If you go into this expecting it to be all rocket ships and space flights, then you’ll be slightly disappointed. Whilst this is technically a science-fiction anime, it is not intergalactic space stations, laser battles and aliens. Instead what you have is a slice of life dramedy telling the story of the two Nanba brothers who dream to go off into space.
Whilst both brothers get their own stories and arcs it is the older brother, Mutta, who is the main protagonist. We begin the series with him at a crossroads in life having been fired from his job as an engineer (he headbutted his manager, Zidane-style). His younger brother, Hibito, is about to fulfil his dream of being the first Japanese man on the moon… and this gets Mutta thinking about his long-abandoned dream of becoming an astronaut.
What follows is 90+ episodes of us watching Mutta training and competing to becoming an astronaut in his own right as he plays catch-up to his younger brother. The anime paints this as being a lot down to luck with Mutta born on the day of a big Japanese football defeat, whilst younger brother Hibito was born on a big football victory.
The idea of luck becomes a running theme. Mutta and Hibito have to compete with many people of equal ability with their luck (and their ability to react to bad luck) being the deciding factors for a lot of their careers. One of the best arcs in the entire show is about how Hibito deals with being stranded in a lunar crater and overcoming the odds to survive on a hostile hunk of rock.
At no point, however, does it feel like they get a raw deal or get too far ahead. The same goes for the huge number of side characters that populate the world of NASA and the Japanese Space Agency. Some, like Serika, achieve their dreams, whilst others achieve dreams they didn’t know they ever had. There are also those who never quite get there… which is a bit like life really.
The main issue with Space Brothers is the same as with Hunter x Hunter – it’s a currently running manga. This means that we are left with a not-so-ending which, whilst it did tie a bunch of plots together, leaves us with Mutta never having reached space after 99 episodes and 2 time skips. On the one hand it feels like an anti-climax as we’ve spent so many hours with him to still have his feet very much on terra firma. On the other hand, Space Brothers tells a far more human storyline and a unique one at that.
As of writing this Space Brothers has yet to get a second season to continue on the storyline, but the manga is still going strong. It would be great to see this get another series once the manga has finished. This anime needs a proper conclusion.