Outer Space & Inner Doubts: Should You Be Reading ‘Space Brothers’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
What if there were two young brothers, and they both wanted to go to space? What if the brothers got older --- and the younger one was scheduled on the next trip out of NASA, just as the elder was fired for attacking a superior? Chuya Koyama's Space Brothers shows us the beauty of powering through awkwardness, addressing failure, and facing the man in the mirror.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Chuya Koyama's Space Brothers has been running in Weekly Morning since late 2007. Two hundred and fifty-plus chapters in (that's twenty-six volumes), it's still going strong, with a charming balance struck between "absolutely goofy" and a solemn look at naked insecurity.
Call it a very Millennial title or call it a look at impostor syndrome or the ways that fear of failure warps one's goals and self-perception --- it's all the same. Younger brother Hibito is a successful astronaut, so when older brother Mutta is invited to an astronaut intake training program, he must suck up all of his courage and humility to seize the opportunity.
Mutta is accepted, and now he's taking one small step for a Nanba brother, but one giant leap for self-respect. The art reflects his hesitance and struggles with empowerment... quite cunningly.
Being the older brother following the path of the younger, being the one who promised to get to space first, and somebody known to the general public, your peers, and superiors as your younger brother's older brother, is hard in a way that Mutta struggles to even acknowledge in the earlier chapters. Going forward, the dissonance created by how life is versus how life is supposed to be is never far from center.
WHO'S IT BY?
Space Brothers is the bulk of Chuya Koyama's output. Two other short-lived titles are listed under his name on MangaUpdates; one sports manga, one mysteriously genreless seinin title. But with weekly publication of Space Brothers for eight long years, and the careful design put into each character, it's enough to speak for a dedicated, thoughtful professional.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Moving on from the excellent emotional content and well-arranged tension of a story about goals and achievement, Mutta's curly hair marks him as an outlier in the protagonist world, in manga, or otherwise. It's a part of him, a humanizing element. When asked, at a vital interview, what he's recently learnt about himself, he mentions the extra lather his 'do builds up compared to those around him. The answer is regretted later, but very believable, and it gives solidity to the comic's world, despite sparse backgrounds. If he notices his own hair, then he must "exist," right?
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Childhood high achievers who grew up afraid of giving anything less than 100%, people who mock Millennials, space fiends, losers, people who feel like losers but aren't, elder siblings, younger siblings, parents of siblings, the curly-haired.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Kodansha's simulpub feature on Crunchyroll: catch up with the story so far, and read on as new chapters are released. There's also an anime, and a live action adaptation you can try!