This week’s episode took a more comedic turn as Mutta and the other JAXA candidates underwent the next stage of the interview process – the physical tests. Amidst the lulz accompanying the rather up close and personal nature of the tests that took up most of the episode, we got: a few more flashbacks of Mutta and Hibito as kids; some more Kenji-Mutta bromancing; and we also learned more about Serika, including some flashback of a similar nature of her as a child visiting JAXA with her parents. In addition to Mutta’s perspective of the tests, the other candidates’ view of Mutta was also interesting, as it reminded us of Mutta’s connection with his brother as someone who’s already achieved the goal that all of the candidates are aiming for, with the insinuation from two rival candidates that Mutta has the advantage of Hibito’s apparent help raising the idea of ‘doing it all alone’ versus seeking help from others. While Mutta seems to kick himself for not picking Hibito’s brain about the exams beforehand, we know that Mutta would rather earn his space stripes through his own efforts…
The moments from Serika’s perspective were interesting, not least because, aside from a few brief sequences from Hibito’s viewpoint, it’s the first time we’ve been in anyone else’s shoes aside from Mutta’s. And their ‘shoes’, it seems, are rather similar. We learn that both Mutta (with Hibito) and Serika (with her parents) visited JAXA as children, which also adds a nice ‘authenticity’ to their current astronaut ambitions. The key similarity between Mutta and Serika (lung capacity test results aside) though, is the link with the space suit and how they express themselves, and their embarrassment, in such situations. We don’t know much about either fathers yet, but Serika’s seems to have been interested in being an astronaut himself and encouraged his daughter to pursue the same career, and their affinity is symbolised further in those shots of them both holding onto space shuttle-shaped helium balloons, as well as Serika’s recalling and re-enactment of her father’s (and Mutta’s) pose with the space suit. Mutta’s behaviour at the end of the episode is thus even cuter because he realises how she feels (note the matching blushes), and this is also satisfying for the audience as it strengthens the possible connections between these two.
This ‘silly’ side to Mutta is also nice to see (not that it’s entirely new to us, given his previous quirky interior monologues) because it contrasts with the serious air he conveys to others, as is apparent even in his clothing, which remains largely formal. For example, even Kenji (who Mutta comments before on being very well presented) is in casual mode while Mutta is in Arakawa’s-Recruit-esque dark trousers, white shirt and red tie. Mutta’s usually earnest nature is no doubt due to his older bro status and he is clearly used to projecting this around others, as we see in the JAXA visit flashback, where he’s just as excited as Hibito (running around, etc.), but keen to maintain the ‘knowledgeable older bro’ air (e.g. telling Hibito to take his shoes off on the train and commenting, map in hand, that they’re not going to be able to see the rocket yet). Thus, there’s also a circularity in the way that the episode starts with Mutta being told to strip, in the sense that he’ll have to lose his clothing/ ‘armour’/ facade of iron-clad control as he continues in his path and must interact with and possibly request more help from others. And so it’ll also be interesting to see how Mutta copes with the mental round of tests in the next episode(s), which he’s clearly worried about, but hopefully he’ll continue to stay strong and make further positive progress.
Crusader’s JAXA Astros
Ah yes the physical…sure it’s embarrassing, but at least Mutta wasn’t having his junk looked at by an elderly lady doctor. It all serves a purpose, mostly because they don’t want to take on a medical liability. Mutta has earned the ire of the younger guys but sadly while the accusations of Hibito giving Mutta the inside track are false it should have been true. Life isn’t going to hand you much but Mutta should have asked as it is clear that he is woefully under prepared compared to the rest of the field. The JAXA candidates should count themselves lucky they merely need to be fit enough to launch and not military fit. With the physicals over I wonder how Mutta is going to adapt to the rigors of life in Zero G and how he is going to cope with supersonic speeds. It was a meandering episode though and while it was slow it gives some plausibility to how Mutta ended up where he did. Life is after all a series of decisions that have ramifications that can be long in coming.
Switching to Serika was a nice change up as it gives us a little more insight into the competition. Still it seems that Serika and Mutto might be on a collision course should Mutto have the courage to initiate first contact. Mutta decided to put his hat into the ring because he had no job, but it will be interesting to see how Serika was able to leave her day job to pursue her childhood dream. If nothing else she seems to be in class of her own when it comes to endurance and if she is a doctor already I can’t see how she could possibly fail a written test. I am not fan of keeping a diary since it might fall into the wrong hands. I am sure she can survive some embarrassment given how she stared into the golden visage of the space suit like so many others.