Spring has really started out strong, first with Ozuma, and now with Space Brothers. The show has a distinctly mature setting, as the characters are fully grown men with careers under their belts. What makes them doubly interesting is that the two brothers differ not only in age, but also in success. I often hear older sisters lament about younger sisters marrying first, but this is the first instance I’ve come across where the younger brother exceeds the older in both fulfilling his childhood dream as well as in the professional sense.
I find the siblings’ love for space all the more intriguing due to the fact that I, like many other children, also dreamed of becoming an astronaut and going into space. As an only child, however, I never had that sibling rivalry to push me. Even from this single episode, I was amazed with how real the characters felt and how relatable the situations.
The perfect combination of Mutta’s despair in losing his job with the irony of his designed car created a sad humor that you couldn’t help but laugh and wince at at the same time. The defeat of having to move back in with his elderly parents and suffer job black listing and public ridicule was horrifyingly familiar.
With that in mind, it’s difficult to watch this without remembering your own childhood dreams; mine was to become a concert pianist, then later, an orchestral percussionist. Those dreams have slipped past my fingertips, but Mutta’s chance to start over reminded me that it’s never too late to try again.
*Note: if you’ve seen Tiger and Bunny, you might recognize the VA for Namba Hibito.
Folktales from Japan
Geared towards children, Folktales consists of 3-segment episodes. This week’s began with “The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom,” “The Man Who Bought Dreams,” and “The Rat Sutra.” Despite the intended demographic, any lover of folktales will appreciate these stories. Though the colors are soft and the narrator voice over ever present, there is some darkness to be found, similar to the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
The first folktale, “The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom,” teaches lessons of hospitality and gratitude. In it, the main couple rescues a puppy from the river and raise it as family. One day, he brings them fortune by leading them to buried gold. The family’s nosy and greedy neighbors find out about their blessings and ask to borrow Shiro. Not only does the art reflect these neighbors’ thankless view on life, but so does their treatment of others’ belongings. When Shiro leads them to the hole of insects and reptiles they rightfully deserve, they bury him in that same hole out of anger, despite him not being their dog. A similar series of events follow as the original family reaps further benefits while their neighbors get their just deserts.
I can imagine how horrified a child would be at cute Shiro’s offscreen murder, and there isn’t even a clear resurrection of the little guy to create that perfect Disney ending. Children have to be content with his rebirth in the form of the cherry blossoms, a romanticized view on death, I suppose. As seemingly shallow as the stories are, it would be extremely ignorant to dismiss them as “simple.” I look forward to analyzing the upcoming tales for cultural differences and commonalities between East and West, as well as universal lessons applicable to all ages.
There is a lot of hate for this show (with a few hopefuls out there), which I have to admit isn’t altogether unwarranted. But, I thought there were some definite points of interest in the setting and plot–if only the characters could work hard to get up to that level.
The huge amount of cramming in the first episode to get all the backstory out of the way resulted in a noticeable rush to the overall atmosphere. The viewers are thrown into a dark sci-fi setting right from the start, with richies splurging their money on bloody sport and bio-engineered arena monsters with near human, if not super human, intelligence providing the entertainment. I would have enjoyed a bit more build up between the screened matches and the mass break out, since the two flashed across my screen almost too quickly for me to really absorb everything. It wasn’t until later when those same escaped Players were shown in human form that I reflected back to the beginning and re-designated who exactly were the performers and who the audience. The switch around may not have been the most subtle approach, but I appreciated the reversal all the same.
It’s our characters who need the most work, as our young, 10-years-old-ish protagonist exhibits an alarmingly unbelievable amount of ignorance about death and human emotions. Again, the show felt the need to hit us over the head with the obviousness of his identity, first with an anonymous baby hand photo, then later with Jin’s openness with his friends. He is plainly the same child from the beginning break out who was smuggled out of the facility and is the proclaimed “devil” amongst Players. Enter the wisest Fool as his “Gramps” and the motherly Hostess as “Akemi,” and we have a strange combination of parenthood, elderly guide, and fan service.
The closest comparison to this anime that I can make at the moment is Deadman Wonderland (young Jin shares the same VA as Ganta), which started out in a gore-tastic rush of events, only to bombard us with disconnected plot arcs, non-sensical side characters, and pointless violence. Maybe fans learned their lesson from DW and are applying those suspicions to Zetman. I, however, am hopeful that the pacing and character development will improve post childhood phase.