Greetings everyone! Your Prodigious Cajun Samurai Josh here with my second contribution to the 12 Days of Christmas festivities! Originally, I had volunteered to do the mini-episode from Usagi Drop, and in fact, I had completed a review for that episode. However, just as I was ready to call it a wrap, our dear boss found another anime with a full-sized Christmas episode and, seeing as how I have a deep love for this particular series, and since we already did the Usagi Drop Christmas mini-episode, I volunteered to step up and do a write up for this one. So, submitted for your approval, dear reader, I present to you the Christmas episode of Uchuu Kyoudai.
Uchuu Kyoudai, also known as Space Brothers, is a 99 episode anime series based off an ongoing manga created by Chūya Koyama. After a chance encounter with a UFO when they were little, the Namba brothers, older brother Mutta and younger brother Hibito, made it their mission in life to become astronauts and walk on the moon together. However, Mutta took a different path in life and designed cars for a major company while Hibito stayed the course and became an astronaut, slated for a mission that will see him be the first Japanese person to step on the moon. Meanwhile, Mutta gets fired from his job for head-butting his boss. Yes, really. The boss insulted his brother and Mutta took matters into his own hands…er…head. Now, typically I don’t condone violence. Turn the other cheek and all that. But this man insulted Mutta’s BROTHER. So, honestly…I have to give this a pass. Good job Mutta. Yes, you don’t have a job, but dawg gone it, family honor has been maintained. Now unemployed, blackballed in the automotive industry, and forced to live at his folks’ house under his brothers shadow, Mutta has apparently hit rock bottom until Hibito reminds him of their extraterrestrial encounter and their promise to both become astronauts. And thus our story takes off, following Mutta through the real life trials and tribulations of catching up to his brother and becoming worthy of flying to the moon and playing amongst the stars.
Today we’ll be looking at Episode 96, “Astronaut and Father”. This episode focuses mostly on one of my favorite characters in the series that’s not a main lead; the slick haired cool bro, and fellow rookie astronaut Kenji Makabe. The episode starts off with Kenji, his heavily pregnant wife Yuki and their young daughter Fuuka relaxing at home trying to come up with a name for the new arrival. When Kenji asks his daughter what she thinks the name should be, Fuuka picks out the name “An”, a name she read in one of her books. Time for the OP!
Before we continue on, I have to say, Space Brothers has some of the most AMAZING OP’s I’ve ever heard and seen. Usually long-running series have some hits and some misses when it comes to their openings. Space Brothers has 8 of them through its 99 episode run, and each one of them is amazing in their own respective ways, and the animation that accompanies them is just as brilliant as the songs. This time around, “B.B.” by THE Yatou is the OP, and as usual, it is amazing.
While Kenji drives off to drop off Fuuka and for simulations at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, not the newlywed with the hoodie) with fellow rookie astronaut Nitta, he thinks back to all the other training missions he’s been on, and is somewhat frustrated that, because he wasn’t selected for the moon mission with Mutta and the other rookies, it feels as though he doesn’t have a clear objective to accomplish. In addition, he also thinks that there’s something he’s not being told regarding all the training he’s going through; after all, if you’re not assigned a mission, why go through training?
Meanwhile, coming back from a desert training mission designed to simulate lunar conditions, Mutta and the other rookie astronauts return to Houston. Apparently, there’s going to be a party at a local steakhouse with dancing, and Serika, one of the new astronauts that started in the same group with Mutta, will be going. Of course, since Mutta has a prodigious crush on Serika, he announces that he’s going too, envisioning the “dancing” that he’ll be doing will be a classy ballroom style. Oh you sweet, sweet summer child. You’re in Texas…you’ll find out soon enough.
After a hard day of training, Kenji drives back home to see all the houses on the street he lives on covered with Christmas lights—each house dripping with color and light, making his own house, which is only decorated with a handmade Christmas wreath on the door and decorations in the living room, look rather plain by comparison. Kenji feels that while he has accomplished his dreams of being both an astronaut and a father, he feels that he’s not doing a good job at either; he doesn’t have a set mission as an astronaut, yet is still in training which requires him to be away from his family for long periods, which is not a good thing as a father.
The next night, at Texas Roadhouse, (yes, THAT Texas Roadhouse…they don’t even bother disguising the sign), Mutta, Serika and the other astronauts have a good old time; cowboy hats and all. Heck, even Hibito joins in on the fun, playing his guitar. Oh, and that “dancing” Serika was talking about? Well, you probably already guessed that it’s good old fashioned country line dancing. This was downright painful to watch. I mean, I’m from Louisiana, where our idea of line dancing is a little different. But hey, Texas is gonna Texas. Since parts of this dance involves being in close proximity and hand holding with your partner, Mutta is on cloud nine as he dances with Serika. Feel So Moon, indeed.
Meanwhile, one of the higher ups at NASA calls out Kenji and Nitta to deliver some good news—they’re going on a mission…a very special mission. Of course Kenji is over the moon at the news; he has been reborn…as a real astronaut. He now has a purpose in his career. Of course, our bro has to call home to let his wife know what’s going on. She’s estatic of course, but you can probably guess what’s about to happen. Yup. Yuki is going into labor. It’s baby time ya’ll. At the clinic, Kenji decides the best way to help his laboring wife is to massage her brow as it’s all wrinkly due to the effort of, you know, pushing a child into the world… Of course, this doesn’t quite have the desired pain-reducing effect, and Kenji offers her music instead. Come on Kenji! You’ve gone through this before! You should know what works and doesn’t work! TWWK, you’re a dad–please tell Kenji that he’s being a dope!
And so, the baby is born—a happy and healthy girl. Way to go Yuki! You’ve just become one of a handful of women in anime to give birth and actually survive the process. Seriously, anime moms have a hit-or-miss record when it comes to childbirth. For every Yuriko Gouda there’s a Nagi—I mean…negative experience. Yeah, that’s what I meant. Anyway, Kenji reveals that the mission he’s been assigned has him paying a visit to a local asteroid—one of the first humans to do so. When he shows his wife the info on the asteroid, named 314225AN41, Yuki points out the two letters in the name…and that pretty much cements the baby girls name—An Makabe. Kenji now has a purpose in his life—he’s the father of two girls and he’s also an astronaut with a mission. Life is good.
So, that’s it for “Astronaut and Father”. Much like the Kodocha episode I reviewed earlier, this episode doesn’t really focus in on any of the religious aspects of Christmas. In fact, with the exception of the Christmas lights and decorations Kenji comes across, you really wouldn’t know that it was Christmastime. Heck, I thought little An-Chan was born on Christmas Eve, but nope—she’s born on the 22nd. However, what we don’t get in Christmas, we more than get in character development for Kenji, and what’s better–we also get a teachable moment here.
Throughout the series, we’ve always seen Kenji as being this intelligent, self-assured, confident guy who always keeps his cool regardless of the situation. This time around, we see him out of his element—he has doubts about what he’s doing with his life, he’s suspicious about what NASA isn’t telling him, he’s nervous when his wife goes into labor and he doesn’t know what to do to help her. But once he finds a purpose for his life and establishes his identity both as a father and as an astronaut, he’s back on track.
I think that can be said for a lot of us, now more than ever—we’re all just looking for that reaffirmation of who we are and what we’re doing with our all too brief time on this Earth. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” While we all want to know what’s ahead of us and what plans are in store for us, and while it can be PRODIGIOUSLY frustrating when we can’t see the forest for the trees, remember that only God, the author of our lives, the Alpha and the Omega, knows what lies in store down the road. For all the worrying and anxieties we go through trying to figure out who we are and where we’re going in life, knowing that we are only in the passenger seat with God at the wheel should give us the comfort and confidence to know that whatever our destinations, it is as it was meant to be.
Yes, the path ahead can seem confusing at times. Things can look cloudy and we can doubt the paths we’re on. Heck, the story of Christmas, to me, is about a bunch of people who are put in the most unique yet special circumstances that culminated in the glorious birth of our Savior. I mean, think about it; Mary was told by Gabriel (in short) “Yeah, God thinks you’re prodigious. So guess what? You’re going to carry the Savior of Man.” I can imagine the look on her face being something to the tune of “Wait, what?” Also, you gotta think how Joseph felt when he came home, found out Mary was pregnant and was told by an angel (in short) “Yeah, your girl is pregnant with a child from the Holy Spirit. Trust us on this, it’s gonna be awesome.” Could you only imagine how puzzled these guys were? But when it all was said and done, the end result was the Birth of Christ and the saving of our souls. And it was all planned out perfectly.
Faith is an amazing thing, isn’t it? It can really make you Feel so Moon.