Thursday, 24 January 2013

Space Brothers the Movie: Always reaching out to your dreams

Update 26 Sept 2017: click here to read my update of Okada Masaki's performance since 2012. 

Nanba Mutta (Oguri Shun) and Nanba Hibito (Okada Masaki) in 2012 Space Brothers

It is a natural inclination for a non-native English speaking person like myself  to hope that my Asian movie stars would speak English, so that I can either converse with them in the unlikelihood of me meeting them one day. Or at least, just the pleasure to know the possibility that my favourite stars can join English movie projects one day.  So I was hoping and hoping to hear a bit of Nicky Wu Qilong speaking English, but to date I only know that he understands English, but not speaking it fluently (hence my hope crashed). I’m quite pleased to learn that Osamu Mukai spoke English well in Hanamizuki (couldn’t tell if Ikuta Toma speaks English tho; he didn’t speak English in that movie). Watanabe Ken is out of the question; not because I’m not a fan of his, but because he already speaks English fluently enough to participate in The Last Samurai and Inception. Then, for several months, I was wondering whether my dear Okada Masaki could speak English fluently.

Masaki playing guitar in 'Space Brothers'

Two nights ago, I found myself watching Masaki’s 2012 movie with Oguri Shun: Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyodai).  The movie was in raw Japanese (no English subtitle yet), so I was afraid that I had to struggle to understand it. However, since this movie involves not only JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) but also NASA, English was the secondary language for this movie. And I squeed and wheed a lot when I realized: 1) Masaki plays guitar (!); and 2) Masaki speaks English in this movie (!!). Okay, I couldn’t hear Masaki singing (he probably can’t sing well, but so what), but his guitar scenes seemed real (he did move his fingers correctly), good enough for me! Click this link to watch the movie in raw Japanese (no English subtitle yet).

Update 26 Jan13: RED is going to air Space Brothers with English sub!!! Not sure of the time yet, but I'd say around March. I really hope it's not when I have to go out elsewhere. I failed to see Ikuta Toma's Genji Monogatari (Eng sub) because I was in AU. This time, I better see the Eng-subbed SB!! Fans in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, be happy!

Now, please, click 'read more' to see the English-subbed trailers and read the plot summary and review.

Masaki spoke English pretty well for my ears. Slowly, but understandable; almost the way Watanabe Ken speaks English. Masaki has an accent, of course, but his English is easy enough to understand (tho there were some sentences that I struggled to catch). He might have an English coach, because a poster at this site said that his English in 2008 wasn’t that good (practice makes perfect I guess). Masaki’s NASA scenes (yep, shot at NASA in Florida) was mostly in English. His Moon scenes were in English and Japanese. I cannot tell you how happy I am to know that Masaki speaks English well. It’s important, I feel, for his future career.

Now, after blabbering about Masaki, I will (try to) make a proper summary and review of the movie. Of course, Masaki-influenced. But I promise I also cover other aspects, including Oguri Shun who together with actor Inoue Yoshio (playing astronaut Makabe Kenji) displayed their rare views during a shower scene (no slash scene here)! SPOILERS below, so stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled.




Plot Summary 

Little Mutta and Little Hibito saw a 'UFO'

Space Brothers was excellently directed by Mori Yoshitaka and produced by Kawamura Genki (Confessions, Villain ~ both had Masaki in it). Based on a best-selling manga of the same title written by Chūya Koyama, the movie revolves around two siblings, Nanba Mutta (Nakamo Rei for 12 yo Mutta) and Nanba Hibito (Nakashima Kaito for 9 yo Hibito), who saw an unidentified flying object one full moon night. The two brothers promised to be astronauts when they grow up, and go to space together. However, as time goes by, only Hibito pursued their dreams. Mutta forgot about his dreams because he was ridiculed by his friends when he was a kid. I guess it was lucky that Hibito wasn’t there during the abuse, otherwise he might get discouraged as well (or he might punch the faces of those kids and we won’t really have a story). Hibito was of course disappointed that his big bro wasn’t interested in their dream anymore.  He kept moving on though, and was appointed the youngest JAXA astronaut to join NASA’s Artemis Mission in 2025. Artemis’ mission was to establish a working base on the Moon. Its members are Freddie Saturn, Damien Kwellea, Badoy Waters and Nanba Hibito.

Hibito and his fellow Artemis astronauts

So, when Hibito already gained the status of a ‘rock star’ by joining the Artemis Mission, Mutta was still working in a car design company. He got fired because of punching his boss when the latter badmouthed Hibito. After several failed attempts to find a new job, Mutta called Hibito for advice. Taking the call from Florida, Hibito asked whether Mutta really had forgotten their childhood dream. He then directed his brother to listen to an old tape taken during the night of the ‘UFO’ sighting. After listening to their conversation, Mutta was once again inspired to be an astronaut. He enrolled in JAXA and was short listed as an astronaut candidate. 

The Nanba family, with Mutta stating he will go to the Moon with Hibito

Despite his busy training and screening schedule, Mutta still found time to visit Hibito in Florida before the rocket Artemis was launched. On the launching day, after Mutta and his parents bade farewell to Hibito, Mutta realized that Hibito’s darling dog Appo was lost. Mutta searched and searched until he found Appo a few miles away, at the old and unused pre-Apollo control tower. Here, Buzz Aldrin appeared as a cameo who called Shun ‘broccoli’ and asked the Japanese guy to join him watching Artemis launched from the old platform. I originally thought he was Neil Armstrong based on what he said: ‘I’m just an old man who took a stroll on the Moon a long, long time ago’ (well, no. And Armstrong passed away on 25 Aug 2012, God bless him). Aldrin delivered a nice speech of the real power that lifts the rocket to space (‘it’s the heart of the people’). Shun's English was pretty good as well. His accent was heavier in my ears than Masaki's, but it's okay. I don't know if his English was better than Masaki; Shun's English scene was only with Buzz Aldrin.

The Artemis Team ready to go to the Moon (screen cap)

So then, Artemis was launched, and Hibito experienced his first true zero gravity off Earth. At the same time with Hibito walking his first steps on the Moon (or, jumping his steps, more likely, a la his Haru in 'Gravity Clowns'), Mutta received a notice that he was accepted as an astronaut candidate for JAXA along with five other astronauts.

Mutta imagined him as the next Japan astronaut, but his imagination took him elsewhere

Mutta had to undergo training in JAXA, which involved the six Japanese astronauts living inside a very small compound for 10 days. Six of them were split into two groups and were given a task to build a miniature Moon base from various Leggo-like parts. On the 8th day, Mutta was given a secret task to destroy the work of his own team; basically to see how the two groups would react upon the damaged project. As the coaches predicted the two groups almost clashed with each other, accusing each other of sabotaging Mutta’s group. On the 9th day, the six people found that the other group (Makabe Kenji’s group) had their work sabotaged as well. Mutta was confused, because he didn’t receive another instruction to destroy the work. He suspected Kenji of doing that; and Kenji vice versa. 

Hibito working on the Moon base with Badoy Waters at the background, Movielosophy

One day on the Moon, Hibito and his colleague Damien Kwellea were travelling with their Moon rover to find one of their probes that got lost. Damien – who was driving the vehicle – said that his eyes were tired (who wouldn’t, after staring at the grey white glaring landscape for more than a month). That was why he failed to notice that they were going into a crater. Hibito realized it too late when the car was already on the verge of the crater. The rover did a free fall into the crater, sending the two astronauts tumbling over and lost consciousness. Hibito later regained consciousness and tried to contact Artemis. However, the radio didn’t work out. Going back with the rover is no use; the rover was completely damaged. Hibito then lit the emergency flare. Later, Freddie Saturn and Badoy Waters went towards the crater for SAR, but they had to stop due to night fall.

Hibito giving up under subzero temperature (screen cap)

Hibito himself was scared when night fell inside the crater (I would pee myself and sob uncontrollably!). He lit his emergency light and found the unconscious (but alive) Damien. Deciding that they should not stay inside the cold crater (the Moon surface temperature can reach -153°C at night), Hibito took off his secondary oxygen tank and lifted Damien to take him home (despite his own leg injury). However, everywhere was darkness, he couldn’t find his way out. Hibito eventually stumbled down and cried himself to sleep after apologizing to Mutta.

Mutta was informed about the accident during their last day when he was trying to finish the sabotaged projects in JAXA. Understandably, he went numb and lost his grounding. When the two groups panicked again for not being able to finish their presentation, he almost blurted out that he was the one who destroyed his group’s work. Kenji forbade him from doing that. However, on the last second, Mutta realized that the whole training wasn’t about finishing the Moon base miniature. It was about understanding each team member. So he started telling the story why he wanted to be an astronaut. The others then also did the same, and the icy atmosphere melted into a merry one. The group as a whole passed the test!
Mutta and his colleagues discussion their dreams

Mutta was then declared that he became one of JAXA’s latest space team. However, instead of celebrating with his team, Mutta ran outside to see the Moon (which was apparent despite in the daylight). He cried and told his lil brother on the Moon to fight. 

Hibito fighting again after seeing the Earth rising - see the Earth on his helmet? (screen cap)

Back on the Moon, Hibito had a dream of their childhood. It woke him up to find the beautiful Earth rising with the crater as the foreground. The rising Earth also lit the way out of the crater. Hibito cried again, then raised his right fist to his left chest (the Nanba traditional salute). He raised, grabbed Damien and started walking again towards the shining Earth.
The movie continued with a collage of lunar achievements since 1961 (Yuri Gagarin’s orbiting the Earth) and some pictures of little Nanba brothers. In 2031, Nanba Mutta finally accompanied Nanba Hibito to space and put the Japanese flag on the Moon. There, the Space Brothers saw a beautiful comet (or asteroid?) slicing the Moon sky.

The Space Brothers finally on the Moon together


I love Space Brothers. I love the collage of old lunar shots at the beginning and end of the movie. The movie reminds me again to always believe in my dreams. It’s never too late to realize them. Okay, I haven't read the manga nor watched the anime (NASA terminated their support to the anime, btw, too long, NASA said). Hence, I couldn’t compare Masaki’s Hibito with the manga/anime version. But I like Masaki’s interpretation of Hibito. It’s just at the right chemistry with Shun’s Mutta. 

The space technology was convincing; though I wonder why they had to choose 2025 as the time frame to launch Artemis, instead of 2012. I mean, wouldn’t technology in 2025 be more advance than 2012? Despite all that, the Artemis launching and off-Earth release scenes were amazing. Totally amazing!

Speaking of 2025, I just realised after reading a discussion here that Buzz Aldrin would be 95 years old in 2025. That's a bit odd. Sigh. I wish they would stick to 2012/2013 instead. Or 2015 top.

If anyone noticed that the Earth rising scene was a bit exaggerated, Kawamura Genki said that it was indeed the case. In this interview, he said that:

‘The size of that Earth is not realistic for sure. But that was the point. When we depicted the Earth at its actual size based on NASA’s images, it was not exciting at all. To me, films are not about reflecting reality but about reflecting the feelings of the characters, so I wanted the Earth to be enormous. I thought the feelings of Hibito, standing on the Moon, towards his older brother back on Earth, would be so big that the Earth would really feel that big in his mind. Expressing emotions in images is one of the beauties of film.’

Despite all the glitches above, I still love the human side of the movie. In fact, I love it the most. Kawamura actually said that he did prefer the shot of astronauts playing golf on the Moon than the Apollo landing on the Moon. Since the Nanba Brothers started to love space because of a presumed UFO sighting when they were kids, I worried that the Moon accident would have anything to do with aliens. No particular problem with that, since I’m a Star Trek and Star Wars fan anyway. But somehow I hoped that the Moon accident wouldn’t involve creepy and bizarre creatures a la Apollo 13.  And I’m glad that it wasn’t the case. The way Hibito tried to get out of the crater they fell into was also humane. Not sure if it’s possible under real condition, but realistic enough for me.

Mutta and Hibito at Hibito's apartment in Florida

I love the brotherhood between Masaki’s Hibito and Shun’s Mutta (Mu-chan as Hibito called his brother). Mutta is a rather overprotecting big brother who punched his boss because he badmouthed Hibito. Mutta is more of a caretaker (at least he criticized Hibito for not fixing H’s curtains and letting H’s poor cactus died in H’s Florida apartment). Hibito loves his big brother and always tries to remind him of his dreams and promises to go to space together. In fact, I think Hibito said that he wouldn’t be an astronaut had Mutta not been there for him. I think the movie wouldn’t captivate so many hearts if the pairing wasn’t Shun-Masaki for Mutta-Hibito. They only shared like five scenes max (the Cape Canaveral scene, the Florida apartment scene, the Artemis launching scene, the second launching scene and the final Moon scene), but we can feel their brotherly love for each other.

Space Brothers ready to take off to the Moon. Love them!

Other notable cast was Tsutsumi Shinichi as JAXA Hoshika Tadasi. He acted as a mentor for the Nanba Brothers. Masaki paired up with him in ‘Princess Toyotomi’ (2011, also with Ayasa Haruka). I also like the other three Artemis crew. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out the actors’ names, but it’s nice to see a good combination of US and Japanese crews in ‘Space Brothers’. Oh, and the soundtrack by Coldplay was amazing! Ichiban sugoi!

Update 24 Feb 2013:

Check this for the March airing of 'Space Brothers' in RED. With English subtitles! 

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