This entire arc of Space Bros has been fantastic about building suspense in all the right ways. After a long, drawn out string of episodes this fall, waiting for Hibito’s rocket to launch and for Mutta to get his phone call, the show has turned up the stakes considerably. This isn’t training anymore. This is the real deal. This is the moon. This is space. And space is cruel. It is unforgiving. Our bodies are not meant to function in space, but space does not care. For the past few episodes, we’ve seen Hibito and Damian fight against these extreme conditions, and with this week’s episode it has hit its peak.
This episode was all about Brian Jay. It was a brilliant choice of a theme, because it works on so many levels. Brian has been the series’ symbol for the astronaut’s risk and acceptance of death, and thus his prevalence throughout the episode constantly points towards Hibito’s impending doom, while at the same time giving him a vehicle through which to accept it.
We get a glimpse into Hibito’s past, and how important Brian was to his growth as an astronaut. This serves a couple purposes. Most directly, it helps to develop both Hibito and Brian as characters, as well as the relationship between them. Finding the spot where Brian left his mark on the moon completes the image of Brian as the veteran astronaut he claimed to be and gives Hibito further reason to look up to him. In addition to the development, the flashback works on an extradiegetic level as well, as a flashback in fiction is a common death flag. The very fact that Hibito is flashing back to his time with Brian is reminiscent of other series that try to give their characters some last-minute development to give their deaths more impact, and it paints the picture of his life flashing before his eyes.
The back of Brian’s astronaut figure contained a picture of him with his brother, and Hibito remarks that Brian and Eddie had thought they would walk on the moon together, but they never got the chance. Brian and Eddie serve as a parallel for Hibito and Mutta, pushing the idea that Hibito would meet the same fate as the Brian, the younger brother who walked on the moon.
Hibito spent his final minutes of oxygen in the spot where Brian had once walked, and in the spot where Brian had left his personal mark on the moon in the form of an astronaut figure. He stood in the spot marked by the symbol of death, with his own only minutes away, and as he looked down he saw that he had all but followed in Brian’s own footsteps (and indeed, it was Brian himself who suggested Hibito be the one to go to the moon before Azuma).
As he runs out of air, he begins to hallucinate Brian walking towards him, as if to escort him from the world of the living, as if inviting Hibito to join him.
Everything about Brian’s inclusion in the episode seemed to point to Hibito running out of air and dying there on the moon. Except at that point, yet another layer of Brian’s significance is brought to the fore. Brian is Hibito’s teacher, his helper, and his leader down the path of an astronaut. When Hibito needed help, Brian was there.
At the moment when Hibito is most in need of help, Brian comes to bring it to him, in the form of the oxygen pod that bears his name. Brian was there to give Hibito the push he needed to survive, and it becomes clear that, in the end, that was the purpose of the flashback. All the Brian imagery throughout the episode had been an allusion not to Hibito’s impending death, but to the pod on the way to rescue him. It was a very clever twist of the series’ symbolism, and it was very well-played by both the original creator and the staff to have the same character simultaneously represent and foreshadow two completely opposite outcomes.
Well done, Space Bros. Well done.