Space Dandy – 03

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Whatever they’re putting in the water over at BONES these days, I wish they’d sell it at the local kusuri-ya.

I think it’s in the very nature of what Space Dandy is trying to do that it’s going to be somewhat hit-and-miss.  The series has pretty much dispensed with traditional plot and character development to the point where it effectively hits the reset button at the end of every episode.  The show seems to be pretty much free-association, no limit insanity – and when you go that route, some gags are going to work better than others.  Of the three episodes we’ve seen so far, only the second really hit every note from start to finish – I’d rank this one about on-par with the second (and far better) half of the first episode in terms of batting average.

One thing you know you’re always going to get here is imagination.  Truthfully this is the most genuinely psychedelic anime I’ve seen in years – I’ve seen a lot of shows try and fake it, but it’s something that can’t be faked.  You can’t try and be psychedelic – it’s just something that either happens or doesn’t.  There’s no put-on here – the weirdness is genuinely weird, the product of what’s obviously a very liberal creative process (at the very least) and an enormously talented staff.  This week Watanabe-sensei brought in Steins;Gate director Hamsaki Hiroshi to storyboard and direct, and JoJo Animation Director Akita Manabu.

You get the feeling these folks are relishing the opportunity to cut loose and try stuff they’ve never been able to try before.  Again, by its very nature that’s going to lead to some big hits and some big misses, but it’s always going to be interesting.  One thing that does puzzle me a bit is why so many insist on comparing Space Dandy to Cowboy Bebop.  Sure, Watanabe directed both – but when he did Sakamichi no Apollon in 2012 I didn’t hear it being constantly compared to CB.  It’s odd how it almost seems as if the world has forgotten that show even exists, and indeed the intervening decade-plus may just as well have not happened, and Watanabe went straight from the finale of Cowboy Bebop to the premiere of SD.  I think he should have been taken at his word that this series was going to be a lunatic, lowbrow comedy and nothing else – because that’s exactly what it seems he’s intent on delivering.

As for this episode itself, it featured the debut of the strange creatures that first appeared in the epic six-minute PV featuring the full version of Okamura Yasayuki’s OP – beings I dubbed “vagina monsters” because, well…  I mean – look at them.  Funny thing though, they didn’t turn out to be monsters at all (in fact they were even already registered) but good samaritans – they were trying to warn Dandy & Co. that the damsel-in-distress, Mamitas (Taketastu Ayana) they’d encountered was in fact a “Deathgerian”, #1 on the most recent “12 Aliens You Don’t Want to Be Eaten By” annual ranking.  Having watched Oreimo I can only say that the casting was spot-on here, but I’m not sure Watanabe was actually going for that on-purpose…

There’s just so much randomness flung at the camera here.  QT’s “Buy 1 get 365 free” space food from 10,000 light years away – which is of course expired by 10,000 years (only the “sell by” date though, not the “consume by” date) was sure to play a role later in the episode.  Meow revealing that no matter how much he doth protest, he’s basically a cat (and lunch).  Searching for the nearest Boobies (Dandy’s point card was about to expire) in the “Galaxy of Mexico”.  And best of all, for me, the grand battle between Mamitas – now transformed into a kind of Cthulhu oppai monster (most nipples in the galaxy, surely) doing battle with the “Mini Aloha” – an escape pod from the Aloha Oe that transformed into a mecha wearing a Hawaiian shirt whose name is “Hawaii-Yankee” and who looks eerily like Canti from FLCL (which is probably the last show that was this legitimately psychedelic, though it was also a lot more emotionally resonant).  That battle sequence was the highlight of the episode – fantastically drawn and animated.

In truth, my feeling is that this style of series has a certain self-limiting quality to it.  When you’re not trying for anything of substance with the recurring plot or characters, the whole ballgame is being hilarious and being great to look at – there’s no net so if you whiff on those, it’s just “splat”.  I think the visuals are going to be a constant, and I expect the humor to likely be about what we’ve seen – ranging from intermittently funny to outright brilliant.  I love the limitless imagination that’s on display here, and there may even be a certain profundity that occasionally creeps in when it ventures deep into the Jungian realms of the subconscious.  Mostly, though, it’s just a strap-in and enjoy the ride kind of thing – and as long as the expectations are in-line with what the ambitions of the show are, I think Space Dandy is going to deliver most of the time.

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25 comments

  1. i

    Have you seen much about this show, buzz y, from the English speaking areas? This show was supposed to be pretty big, with the CB comparisons and airing on US TV and all, but I have not seen a ton so far from what I seen,

  2. Very strong ratings on CN, with the second week better than the first (and I didn't think the first ep was all that good, so that's a good sign). CN has certainly been hyping it hard – I don't know where else you're expecting to find hype – but it's also been (badly) written up in places like The Atlantic and the New York Times.

  3. i

    Hmm, yes yes that's true. I was only thinking of the forums area and not thinking about outside of the enthusiasts area.

  4. R

    Space Dandy is a perfect fit for the stoner demographic that watches Adventure Time.

  5. Psychedelia and stoner humor are very very different. Though stoners might not tell the difference…

  6. m

    haha no they aren't. That's the kind of thing ppl who aren't stoners .but watch stoner shit and call it "psychedelic" tell themselves to differentiate. But its for sure the same thing.
    And yeah in what world could SD be rated well in the Times?!?! Doesn't mean it's not a good show, but that anyone from those kinds of periodicals wouldn't be into something like that.

  7. No, in fact they're not remotely the same thing. Psychedelia is a real concept with a real meaning that dates back to the Ancient Greeks, not some made up pop culture slang word. Not knowing something doesn't make it not true.

  8. s

    That may be so but the term Psychedelia was not actually used back in those ancient times (the term wasnt not even coined until about 1957 i believe by Humphrey Osmound…who at the end of the day, coined the term as a way to explain the effects of hallucinogenic drugs). I think psychedelia is usually thought to be synonymous with stoners because of the fact that Stoners are thought to use these drugs to illicit this state of being, and Psychedelia was initially a term used to describe the effects people using "psychedelic drugs" experienced. That being the case, people who affiliate stoner humor with Psychedelia wouldnt be completely wrong, but then by doing that they are muddling what psychedelia truly is.

    Still, it is as you said, Psychedelia is more than just people getting super high or balls-to-the walls stoned. It's a concept that dates way back and was even revered for providing mystical exploration of the mind, allowing one to break the boundaries that limit the brain and entering a state of pure creativity and bliss (although if you got the wrong cards you could be filled with despair as well) Hell, there are even christian paintings depicting the fruit of knowledge as a psychedelic plant (mushroom) which makes sense since it broke the boundaries that limited Adam and Eve.

    The way i see it, the difference between shows made for "stoners" and a show that exudes psychedelia is that a psychedelic show affects you on both on a unconscious and conscious level, brimming with unrestrained creativity in which you dont have to be stoned to actually see. A show for "stoners" or "stoner humor" on the other hand is..well…you have to pretty much be stoned to enjoy and get it and that is not what space dandy is.

  9. m

    I wasn't saying Space Dandy is meant for stoners, I'm saying psychedelic is a term used for things modern day "hippies" use to describe things they watch when they smoke weed or use hallucinogens. I get that that wasn't how you were using the term Enzo, but in general its what it means nowadays. Just like moron, imbecile, and idiot were once clinical terms used to describe individuals with IQ of 51-75, 26-50, and 0-25 respectively. But that's not what they mean anymore.

    Space Dandy is a really fun show to watch (IMO anyway), but it definitely has aspects that are "stoner show" like. The way there's no real plot, the out there story, and the animation as well. Does that make it bad or meant to be for potheads? Of course not, but undeniably fits the description of a show people would get high and watch.

  10. I think Sonic does a good job of explaining why this is the wrong approach. Simply because some people don't understand a term and use it incorrectly doesn't make them right, or mean people should do the same. Space Dandy isn't a stoner show, and those stoner cartoons Adult Swim has been showing for years (all those fast food ads aren't coincidental) aren't psychedelic.

  11. S

    This anime had a review in the New York Times? I wish our print media here in Germany would be so open minded.

    It kind of feels refreshing in its own way being able to enjoy something crazy and silly (with a good dose of self-irony) like this, even though being already half way through your twenties.

  12. I don't think you'd feel that way after you read it. The MSM just probably shouldn't even try to cover anime because when they do, they don't even try.

  13. m

    Yeah the problem is they assign some random low end reporter/critic to cover something that they would have no chance of liking, and it gets ripped to shreds as a result. At the end of the day its the same as listening to any critic: dumb. You don't know them or what similar tastes you might share, and it's just one person's opinion not a large groups. And in this case a person who likely knows nothing of the genre at all and has nothing to base the review on other than whether they share a comedic sensibility.

  14. d

    Kind of off topic, but these are the premieres I've picked up this season:
    -Noragami
    -Space Dandy
    -Nobunagun
    -Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta
    -Hamatora
    -Hozuki no Reitetsu
    -Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha

    Am I missing any good premieres?? I still haven't found a series that's got me latched on yet, but at least I've still not Nagi no Asukara and Yowamushi Pedal to look forward to..

  15. Might want to try WCW…

  16. K

    Why the reference to Oreimo? Was the one of the seiyuu from it the Japanese voice of Mamitas?
    This is the first anime since I was a little kid that I've chosen to watch in English first because I like being able to see it on TV.

  17. s

    Yes, Ayana Taketetsu is the japanese seiyuu for Kirino in the series, the main female protagonist and younger sister of the main protagonist, Kyousuke (tho i dont get enzo's remark about spot-on casting…ah..cuz kirino might as well be a monster in disguise…ok got it…probably) Trina Nishimura is the english voice-actor for mamitas, who i almost missed because she was using an almost Jennifer-tilly like voice for the role. I forget that Nishimura has range

  18. A

    Yeah, it's nothing but a crying shame that Sakamichi no Apollon gets overlooked. It was brilliant.

    Then again, Space Dandy has a spaceship, and Cowboy Bebop had a spaceship, so obviously they are EXACTLY THE SAME… in the minds of some people, at least!

    I'm still thinking they're not so much hitting the reset button as that each episode is set in its own quantum universe, and I'm wondering if this whole many-worlds thing (as posited by Hugh G. Everett III, who's name-checked in the end credit song) is going to be significant as the show goes on.

  19. That may be the cause but as a narrative device, it's still effectively a reset button.

  20. A

    Oh agreed, but I do wonder if that's going to become an actual plot point at some time!

  21. i

    Boring. Finished. Dropped.

  22. M

    I tend to give 2-cour a "6 episode rule", but I'm not far behind you atm. Dandy's atop a dangerous cliff right now. If only the show was a good as the OP/ED.

    This wasn't a terribad episode by any means, but yawn worthy. Great animation can only do so much when the characters and writing just aren't delivering. I wasn't all that convinced by the inferior hawaiian robot people were talking up either.

  23. e

    Well it seems I'll have to apprach this on a week by week hit or miss basis after all. If I hadn't marathoned Alien recently I would have skipped it probably. :p Missing the expired food gag in the process – that was a good one. 'Consume by' date indeed ahah – . Also by the end that food might have altered the Deathsomething's DNA to the point Scarlett's alien registry tools couldn't identify it anymore. Well… you are what you eat :p.
    The scary but nice aliens and their warning seems quite a nod/subversion to the first Alien movie – or even to the trivia about the alien design… its concept featured giant visible genitals on top of their reportedly rapey fecondation&birth plus questionable mouth of modular fanged extensible snappy jaws :,D – and the alien comm signal from the planet turning out as a warning [about the Alien with capital A ] after translation.
    That said… the low half of Mamitas' (nice name by the way. Encantada :,D ) costume wtf-ed me out more than everything else in the episode. And I mean everything. It's the picky fashionista in me.
    R.I.P. Meow. Just when your cat antics had started to endear you to me a teeeny tiny bit. I do suspect between strings pulling and warped warping we're been presented with multiple universes/realities. So… not quite R.I.P. ? And some zombies apparently.

  24. Maybe he really is Schrodinger's cat.

  25. e

    Aw I missed my pun chance with that one :,).

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