Space Dandy 2 – 01

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Words cannot possibly do justice to the sheer creativity that goes into Space Dandy.

It feels as if Space Dandy has never been away, really, except that it starts its second season much more strongly than it did the first.  There were some ups and downs in the first season, though more ups than downs (especially as the series progressed) but what was never absent was the amazing inventiveness and the visuals that brought it to life.  There’s so much imagination and cultural literacy attached to this show, and it’s really a shame it seems to be taken for granted by so many anime fans.  But for some being popular on American TV is a sin that can’t be forgiven.

As Space Dandy has progressed, the notion that the themes of Hugh Everett III’s “many-worlds interpretation” that powers the series ED were intruding on the plot itself has become stronger and stronger.  No anime in recent vintage can do meta quite as adroitly as this one, and we get a mighty big dose of it right out of the gate courtesy of a hair that’s growing out of Dandy’s forehead.  After being lectured by Scarlett about what failures they air as alien hunters and why they should look for a new day job (I really think she meant well), the three heroes are each musing about how glorious life would be if their two partners were so useless (it looks something like Star Wars) when Meow notices a stray hair sticking out of Dandy’s pompadour.  But when Dandy tugs on it, it immediately becomes clear that this is no hair.

What follows is something like “The Bizarro Jerry” on steroids run through a geek culture filter about a hundred times.  That hair is a cosmic string, and it sucks Dandy, Meow and QT into another universe – one where they meet another trio with the same names.  But these hunters are badass and efficient – the same, but different – and they pledge to take the newcomers to the Alien Registration Center as their prize.  It’s at this point that Meow tells QT “Hey – you’ve got a pube growing out of your forehead!” and lickity-split, one quick tug and it’s another universe.  You can probably see where this is going.

The sheer volume of parodies Watanabe-sensei and Natsume-sensei manage to shoehorn in here is matched only by the ensuing hilarity.  Among others we get a mini “Manga Dandy” who looks and acts something like a cross between Michael Jackson and Goku, a Titan Dandy, Trucker Dandy, Gundam Dandy, Space Ninja Dandy, Space Investigator Dandy (slightly Bebop-ish), She-Dandy, the utterly bizarre Triangle Dandy, and “Smart Dandy” – an onion-head bozu who looks a bit like Death the Kid and has already figured out who the newcomers in his universe are (it’s he who suggests pulling all the universes together).  And of course each Dandy has a correspondingly twisted QT and Meow – like Naruto QT and Pig Meow, with my favorite being Smart Dandy’s “Schrodinger” (you have to open the box to see if he’s alive or dead).  Given the themes of the series and the ED, it doesn’t get much more meta than that.

It doesn’t stop there, though, because all this is building to the arrival of Emo Dandy – who sits on a rock sipping nutrition drinks and says “I want to die”.  His companions are an old man wearing a fishbowl who insists he’s a robot, and a terrifying cyborg who only says “Myah” menacingly.

“What would you guess that Meow is carrying under his arm?”

“Huh?  Isn’t it a helmet?”

“You’d think so, right?  But I’ve never once seen him put it on.”

There were many times over the course of Space Dandy S1 where I said “you really have to see it to do it justice”, and that’s equally true here – this stuff is just gold.  Of course all of the alternate Dandies, QTs and Meows are brilliantly played by Suwabe Junichi, Satake Uki and Yoshino Hiroyuki – and things get really crazy when the alternate narrators start arguing with each other about what’s really really going on.  Once the universes are gathered together strange contradictions start appearing – “cold hot coffee“, “Post no bills” bills posted, beef-flavored chicken, jobs with 7 days off per week, precise and specific bullshit…  It’s only when Boobies is populated with muscle-dudes that Dandy declares something must be done, and decides to light the cosmic strings on fire.  The result?  Space Dandy will continue next week – but with the Emo Dandy crew in charge.  That actually sounds pretty damn entertaining to me…

An episode like this one really makes me wonder if Space Dandy isn’t slipping perfectly in-between the two quite starkly different potential audiences it could aim for, and striking neither – I mean really, how many Toonami viewers are getting even a fraction of the cultural references in this episode, and how many people who would have already dismissed the show as insufficiently pure because it airs in America first and aims for a broad audience?  Yet, miraculously, it’s found great success on Cartoon Network so perhaps I’m not giving that demographic enough credit – or perhaps the series simply works well enough even without the meta-humor to be entertaining.  In any event Space Dandy is unbelievably smart, funny, creative and daring – and for God’s sake, why wouldn’t you want as many anime like that as you could get?  If the premiere is any indication, this season is going to be an even bigger treat than the first.

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  1. s

    My…..God…this episode was sooooooooooo freakin hilarious; I could not stop laughing at the emo dandy's Meow meowing so menacingly with that creepy smile on his face…im laughing as i type this comment right now. For the people who dismissed Space Dandy the first time around…..WHHHYYYY?? this series is hilariously smart, witty, and knows how to deliver some truly creative stuff. The way it takes sci-fi tropes and puts a spin on it is brilliant and for that, Space Dandy forms its own identity through that.

    I was really anticipating this second season and it did not disappoint in the slightest. Again, i sound like a broken record but this summer season is taking off: toyko ghoul, AldNoah, Barakamon, and Space dandy have delivered. Sailor Moon ended up being the nostalgia trip i wanted while being entertaining and even sequels for series' that were decent (and had potential) are showing promise to improve on themselves such as Free. Even SAO II is demonstrating that it might have what it takes to deliver an enthralling arc this time around. Now all i need is for Zankyou no terror and Tokyo ESP to deliver and ill be dandy……teehee…This summer season is living up to the expectations i had for it and its looking to be the best one we've had in years.

    Oh n i think you might be underestimating the CN viewers just a bit. Dont forget that most likely many of the toonami viewers are people who grew up watching anime on toonami before expanding their viewership and knowledge of the medium through the web. They are most likely exposed to a great deal of the culture space dandy references, not to mention that, as you have already stated, space dandy is the type of show you can get a hell of a kick out of even if you dont catch everything it references. It's accessibility is what makes it popular on CN

  2. H

    A strong episode for Dandy to return on. Loved the Schrodinger segment. I believe Space Investigator Dandy is trying to emulate Space Adventure Cobra. The Emo Dandy crew looked like an act straight out of Adult Swim…an eerie prospect.

  3. w

    I can't tell if it's a stylistic choice or not, but it looks like they have a smaller budget this time around. It's not quite as fluid or clean looking as the last cour. Still looks plenty better than most series though.

  4. H

    I think it was a combination of stylistic and economic. I think episode 11 was working on a notably lower budget.

  5. s

    Im pretty sure it was more of a stylistic choice seeing that the staff had been working on this ep probably about a lil over halfway through the run of the first season (which is somewhat indicated by the animatics shown at the end of the first season). i know what you're getting at in terms of the animation from this ep but from what i saw of things to come, they are definitely not working with a smaller budget. Some eps are just going to look spectacular for tv animation while some will just look above average

  6. j

    Dandy is Back Baby!

    How I missed the antics of the B.B.P. Trio and this episode really delivers.

    The different Dandies are awesome in their own way (yes, even Emo-Dandy, with just the fact that he hasn't killed himself yet and keeps drinking those nutrition drinks is telling) although I find them more like commentary/fond parody of their respective genres. Science ninja Gatchaman combined with space cobra? Mobile Suits piloted by the crew or the Ideon? Rule 63 Dandy? A Kid Hero Looking for 8 people with star shaped birth marks (Wonder if its a refence To Jojo Bizarre adventure and its 8 main Protagonists) and protecting some mysterious "balls" in a Kinto'un with a magical wooden staff (it doesn't extend, just shoots magic, I guess) and going against a Mao? Damn. No Zombie Dandy though, bummer.

    And what about the super efficient cool Dandy that the crew met first? It might be only me but I find him like a disturbing combination of The Race Prince of the first season and Dandy (Dandy and Prince Love child? the Fuyoshis must have fainted).

    By the way Enzo. Congratulations! It seems that one of your ideas came true. Meow was a Schrodinger Cat like you suspected some time ago! Well it wasn't the Meow that we have seen so far but must be nice to have seen your theory somewhat validated.

    To be honest I kind of expected this episode… at the end of the run. I mean the idea of the Chaos that all of those Dandies would create by putting them on the same room is too damn good to let it pass and the ED kind of had set the possibility up in the first place with the imagery of several Dandies going around.

    The problem with this kind of episode is that it set the bar very high for future episodes. Lets just see what happens and, who knows, maybe Emo-Dandy and crew will have an episode for themselves! Although I personally think that he is just a jab to the trend of putting Emo characters as the MC that has populated everything in the media lately Watanabe and crew might actually make a funny episode around him.

  7. We haven't seen the last of the Schrodinger thing, I'm sure of it. This has been building for a long time.

  8. R

    I overloaded on shout outs there. Heck I'm pretty sure I got half of them wrong (thank you Enzou for being more culturally in touch than me so I can read your post and pick up the ones I missed) but sheer creativity and balls out manic energy is always welcomed

  9. Y

    The Dandy you found bebop-ish looks more cobra-ish to me… no?

  10. Z

    Definitely Cobra.

  11. A

    Ahaha, that Triangle Dandy. The character designers must be having the time of their lives with Space Dandy. I can't help but feel like the Emo Meow was partially inspired by Hisoka, but that may be the schwing speaking. Perhaps there is an obscure character that never wears their helmet that I don't know of.

    I don't know how it sounded in Japanese, but the Emo crew was horrifying in English, plus I suspect you don't get jokes like the Supertroopers-esque replacing of now with meow. I'm surprised you didn't mention the incredible range of the voice actors since you're usually quick to praise such things. They even changed the credits to plural Dandys, QTs, Meows, and Narrators!

    I think you should give Toonami viewers more credit. Toonami was brought back by the fans, who are less likely to miss references than you might think. Regardless, I think the really great thing about Space Dandy is, and this is what made Cowboy Bebop so enduring, is that it bridges cultures so incredibly well. The Goku/Michael Jackson Dandy is the perfect example of this. Even a complete newbie watching Toonami will probably understand the Goku reference and still chuckle at the Michael Jackson reference if they don't, and vice-versa for a Japanese viewer watching with no exposure to American culture (or as little as is possible in this world).

    Of course the other thing I love is how some references are blatant and others are inscrutably subtle. With Cowboy Bebop, I still glean new insight every once and a while after having seen it literally dozens of times (e.g., the navigating method Spike uses in Wild Horses is based on a historical precedent by astronaut Gordon Cooper). With Space Dandy, it will take me hundreds of times to understand it so completely, if I ever do. The second time I watched this episode, I noticed Space Trucker Dandy said the title of episode 5. Who knows what I'll figure out on viewing #20?

  12. Z

    Reference ≠ instant funny.

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