Let's do the easy part first...
The actor for Ban-san (Hiroto Ban's father) was in Ruri no Shima--where Igarashi (Hiroto) got 2 minute appearance in episode 5. But I must say I don't really remember having a fond memory of this drama. I note it only because Mebius is not the only place they have been on screen together. Oh, Ban-san's actor is also a regular in Ultraman Gaia, which I do recommend (ah, I lack the talent to cheer a series that doesn't seem to have an existing fanbase around here, else I would write much longer).
I have a Japanese location site bookmarked since forever (remember looking up Nexus stuff), but Japanese and I are not friends with one another, so I haven't used it much. Anyway, at least a few people had brought Ban's house to my attention, so I went to look it up and used my best guess. Here it is.
Looking at the first block, Hana Yori Dango live-action is on the fifth line, Mebius is on the tenth line, and something I want to watch but keep putting it off (reason in the previous post) is on the thirteenth line. And the location photo is on this link [写真] on the last line. I'd cap the real pics, but my computer doesn't want to cooperate.
And I'm starting to repeat myself here, but in case anyone doesn't know, Igarashi has less than a minute appearance in the first episode of Hana Yori Dango (Season 1) and Ai Saikawa seems to have a regular appearance as one of the students, though I still haven't managed to locate her outside of the credits. Anyway, I'll keep trying.
As for the episodes themselves, I think these two episodes is influenced by previous space two-parters in other series (Tiga and Cosmos come to mind). But the marked difference is the first Mebius episode in this set doesn't end in a cliffhanger. Furthermore, I find the Mebius episodes generally more self-contained. I also like how they have clear divisions: one episode in space, one episode on the backstory built from the previous episode.
George seems to hate going into the large unknown (I wanted to know why when I first saw this--I still do; at this point he hasn't even revealed the reason he hates the sea yet).
I'm not sure if this is the first time Teppei is actually called "kaiju hakase" (professor monster) to his face and not behind his back.
I like Mirai's "Ultraman Mebius saved me" answer. :) In fact, I've guessed this exact comment before he speaks. I'll admit it's not at all difficult since I remember a few Ultra hosts using simlar excuses before in similar circumstances, and just as always, no one has any interest to ask further questions.
I do think it's a nice touch that Mirai speaks Japanese as if he has just started learning the language (which is probably true; I don't think they taught Earth language to him before he came to earth). Still, I presume this took place right after his encounter with the little girl with the red balloon (1) and before the main events in episode 1, so I couldn't help feeling a little miffed that he already speaks good Japanese then. Well, I've thought about it and come up with the following suppositions:
1) The Mebius writers simply forgot about this particular aspect of Mirai's alienness in episode 1.
2) Mirai is perhaps quick in picking up language. Since he seems to be able to learn fast in other things.
Personally, I'm leaning toward the second choice, because when he was with the balloon girl, he repeats a-ri-ga-tou as if he is not familiar with the word. But I don't know. In reality, it's probably a little of both choices.
Probably repeating other people's observations, but I do like the part where Mirai jumps and uses his brace to attack Bogals. There is a little stunt segment on the DVD and it seems not so few people had come to watch Igarashi doing the scene. (I'm impressed, even though the jump in that scene might not be so difficult, because I can never do it myself.)
Konomi and Teppei is probably not a possible canon ship, if the end of episode 22 is any indication. I do like the idea of them together, however, and if I can spin it believably I might try writing a fic.
Anyway, I love these episodes simply because they reveal more background information. I'll be honest, though. To me, this is an additional stuff, and I won't be upset if I've never known anything about Hiroto Ban or his sacrifice at all, but the Mebius writers have devoted two episodes on him, his father, and Mebius himself, and for that I'm very grateful. The attention to details just makes this series all the better for me. So I'm a little disappointed that they ignore this and go back a Monster of the Week formula next episode, which I still like, however, because of a familiar face and because I find the guest star rather cool, anyway. Separate post on 23 if I can write more than two sentences on it.
(1) What's with little girls losing red balloons in the Ultra series anyway? Why can't the balloon be any other color? What does the occurrence symbolize? Or perhaps I'm thinking way too much. I just don't remember KR or other toku having a girl playing with a red balloon, let alone accidentally let it fly away...