Space Brothers Manga Review
Space Brothers :
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: Ever since they were kids, Mutta Namba has always wanted to be the overachieving and inspirational brother to his younger brother, Hibito. However, come the year 2025 and Mutta finds himself jobless and completely overshadowed by Hibito, who is not only an astronaut but on his way to becoming the first Japanese astronaut to land on the moon. The outburst that led to Mutta losing his job also causes him to be blacklisted in the industry and unable to find a good job in the field he is qualified for. Forced to settle for low level menial jobs, Mutta finds himself depressed and defeated. Suddenly spurred on by a text message from Hibito and some not so discreet meddling from their mother, Mutta finds himself unexpectedly on the path to becoming an astronaut himself.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Space Brothers features an adult cast, immediately tipping off the reader that what they’re about to read is a more mature tale involving themes of adulthood and growth. The manga starts off all the way at the beginning, at the births of both characters, and then skips forward to their childhood and the moment of inspiration that led them both to want to be astronauts. Then finally, another time skip to them as adults in the year 2025, one of them having achieved that very goal, and the other as far away from that goal as he could be. The first chapter paints our protagonist, Mutta in a not so complimentary light as he struggles to find employment and seems to lack motivation and ambition, a far cry from the ambitious kid he used to be. However, it doesn’t make him come off as a completely loathsome person, just maybe not the most inspiring or driven lead in a manga. As we watch him become a victim of his mistake, it’s easy to even feel some sympathy from him, and watching his frustration at being outshadowed by his younger brother may make him seem a bit self-centered but who hasn’t experienced sibling jealousy and competitiveness atleast once in their life.
Space Brother’s story moves at an enjoyable pace, quick enough to keep you engaged while also making sure to slow down when needed to set the atmosphere. Within the very first chapter itself, we learn of Mutta’s application being accepted by JAXA, Japan’s equivalent of NASA and while some would call this a spoiler, this is a manga called Space Brothers, it was obvious from the start that this would be about the two brothers and their fascination/involvement with space. Given how transparent the title of the series is, it’s a wise move that it doesn’t dilly dally about Mutta’s acceptance but instead quickly chooses to show us all the hoops and hurdles he will have to face to achieve his renewed dream.
Volume 1 is focused mainly on Mutta, giving readers a chance to get a good feel of his personality, his insecurities and his mind set. It’s endearing to watch him struggle with his lack of direction, and then see him come to a decision and pursue it. But what makes it all the more endearing and even amusing is finding out how Mutta, in some sense, is making this all up as he goes. He isn’t someone who is exceptionally skilled, just someone who can channel his stubbornness into something positive. He seems to suffer from perennial bad luck in some ways, though one could also blame it on the fact that Mutta doesn’t always think things through,acting more on spur of the moment emotions. He’s also shown to be a bit of a lady lover, always noticing the pretty ones, and even being jealous of his brother for getting to train with beautiful women. He’s a bit of a goofball and while initially you think it stems from him being irresponsible, it slowly becomes an endearing feature as you realize it’s sometimes a desperate attempt to make up for his failings and weaknesses.
That’s the thing about Space Brothers. It has a lot of flawed characters. Not ones that are despicable humans or anything, just flawed as in believable characters, ones you could relate to or identify as someone in your life. It makes the story all the more engaging for anyone who’s tired of stories that feature a cast full of people with extreme personalities. The people in Space Brothers feel real, down to earth and likeable. Their flaws make them human.
Moving on to the plot itself, a lot of the first volume is all about the interview process for picking future astronauts.It’s a topic that probably not many manga fans are familiar with, and the manga does a great job of making it informative and amusing. This is also where we meet a lot of new characters, some of which seem to be potential allies for Mutto, and learn of just how frustrating it is for Mutto to be overshadowed by Hibito. It makes him all the more of a sympathetic character as everyone seems to only view him as Hibito’s brother, rather than recognizing or acknowledging him simply as himself.
Going back to new characters, Space Brothers features a very impressive female character in the form of Serika Itou, who seems destined to be one of the most promising interviewees. She’s shown to constantly outshine her male compatriots and it’s nice to see a competent female character that isn’t there just to be a timid love interest. And while Mutto does remark that he’s surprised that such a pretty girl is interested in becoming an astronaut, the manga does her justice by dedicating an entire chapter solely focused on her where we come to know her a little better as a person rather than capitalizing or showcasing her looks.
However, as I have already stated earlier, Mutto is the center of Space Brothers, atleast for Volume 1 and the more the volume explores him, the more likeable he keeps on getting as we widen our understanding of him through his past and his inner thoughts. Watching him deal with not only being in his brother’s shadow but then having people assume he has an advantage in the interview process because of his brother is a powerful moment that helps him quickly earn (even more) sympathy from the readers. Even when he is giving it his all, he is still not getting full credit for his efforts and that is cruel, unfortunate and frustrating for him and the readers.
Volume 1 wraps up with Mutto flying to America and moving in with Hibito on Hibito’s insistence. The last chapter gives us a bit of a look into Hibito’s personality through Mutto’s observations and we get to watch the two brothers finally interacting face to face as adults. Despite Hibito’s unparalleled success in his career path and this assumed vision of him being a dedicated person who worked hard to succeed, we quickly learn that he has a few personality quirks of his own. It’s a bit of a shift from the earlier chapters which were so focused on the interview processes and tests and Mutto himself but ultimately, a strong reminder of how much has changed between the brothers and how far Mutto will have to go in order to outshine his brother like he wanted to as a kid.
Space Brothers is a great series for anyone who is in search of a more mature cast and story. It explores themes of self doubt, depression and frustration while also showcasing the process of becoming an astronaut, thus being both emotional and educational. Almost all of us has had moments when we compared ourselves to someone we know and are close to and we ended up feeling like a loser, and Mutto, our protagonist is such a great personification of those moments and feelings. Volume 1 has also introduced a handful of other characters who present enough personality and charm that you become interested in their fate as well. So far, Space Brothers is looking to be a strong drama, presenting realistic and relatable characters who’re tackling deep emotions and a storyline that many should find engrossing and a strong recommendation to anyone interested in those themes.