What’s My Age Again? Space Brothers and Serika Itou’s Career Path

I will gladly give you my number, Serika.

Recently, I’ve been going through a weird phase in my life where I compare myself to people in my age group. Having recently graduated from University, I’ve finally been thrust into the world of “adulthood” and thrown into the working world, greeted by a wide number of people from different stages in life. Now that I’m no longer amongst my peers from the same graduating class, it’s become a novelty to run into individuals who are around my age group. It’s even weirder that I would make such comparisons at all.

That said, what makes Space Brothers so interesting is that, despite the uncommon circumstances of being part of a space program, the show generally not only depicts people in real life, but also depicts people who are around my age. One of the space program applicants, Serika Itou, is described to be “around twenty-six” years old, which is the age that I will be in only a few weeks time. It’s very rare in “real life” anime for me to see a character who is the same age as me, and is not depicted as a high school teacher or as a Christmas Cake, or both.

Serika Itou is something special, something that I admire in a woman. She is mature, responsible and career-driven, as indicated by her performance so far in Jaxa’s selection process. Her physical, psychological, and interview evaluations are top-notch, but despite this supposed perfection, it’s all rooted in a dream that she has been chasing since childhood. In that dream lies a special, genuine quality in her character that draws me to her. Her attachment to this memory of visiting Jaxa with her parents is a reflection on a value that she places on herself with respect to not only her family, but the validity and seriousness of her aspirations at such a young age. She’s in touch with both her responsibilities and her inner-child. Despite reaching for the stars, she keeps herself grounded.

Who needs Jaxa when you can see the depths of space just by looking into Serika's youthful eyes?

It’s no surprise, then, that the main character, Mutta Nanba, has a huge crush on her, despite being in his 30’s. Age is just a number to Mutta, since for him, he’s essentially starting all over again, re-kindling his dream to go to space with his brother, Hibito. While I cannot say that I can identify with what it’s like to be thirty and still be chasing a dream, I can definitely feel the rough pang of reality, of being in a situation where you’re not initially able to succeed in obtaining those dreams.

I’m not sure whether or not my childhood dream to become a doctor was my own or my parents’, tiger mom and all. The disappointment at home that I had to live with when my University marks weren’t up to par with what was expected of med school was not at all pleasant. However, I still find myself adapting to new things and new scenarios, finding out new things and learning of talents that I never knew I had. Despite settling down to become what is known in Japan as a salaryman, I still have reasonably lofty, but attainable goals of becoming a recognized writer, a goal that I’m realistically working towards, one novel manuscript or blog post at a time.

If I were to meet someone like Serika Itou in real life, I would probably ask her out. Maybe to coffee or something. In our conversations, I would ask her about her career aspirations. I would ask her about her family. I would ask her what it’s like to face an open world that can be socially ruthless at times. I would ask her how she deals with all of that, how she keeps her head on her shoulders when her dreams don’t feel like they’re as attainable as they were the day before. I would ask her where she was when 9/11 happened, how it changed the way she thought about herself and the world. I would ask her what kind of man she is looking for, what kind of companionship she seeks in order to make herself feel whole as a person.

There's nothing more attractive than confidence. Serika has it in spades.

I would ask a lot of things, because somehow I feel that I can connect a bit easier with people my own age. With twenty-six creeping up uncomfortably soon, I’m at a weird stage of my life where I’m past the career-planning stage of high school and university, but yet still not exactly at the point of being in a career that I can call my own. I’m still adjusting, as if I’m on a cusp between two entirely different places in life, which makes it hard to interact with people who are on either side of that awkward cusp. It feels lonely at times, but knowing that people like Serika exist, who are humming along and maintaining that drive and passion, I feel that I’m not straying too far behind in my own attempts to chase my ever-evolving dreams. In the words from Chiyoko from Millennium Actress, it’s the chasing that I love.


12 thoughts on “What’s My Age Again? Space Brothers and Serika Itou’s Career Path”

  1. Great post!

    I’m rather set in my career, and I’m doing good in my job. I’d be a total workaholic, if I didn’t have my own dreams too (similar to yours!). I really get the chasing part, at this point in my life, right now, I’m totally happy, in the sense that I’m reaching for my goals with all my best. Who knows what could happen? I don’t, and that only serves to excite me!

    On the subject of meeting different people, I have a coworker who’s a year or two younger, is married and has a kid turning one year old in two months! How awesome is that?

    1. I’m glad that you are happy with where you are in life. I’m a little too used to seinen shows that heavily reinforce the concept of christmas cake; not only does it shame women for not being married before turning 25, but by extension assumes that people (not just women, but men too) are supposed to be living the rosy life by that time as well.

      Times are changing, not just in North America, but in Japan and elsewhere too. People are delaying that gratification of marriage and/or a career, either by choice (staying in school, etc.) or due to the fact that it’s a bit harder now to get into the jobs you want. It’s a really interesting phenomenon, and I would really like to see social expectations react to this trend. I hold Space Brothers in high regard for that feat alone (though it would suggest that we’d only see this happen by the year 2025, but I digress, lol). Thanks for the response, schneider!

  2. I’m curious, have you watched Planetes? Besides the superficial similarity of story about astronauts – though this is in the 2080s, where space travel is mainstream – this excellent series touches upon the same things you mention here, i.e. the direction people in their 20s and 30s make regarding their careers, their trajectory in life, their hopes and dreams balanced with the pragmatics of having to deal with the pragmatics of finances.

    It’s an incredible show with some amazing characters and great intense moments both heartwarming and heartpounding, and I highly recommend it if you haven’t.

  3. This is a pretty cool post/confession to Serika.w I’m really not much older but I know my circles for about ten years have been people 5-10-20 years older. From what I’ve measured from these friends is that we never stop chasing things, we always need a magnetic force to pull us forward out of stagnation. I think for many people it’s children, but even after children are raised and independent we need something to move on. So it’s endless. Call it passion, ambition, whatever, but I think we see it most in the mid-20s, post-university crowd. It’s very attractive and youthful.

    And yea, I totally dig how Space Brothers is address a more mature age group. It’s super rad.

    1. That post-university/college/etc. mid/late twenties phase is such a whirlwind of ambition and excitement, tempered by the pangs of the realities of true independence and adulthood. It’s confusing, it’s trying, and it’s full of trials that we nonetheless undergo because we really don’t have a say in the matter. It’s so confusing, yet so enriching at the same time. I think Space Bros does a pretty good job at reaching to the mature age group by tapping into those particular feelings without being too grim or rosy. It strikes a really neat balance that I really enjoy about the show. The twentysomething target audience is definitely one of many reasons for me to keep it on my APR each week.

  4. As someone turning 20 in a few weeks and that experienced a slight taste of the real world, I’m getting nervous about careers and living post-college. It’s not helping that my passions/career ambitions have been going all over the place, from physicist to programmer to political science analyst. And now I’m writing and drawing, and putting more time and effort into these personal projects than with school work.

    That’s why I like seeing these kinds of shows, they’re sort of motivational to me although I still don’t know what to chase. Reality has too many limits.

    1. I personally believe that reality quite unlimited, as it is the ultimate sandbox that games like Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto strive to be. While there are limitations like “going to school” or “making a sustainable amount of income” that get in the way of aspirations, you are ultimately free to make your own life decisions. It’ll be hard to get what you want in life, but it is up to you to work for it. At the end of the day, one’s real-life dream is no less tedius than constructing a 50,000-foot dong made out of heavily pixelated gold blocks.

  5. I’m just finishing high school in a few weeks and I am in that stage of worrying about my career path. Like you, I am aiming for a med school but I’ve already lost confidence in getting the cut-off mark. It really is aspiring to see characters such as Serika; she finished medical school, became a doctor and now she is pursuing for something bigger, to reach her ambition. I somehow felt hope in this post, and I thank you for that!

    1. Hi Tenshika. I’m not sure whether or not you’ll be notified of the response here, but either way, I’m glad that this post managed to reach you, long after it was published. I’ve since moved on in my blogging to more general writing endeavours which don’t necessary include anime. I’m glad that you felt hopeful, and you should never give up hope. Find something or someone that/who inspires you, and live to try and be like them. Don’t be them, but aim for the happiness that they have in your own way. Do what you love, and never stop working on it! Thank you so much for your comment. I’m sorry for the lateness of my reply!

  6. My career aspirations are to be an artist always, preferably an oil painter. Even in finding another full-time career to sustain myself in becoming an elementary school teacher, I always will be an artist.

    My family is small, but wonderful. They support me, regardless of whether they agree with my decisions because they only want me to be happy. I only wish that it hadn’t taken me so long to figure this out. Regardless, now that I’ve embraced who I am and what I want, their vision of what they want for me, oddly enough, matches up with what I want as well. I couldn’t be more grateful for their continued support and love.

    Admittedly, I’ve ducked out of, as you describe them, “socially-ruthless” situations, primarily during my short stint as a sportswriter. Being a sports fan will always be a part of who I am, regardless of what anyone thinks about my fandom, or my opinions, based on my looks, gender, or what have you. Discovering confidence in myself was key in accepting that the world isn’t always going to be a welcoming place. Most of the time, you just have to let it blow by you and not take it personally.

    My dream, to become an artist, is attainable. I just have to keep working hard. Even if I can never sustain myself on art alone, it will always be a part of who I am. I know, one day, that I’ll have my own gallery showing. I don’t keep myself grounded by this, in fact, it makes me more of a space cadet.

    On September 11th, 2001, I was in high school. It was a gorgeous autumn day with a perfect 21.11 degrees. Everything was sharp and bright, with red and orange-patterned leaves falling on the track as we warmed up for cross country practice, eerily watching as jet fighters patrolled up and down, presumably, the entire East Coast of the United States. Usually practices were filled with chatter, but this one was silent. That evening was supposed to have been a birthday party for my mother, as it was her birthday, but all we did was sit silently and watch the news. I remember curling up in a ball, holding back tears when I saw them report that bombs were going off in Afghanistan, because I did not want my country to go to war, regardless of “who started it.” The day made me sad. It made me angry. It made me even more afraid of flying than I already was. It made me realize that I hated violence far more than I had previously thought.

    I seek someone who will put up with how weird I am. How I’ll stare into space for no reason. How I walk with my head in the figurative clouds. Someone patient, who realizes that I have trouble communicating clearly with others, that just because I don’t say something, doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. I am complete as a person, but I love giving myself to others. Someone that earns my trust receives all of me, the good, the bad, the ugly.

    I’ll get your coffee this time too. Next time, drinks are on you. ^ ^

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