The issue I had with the earliest episodes of Space Bros was they were repetitive. The ongoing thread of Mutta having to keep to his dreams was being repeated without change or alternative views with each episode. It got really boring really quickly, and I started to wonder whether the 50+ episodes it was planning to run would be this same shit over and over again throughout. Then around about episode 8, Space Bros entered what can only be described as a shounen tournament arc. A few of the already established characters entered a training/elimination game, in which they were placed in confinement in a container, meant to reproduce the type of environment they will be in when they undertake their mission to Mars. A shounen tournament arc wasn’t what I was expecting from the show, and it’s a rather unorthodox method of us getting to know the characters in a very adult drama, but gosh darn did it ever work brilliantly.
One thing I loved about the entire arc was that it was great precisely due to how it stuck to the formula. We are introduced to a cast of hugely varied characters. There’s the loud obnoxious Chimp dude. There’s the calm but kinda dickish dude. There’s the Old Guy. There’s the Girl. There’s the wimpy guy, the weird one with the rubix cube, the absolute fucking douchbag. At the start they seem like stereotypes, and are defined by those stereotypes. What this does mean though is that each character is instantly recognisable and easily differentiated by their absolute base characteristics.
As the arc develops, we slowly begin to learn about each of the characters. They have dreams, the have worries, they have histories. Each characters personality is defined by their base characteristic that have been already established, but the depth of their personality comes through in the arc. The tournament pushes them to emotional limits and forces them to think about the very basics why they are competing in the first place, while simultaneously giving us a greater understanding of what makes them tick. It’s absolutely everything a tournament arc should do, and the very deliberate way it’s structured is the reason why it’s able to tell the story of each character so well.
Even better though is how Space Bros was able to tie the entire arc together back to its core message of chasing your dreams. Each character approaches the issue in different ways, so it’s done in a method that doesn’t get repetitive. It comes naturally as part of each character’s arc, so doesn’t feel forced like it did for the earlier episodes. The core theme of chasing your dreams in Space Bros is ultimately a very positive and un-cynical one. The tournament arc may push each character to their emotional limit and force wedges between them, but the story comes back around to each of them understanding each other and how they share that same goal.
I’ve been going on about how Space Bros conforming to the tournament formula is what generated its success in telling the story, but its greatest achievement is right at the end where it deliberately flies in the face of how the tournament arc is supposed to end. When it comes to the final confrontation of who is supposed to win, there may be an ‘ideal’ person who should win, but that would go against the purpose of the arc. Each character is chasing their dream, but more importantly chasing it together. They’re bros, so to speak. It’s fitting that in the final episodes is where they discover their nerdy passions together and finally start working as a team, learning mutual respect, such as the dickhead guy finally calling Mutta by his real name. The final act of them refusing to listen to the final results and let the actual result be random was such a perfect way to end the arc. I love that they don’t show who wins the final game of rock paper scissors, because by that stage doesn’t matter who wins. That may indeed be the goddamn cheesiest way to end the arc, but as an emotional release after the journey we’ve had with them and coming to care about each character, it’s also the perfect way to end it.
Mind you, I haven’t seen the latest episode yet because I’m on holiday. This is just a post I wrote on a plane because the alternative was to watch an Eddie Murphy ‘comedy’ that was the in-flight movie. If it turns out the next episode did tell us who won, then I take everything back and Space Bros sucks worse than that Eddie Murphy comed-wait no even joking I can’t suggest that.