Space Dandy – 04

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Four weeks in, some trends are starting to emerge with Space Dandy.

For those that care about such things, Space Dandy seems to have been better received in the U.S. than in Japan – which is not surprising given how much backlash the show got in advance in Japan for being overhyped and premiering in America (and having viewers not comparing it to Cowboy Bebop 24/7 can’t hurt either).  Its ratings have increased 25% since it premiered, and it’s exceeded initial projections.  As for stalker points they’re actually trending up a bit (and the Niconico ratings are excellent), but the series certainly doesn’t appear targeted to sell a ton of discs.  But that may be less important for this show than almost any other anime out there, given the diversity of the revenue stream and the number of companies invested in it.

As far as the show itself, one of the most striking things I’ve noticed is that almost invariably, the second half of an episode is funnier than the first half.  It’s been most striking with this episode and the premiere but it’s been true every week.  Given that the first ep was the weakest on the whole, the upswing in ratings is very encouraging – and if people stuck around for the B-Part this week they were treated to possibly the best 10 minutes of Dandy yet (though I’d rank Episode 2 ahead overall, as it was consistently funny start to finish).

In the case of the premiere, it seems most likely that everyone was still feeling their way through the material, and learning how to use it to best advantage though.  This ep, though, feels as if the first half was used as nothing more than an elaborate setup for the second.  It was fine, with some good laughs – but my take on the episode is that there was a high concept in mind here, and the whole point of seeing the Dandy gang live through a stereotypical zombie film was to get to the second half, where the entire concept was turned on its head.

The most surprising thing to me is that anyone could still find anything fresh (no pun intended) to do with the zombie genre after the way it’s been done to death (pun intended) in the last several years.  Yet Watanabe and scriptwriter Ueno Kimiko actually did it – they found a way to do a zombie parody that not only came up with gags we hadn’t seen a thousand times but managed to shoehorn a little social satire in too. It started with the unexpected plot twist of following Dandy, QT and Meow as they adjusted to Space Zombie no Nichjijou, and built from there.

In the first place, the whole notion of “Zombie-sempai” was pretty brilliant.  But then what he(she?) came up with for advice – “I eat yogurt every day and it makes me feel a lot better!”.  This leads directly to the transition from the pejorative term “rotting” to the much more PC “fermenting” – the whole notion of zombies eating yogurt is so pitch-perfect I can’t believe no one has thought of it already.  There’s the whole notion of zombies in space having a much easier time not facing discrimination because, as the famous saying goes, “In space zombies don’t stand out so much”.  We got a “Where are they now?” feature with the mercenaries and hospital staff, two of whom had met and fallen in love.  “What do we do for fun?  We go to the mall every day.  For some reason we have a powerful urge to go the mall…”  Even Dr. Gel and Bea’s spaceship has been zombified like they have – which reminds me that the initials of “Statue of Liberty” are S.O.L..

The entire B-Part was pretty much one brilliant gag leading into the next (the zombie marathon was a fantastic piece of visual humor) but the culmination for me is definitely the insurance snipers.  What leads to this is the development that Dandy has figured out that he can live off his own life insurance policy now that he’s dead – a necessity because he and the gang are now too slow to catch any aliens – and countless other zombies have joined him.  The insurance company, aghast at their payouts, has hired “zombie hunters” to go around sniping zombies through the head and killing them for real.  And of course, it’s not murder to kill someone if they’re already dead.  This definitely falls in the “it’s funny because it’s true” category – insurance companies have been behind some of the most despicable schemes in history, and if they could off their claimants without fear of legal retribution I’ve no doubt they’d do it.  There’s a happy ending, though – the sniper gets zombified himself when following the Dandy gang into the theater on “Zombie Day“, and turns everyone at the insurance company (and eventually the universe) into zombies too.

As for what’s really going on the story here, I have no idea.  Is Meow Schrodinger’s Cat?  Are these alternate dimensions (“Hey, Everett”) or is the reset button just being pushed every week?  Beats me – but if the comedy continues to deliver at the level it did here, I’m fine with whatever.  Rumination on zombie language and facial expressions, zombie baseball, zombie narration, zombabies – pretty much everything after the eyecatch was a bullseye for me.  And ending the episode as Watanabe did – with the gang watching “Night of the Living Dead”, and George Romero’s name scrolling on-screen – is the perfect touch.

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13 comments

  1. S

    The second half was brilliant. I loved the one-liner: “Since they live in space, zombies aren’t discriminated against”.
    And the ending was pure gold. Since “all is equal”, there is universal peace. Guess they achieved the perfect version of communism.

  2. s

    I think i prefer the english dub's version of the line because of how it plays of the iconic line: "In space, No one can here you Scream"….relating it to zombies by saying, "In space, No one can hear that you dont have a pulse"

  3. s

    Space Dandy's knack for parody deserves praise because man does it do it so well. Watanabe and the space dandy team has this talent for directing that i cant quite explain. Just the way this series is being handled is quite good and i think people are really missing the point of this series by expecting it to be the next cowboy bebop or whatever they are expecting; people can make some pretty obscure comparisons sometimes (i saw comments regarding the hype behind kyokai no kanata before it aired making comparisons to Shin Sekai Yori just because Taneda Risa was voicing the female lead and it was a dark fantasy….the things hype will do).

    It looks like next week we are going to be treated to what might be the best ep in the series so far. There are quirks in the art direction for the next ep that remind me of Eureka Seven and the homage to galaxy railways will be quite the treat. Overall Space Dandy is a love letter to those who love anime, western movies, japanese stories, and just anything in general. I see success for Space Dandy in the future because i think its the type of series that people will ease into more and more until they find themselves enamored by it without quite realizing when it happened (I already see it happening on the net and with adult swims ratings)

  4. m

    I think the fact that SD is doing better in America is probably due to the fact that it's very reminiscent of American cartoon comedies such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, or South Park. Obviously not exactly the same (especially since those shows aren't 100% identical), but in the way you see social satire, references to other shows, and a story that isn't based on an overall plot but more of week to week storylines. I can't say if this was intentional or not, or maybe part of the reason why it was selected to air dubbed in the US simultaneously, but it does fit with American style animated comedies geared for older audiences. So far it's been a high quality show, and not always as low brow in the humor department as it may seem. (though it holds strong in that area nonetheless) Visually its amazing, and each week is full of hilarious moments. I love that it's dub is available before having no choice but to watch the sub first. This is one of the rare occasions where the type of show that it is lends itself perfectly to being dubbed, without having to worry about how anime dub actors generally aren't as skilled as their Japanese counterparts, and the same for the overall writing. With no need for any deep emotional acting you can find the acting hits home better in the dub version at times, like sonic said, a perfect example being the reference to the line "in space no one can hear you scream". They do a wonderful job of writing the dub to have references American audiences would pick up on, and the fact that they take that kind of thing into consideration gives this show a huge set of bonus points in my eyes.

  5. s

    I pretty much agree in that Space Dandy's satirical nature and ep of the week structure helps lend itself easier to an American audience. Since the airing of the series, ive pretty much tested out that hypothesis by having some of my acquaintances view space dandy. The verdict: they found themselves having an easier time enjoying space dandy than other animes ive tried to introduce them to. The dub releasing simultaneously does help that fact.

    As far as the history of dubs are concerned, bad dubs have just always been a factor of bad history of anime in the west. The effort to get good voice actors for something that was new and foreign to the west at the time was not a top priority so this usually resulted in studios hiring third-rate voice actors with barely any experiences to play these roles. Times have changed though and now you have american dubbing studios who actually have a passion for anime and want to give their best efforts to the material and while they may not nail it all the time (to this day i still hear some terrible dubs…if im laughing at what im hearing its usually not a good sign), the difference is night and day compared to the past.

    I dont think its ever been as black and white as dub actors just not being as good as the jap ones. Its just a matter of getting good voice actors period. For example, every now and then Troy Baker will lend his voice acting talent to funimation, and if you have heard his work in "The last of Us" or "Batman: Arkham Origins", you know the quality he brings to his work. Ian Sinclair has a really good sense of humor and has a knack of capturing the essence of the characters he plays so its no surprise that he is doing a great job as Dandy.

  6. m

    that's true. It likely that there's a larger number of skilled actors in America (due to the size of the industry) that are unknown and would take those roles if they were offered them. I love the subs, but I just think you get the overall experience better when a dub is done right. You can focus more on the visuals, and you understand the language so you pick up, a little bit, on the emotions displayed by the actors better. Like Vic Mignogna as Ed Elric. He did such a great job, (and the whole cast for the most part) but he doesn't often get lead roles. A skilled dub just makes it a little easier to pick up on everything bc it's in English. That on cartoon network (the original) is what got me to watch anime in the first place (so I am a bit biased). But I feel like making good dubs is the best way to get more Americans to watch anime, especially the subs, and to recognize it's value in the entertainment industry. Not just the acting, but the scripts need to be done well like SD aslo. Otherwise you get Kuroko calling Misaka "sissy" b/c the tried to find an English equivalent of Onee-sama (which doesn't exist).

  7. b

    I started the episode but the first half didn't engage me so I stopped and did other things. It's a show I want to like but I just there's nothing that really engages me. The comedy doesn't click much for me, and curiously that's coming from someone who enjoys Hoozuki.
    Seems like HanaKana is a guest voice in the next episode, I think.

  8. M

    Feels like compelling is missing from Space Dandy's vocabulary. I can appreciate what the writers are doing each week (I even think they were mostly successful this time), but I think the characters are failing to hold it. Unlike Hozuki, they just aren't up to lifting the humor. The Gogol Empire's presence I'm finding especially redundant – like an already stale Team Rocket. Moew is positively hopeless, Boobies and ass, etc.

    People keep haranguing on about crazy-high expectations. Well when you consider the amount of creative heads, artists, budget and marketing going into this production you'd expect something that at least feels special to result from it. It's an effortless okay, slightly PC for Adult Swim – but really should be tonnes better considering the talent.

  9. e

    While I am a big fan of the show, I think you highlight the one flaw I have with it – the characters. Comparing it to Watanabe's other shows – Cowboy Bebop was all about character, and while the two are very different shows tonally, both run off the same structure of independent episodes and no (or nearly no) overarching plot. For me, every episode (except for one) of Space Dandy has been fun, but there is literally nothing compelling me to watch the next episode but the promise of more wacky fun. Cowboy Bebop, even without a plot, had its intriguing characters and the desire to get to know them as something else to compel viewers back.

    As for Samurai Champloo – SC is more similar to Space Dandy, and while its characters weren't as intriguing as Cowboy Bebop's, they were still more interesting than Space Dandy's, and the first episode set up inner-group tensions between the characters to provide a more compelling backbone for the episode adventure.

  10. t

    I am mixed about dandy…mixed.

    this was space dandy version for walking dead/zombie land/whatever.
    I admit second half (but it's safe to say that also in general) was funny and bring a different touch(Japanese touch??yup) like with the senior zombie and the yogurt and even the zombie-hunters. that is the kind of power of parody dandy have. and as I stated in the 1st episode, it must work for you in order to enjoy it. that space opera lol.

    space dandy maybe funny and all in general, but it sure far for perfect. it has problems as people mentioned here above, and it starts to accumulate.
    first, space-dandy isn't compelling enough. it's not convincing enough why it worth watching. sure, funny, parody and all in general. but I can't justify all the hype and love space dandy get.
    not to mention some part are lacking something. as was stated, 1st half of this episode kinda doesn't really help engaging us.
    second, I don't really mind (for now) space-dandy being episodic, but it does start to affect me.
    is space dandy gonna be 26 episodes of only episodic comedy?I am not expecting something brilliant in terms of plot or character development. but staying in this course for 2 cour season..?are you sure?
    in related note, as Maxulous said – the Gogol are just like team-rocket, and I don't understand why after 4 episodes we're still with this having recurring routine with them. it was funny for the first and second time..but one can't tell the same joke so many times..is that gonna be too for 26 eps?

    I'd like to mention samumenco and KLK. the latter at least kicks plot and story which we don't its final destination completely ,but exist, and there is also emphasis on characters. while dandy doesn't have it. in KLK there is so much action and energy while dandy is lazy (although has fabulous animation..doesn't used enough to engage). not only the character..the nature of the show transmit sorta..laziness.
    as for samumenco, well this show also sort of parody that keeps kicking cliches and being so unpredictable (too bad you dropped, I loved the last 2 eps which had lovely performance). while dandy sure has it with the Japanese touch (Ramen, senior-walking-dead), still, again, it's taking it easily and slow…it's not showing enough seriousness.
    it's true, comparing now is kinda cheating, I admit. KLK & samumenco are 10 eps ahead and established themselves. sure, they aren't the "perfect shows" or something (you even dropped at least one) but thinking ahead for space dandy 10 eps in the future…can it make it and establish itself like those shows?being compelling in parody and story?what's dandy strong advantages..and is it really strong or facade like dandy? 😛

    I wonder how will dandy think to attract us in the upcoming future for this show.
    as I said above I am kinda mixed. because I do enjoy it and find the parody and comedy funny. but this alone is kinda..not enough. maybe I expect too much…maybe I want too much. but not everything feel right and I can't say it's really working for me…it does but at the same time it doesn't.

    p.s
    as Sonic said (I mentioned that in 1st ep), the english version is good. very good. it's so fit by all means to dandy. and although it's not the original language and all, in english it works great. in some parts it's even funnier.

  11. Z

    I'm still waiting for that AMAZING Space Dandy episode…

  12. Z

    Also not a fan of that moving splatter blob animation technique they used when the Reckless mercenaries were getting tossed about by the hospital zombies.

  13. t

    Hi, I currently run my own anime blog http://thatanimesite.blogspot.com.au/ where I do reviews. I was wondering if I could do a guest review for your blog. Please consider it, it would be very much appreciated.

    Kind Regards.

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