been made, so this is going to be an anime movie, called Space Brothers #0. It's going to be the origin story of Space Brothers, for which the manga author, Chūya Koyama, interrupted continuing the manga — from December 2013 to February 2014 — to write on the film's script. Space Brothers #0 will be released on the 9th of August.
Critics round up
As this post comes several weeks after the first airing of the season finale, I've got the oppurtunity to round up some opinions from my fellow critics on this (for now) final episode of Space Brothers.
Andy Hanley of Hanners' Anime Blog notes that "the final episode did feel like it had to rush a fair few things" and observes that "life won't be complete until we get to see Mutta on the surface of the moon". Overall the series gets a very positive judgement: "[Space Brothers] hasn't always hit the mark, but across its ninety-nine episodes its succeeded in its storytelling far, far more often than it failed, and that's no mean feat".
Chris Beveridge of The Fandom Post "can't recommend the series enough" and feels Space Brothers wrapped up the season pretty well: "Space Brothers hits its end mark here in a rather beautiful way as it takes us from the past to the present and to the future as we see the way they have been close, apart and close again only to find their paths will most likely lead them to the same place".
For Guardian Enzo of Lost in Anime "Uchuu Kyoudai ended the way it spend the best weeks of its run - dignified, emotionally resonant, low-key but powerful." He also notes that "after having spent so much of his life defining himself in terms of his relationship to his brother, it seems it's finally time for Mutta to forge his own path."
Tallon of 24 Frames Per Second was thoroughly disappointed with the final episode, as "it was beyond unsatisfying, it was just a plain bad ending. Nothing was concluded, a group of non-characters were sent to the moon." For him, the premise of the show hasn't been fulfilled. "There is nothing that makes any of this show worth watching anymore, and I can only regret the past 99 episodes worth of time I’ve wasted. Two years of watching these characters, knowing that by the end they will achieve the title – the Nanba brothers will be in space together – and in the end you get nothing."
The final episode of Space Brothers attempted to tie up several themes and storylines, in which it succeeded while still leaving much to be desired. It was a nice touch to learn how Nitta's brother Kazuya has been doing. After never leaving his room for years, he finally went out into the world again, making some promising steps towards building a new career, despite a major rejection. In the same spirit of positivism that surrounds Hibito's decision to leave NASA and try his luck elsewhere, Kazuya plans to emigrate to the States and start over.
As for Mutta, he's no longer the older brother trying to catch up with his younger brother. This realization came as a shock to him, but at the end of the day he's carrying it proudly. All of this highlights one of the most important messages that I can extract from Space Brothers: in the face of great obstacles, sticking to your dreams and never giving up will eventually prevail.