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.
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.
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.