Manga of the Month: Space Brothers

Space Brothers (宇宙兄弟) by Chuya Koyam

hisui_icon_4040 I was just listening to the All Geeks Considered podcast and Vinnie’s regular co-host could not record that week so he decided to do an impromptu episode about what he and some friends from Twitter had been watching in both the realm of animated and live action fare. One of the guests on the podcast was Ed Sizemore who had taken a break from podcasting and watching anime in general. Since he was out of the anime game for a while the first show they started talking about was Space Brothers and how it ended at 99 episodes as it had caught up with the manga. There was a movie that came out August 9, 2014 but other than that there are no new episodes on the horizon. But the solution to that problem also came up on the podcast.

Just read the manga. Usually with long running seinen manga you don’t have that option unless you want to use the “methods network” but with Space Brothers you can actually read the whole thing via Crunchyroll manga. Wisely most of the series on the site are your more popular shonen series but they do have a few titles to mix things up and Space Brothers is one of the best. That inspired me to talk about the series here this month to remind people that this series is on the site and needs to be read.

Mutta Nanba may have been in a rut but it was a comfortable rut. That was until he headbutts his boss for talking smack about his younger brother. Jobless and aimless he is reminded of his dream of being an astronaut by his brother who is already assigned to a mission to the moon. So with nothing left to lose but his dreams Mutta starts the long and arduous road to the stars.

Space Brothers is about as hard sci-fi as you can get to the point where it hardly feels sci-fi at all. Set in the not too distant future of 2025 the world seems to have embraced space travel to an optimistically realistic degree in order to have an astronaut story like in Twin Spica. Other than that while some of the mechanical designs of bikes and cars look different all in all it is the world of today with a little more space flight. But in a way it is just as fantastical (if not more so) when it comes to its overwhelming fascination of idea of space travel. The characters, story, and art just sing a love song to space travel and exploration.

Space Brothers really feels like a series for adults. Mutta has adult problems and tackles them like an adult. Blessed is the adult who has not had to majorly question their life choices after a few years of working a job. I’m not an adult that needs all my reading material to be about adults or is loathed to see anything set in a High School. At the same time I do enjoy reading about people who are out of school from time to time as well. And the rest of the cast is mostly likeable adults that make you care for their struggles too. There are some real heels that block Mutta’s path but they make for good tension.

At the same time while the series has sadness, tragedy, and loss the overall tone is optimistic and bright. Mutta is a lovable goof who you are always rooting for. He adds a sense of humor to the series that makes the story always feel light and cheery no matter how deep the drama gets.

While Mutta is competent and good-natured he is also flawed and petty beyond just being cursed with some Hayate styled luck. He feels real enough that when he fails you feel sympathetic but skilled enough that his victories seem earned when he wrestles them out of a tight situation.

This is also a story of brothers. While Mutta is the main character Hibito gets a decent amount of focus. He often acts as a secondary protagonist as the series goes on. While Hibito is a bit of goof he is in a way that is very different from his brother. In fact this is a story just as much about brothers as it is about space. A repeated theme is various brothers and how they are all very different from each other but still have unbreakable bonds that connect them through out the series.

And being an astronaut is hard. You will get to know many of Mutta’s fellow astronaut candidates and not all of them can make it. Some people are going to miss out on their dreams. It can be a little heartbreaking but the fact that anyone, even Mutta, can fail gives the series a palpable sense of tension.

If you’re a big fan of space or just stories about adults then this the title you have to read.

– Alain


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