Space travel is a concept that’s paradoxically one of the most culturally iconic and divisive among the population, especially since this is a world where economic security takes priority over plumbing the deepest reaches of space in order to discover cosmic monstrosities lurking in the darkest corners of the furthest galaxies. Unlike most moral or economic arguments, where one side is composed entirely of people that think coloreds-only bathrooms were a good idea, and the other is made up of unerring optimists with stars gleaming in their eyes, both sides in this debate have a strong voice of reason embedded in their arguments.
However, nobody takes the time to ask the thoughts of the real heroes, the vehicles engineered to drift through the void of space; after all, they’ve had to weather the loneliness of spending years without any sort of human contact. Jinrui took that fateful step when nobody else would, and the result is touching, if unsurprisingly cynical. Also, it involves a giant cat fighting an equally massive nautilus, which probably registers as some kind of fetish to a small subset of the population.
As silly, contradictive, and downright pretentious as it sounds, the greatest strength of this episode isn’t in the actual content; compared to previous offerings, it feels quite sparse in terms of subtext and social commentary, the normally off-the-wall presentation not adding to the overall effect. It’s difficult to pin down in words, but the execution of the giant cat fight that should have been the highlight of the episode was forgettable at best. But before I could write off the entire thing as a failed experiment, a heartfelt talk with Oyage and Pion completely assuaged my concerns that the episode wasn’t building to something good, and it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that a simple dialogue exchange can convey as much as the zaniness of previous adventures, even with less Watashi-snark.
And… that’s all I can say on the matter, really. I’d like to discuss the theme of the episode, but it’s a tricky beast, and I can’t for the life of me pin down just what it is. I can’t tell if it’s secretly advocating for space exploration regardless of generally being seen as a waste of resources, or if it really does believe that repurposing spacecraft to more directly serve humanity would be the ideal option, regardless of just how inefficient the end result is. Those are my two possible interpretations, neither of which I entirely agree with, so make of them what you will.
Regardless of just what soapbox Jinrui is trying to preach from, the final ten minutes of episode five are more emotionally charged than almost anything else that’s aired this season. Romeo may have the subtlety of Red Skull doing a guest performance in the Blue Man Group, but by the gods he can really breathe life into two spacecraft waxing philosophical about their loneliness. Most importantly, and this can’t be said enough, short-haired Watashi is back, which is more than enough cause for celebration.