Space Dandy – 08

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For a show where things repeat themselves so often, Space Dandy is proving stubbornly unpredictable.

Well, Cowboy Bebop fans should certainly get off Watanabe-sensei’s case now.  Not only has he given them an episode that had a complete Bebop feel (#5) but now he’s referenced the show directly by including the refrigerator from the “Toys in the Attic” episode – complete with a blue mold monster inside (which Meow promptly eats – surprisingly with no consequences).  It’s fitting given that Bebop’s head writer Nobumoto Keiko wrote this episode of Space Dandy – the other big-name guest is Animation Director Shimizu Hiroshi, a Gainax veteran who’s also worked on shows like Monster and Lupin III: Fujiko Mine.

This episode was quite unlike any previous Dandy effort in that it was really two episodes in one, though they were connected via a pair of “Machinians”, the Le Flea Brothers – a kind of space flea played by the always superb Koyama Rikiya.  This is a clever linking device, though some may find the tonal shift between the two halves of the episode a little jarring.  Both worked pretty well for me, while not reaching the heights the series has during its best moments.

The first chapter finds the Aloha Oe landing on a planet that appears to be a garbage dump for old space parts, led there by a supposed map of unregistered aliens Meow has procured.  QT is in seventh heaven among space junk even older than he is, but it seems less than promising for actual aliens and thus Dandy is in a sour mood.  That is, until a dog shows up out of nowhere and Dandy reveals himself to be both weak for and knowledgeable of dogs.  What follows is certainly the most earnest chapter of the series so far, along with the Adelie episode mentioned above.

I should have known as soon as QT identified the pooch as a “Laika Husky” where this was headed, but I didn’t catch on until the narrator clued me in at the end of the chapter.  There’s some good comedy here – like when Dandy’s translator initially translates the dog’s barks as “Wan, wan!” – bot mostly this is played straight.  The pooch (named P.U.P. by Dandy) has been desperately lonely, and Meow is quite hurt by the fact that Dandy treats her so much more kindly than he treats him.  Eventually the translator starts working and P.U.P. unspools her life story in the voice of Han Keiko.  It’s strongly implied – though not explicitly stated – that P.U.P. is Laika, the dog the Soviets sent into space on-board Sputnik, which supposedly died when the ship burned up on re-entry.  Having had her moment to run and play again, P.U.P. promptly expires (seemingly of natural causes) and Dandy constructs a coffin and QT a rocket so her remains can be sent to the “Great Beyond”.

We’ve seen Dandy get serious, obviously, but this is certainly the most emotionally significant interaction between the three crew members (especially given that Meow and QT were largely absent from Episode 5).  Things turn on a dime, though, with the arrival of the Le Flea Brothers.  Having lost their last host in P.U.P., they hitch a ride on the Aloha Oe looking for a new place to settle – starting out on a rather stinky Meow (no bath for three weeks).  Eventually they end up in Dandy’s hair, where the elder brother is sent to the Great Beyond himself by hair gel and a comb, and the younger takes over QT in a attempt at revenge.  The really strange twist here is that the Le Flea turn out to be “machine manipulators” who’ve been holding the planet together, and when the other one gets stepped on, it collapses into itself and forms a black hole.

For a change, the heroes escape unscathed this time via an unusually straightforward warp, though Dr. Gel and Bea aren’t so lucky.  They’re fast establishing themselves as Space Dandy’s Team Rocket, and their appearances are getting weirder and weirder (which is saying something for characters who travel through space in a bondage Statue of Liberty head).  This time around Bea builds a hip-hop tracking system out of used parts (or perhaps just buys it second-hand) which launches missiles when turntablism is applied, and Dr. Gel talks back to the Admiral in slang.  I’m still not sure what role these two play in the larger plot suggested by the ED (we haven’t even been told why they’re chasing Dandy) but I suspect when that part of the story is revealed, these two and the Gogol Empire are going to be deeply involved.

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  1. M

    There's never been any doubt about the technical prowess in SD. You've got a bunch of talented writers and art directors (a wild Goro Taniguchi appeared last week), churning out four-star anime at full speed – one wonders why most of them are hiding during the rest of the anime calendar.

    A shame then that results of Dandy are fairly uneven. First part this week was pretty stirring, even Meow got a few smilies – but why abruptly abandon a good thing for a jarringly mediocre second act? With the exception of the understated ep5, this show feels obligated to fulfil some comedy quota each week (Narrator tearing up? plz) – in some ways I think the creators labelling this show a "comedy" often restricts it from being more than clever craftsmanship.

    I care less and less for Team Gogol and the writers finally seem to as well. 🙂

  2. R

    Well, I'm actually following SD for the "comedy" quota.

  3. M

    I think most of us were initially – but often not it's not delivering. It certainly feels like they're trying hard to with episodes like this.

  4. R

    Comedies are always going to be hit and miss on so many levels. Some episodes of Dandy I just had to pause the video and roll over because my stomach hurt from laughing and some I didn't really get much more than a chuckle. I can definitely see how it wouldn't work for a lot of people (a lot of my biggest burst out laughing moments were probably satire or reference related) but I can also see why a lot of people like it.

  5. M

    See, I don't value references as strong comedic devices. Series like Lucky Star demonstrated that approach is ineffective. It's how they've kneaded them into the context of the show that sends comedy soaring. Hoozuki seems well equipped at that, SD occasionally fumbles. There's no doubt this show works on some levels as a comedy space adventure, I just feel it could be more space adventure, then comedy. If ya catch my drift, baby.

  6. j

    I find in space Dandy an experiment in Creative Freedom. Watanabe and co. do whatever the hell they want in any way they want and that's it.

    Never the less they seem to hint at something else in the big picture. What I find curios is how in some episodes they seem to focus at something unimportant (or even lame) making a big difference in the end.

    Take the last episode with the dumpling. There were a lot of shots to it during the last part of the episode. Yes, a ton of other stuff was trow in the fuel tank but the dumpling gets several takes and even hints in a no subtle way to it as the last "straw" that threw Dandy to the future. In this episode we almost have Dandy and crew dying if not for the comment of QT about the Warp Drive (in an anticlimactic way).

    What would have happened if that dumpling wasn't in the fuel tank in episode 7? And if the conversation hadn't ever being directed towards the Warp Drive in this one? And if Zombie sempai hadn't bitten Meow in episode 4? And if the the cook alien would have taken Dandy invitation to join his crew in episode 2?

    If we add the big tease with the ED then what we may have here is a tract of how a multiverse works. Tiny little details may cause big differences in each one of them. The short trow away comments about continuity may be hints to that,

    Of course, in the end all of this could be completely irrelevant since Dandy is, first of all, a "low brow comedy" with no discernible continuity. An experiment in creative freedom to be taken as is shown. If we have fun in the way, good, if not, then that's that.

    So even if ends up deeper than expected, or not, I'm enjoying Space Dandy as is being presented so far.

  7. w

    It must be nice for Watanabe that at this stage he can basically do whatever he wants with anime now. And nice of him to invite everyone else who's ever worked to join in the fun.

    Also, if it interests you: For some reason the dub decided to use the real op this week. I find that very strange. considering this episode doesn't really seem to mark any important moment, story-wise or run-wise, in the series. Could there be an actual important reason for the change, or did someone just say "No! We've deprived the dub-watchers for too long!"?

  8. No, CN basically just said they've been trying to figure out how to use the OP/ED and "thanks to Funimation we can do it now" or words to that effect.

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