A marriage between Yuasa Masaaki (Ping Pong, Kaiba, Tatami Galaxy) and Space Dandy always seemed destined to happen sooner or later. A series that’s given over weekly to a different auteur to re-shape in their own image and anime’s most distinctive auteur could hardly be a more natural pairing, especially given that Yuasa-sensei’s disciple Eunyoung Choi directed and co-wrote (with Watanabe Shinichirou) an episode already – last season’s brilliant “Plants Are Living Things Too, Baby”.
Choi-sensei tackled sentient plants in her episode, and Yuasa goes the route of sentient fish – and interestingly, the student’s episode was far more bizarre and surreal than the master’s, though “Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Baby” was certainly both those things. By Yuasa standards this was almost subdued, with character designs that were practically on-model and a noticeable lack of hypnotic background music. But it was unmistakably Yuasa – everything he does, be it Adventure Time or anime, bears the man’s unmistakable imagination and sensibility.
Yuasa starts us with a gorgeously drawn scene of a bizarre and exotic food court, where Meow is desperately trying to persuade Dandy to make a choice and buy something but Dandy is more interested in teasing him for his feline tastes. Dandy instead ends up buying what’s effectively a cross between a teleporter and a flashlight – complete with a pair of clunky “D” batteries – because the cute girl selling them was “close to his ideal” (by QT’s estimation). Meow accidentally teleports Dandy to a strange planet where he witnesses a fish setting up for a day of sunning himself and chilling to music – except it’s just Dandy’s head that’s been transported, not his body.
What follows is basically a Yuasa version of what we’ve come to expect – sasuga Dandy – in that it’s a staggering display of creativity with a guest cast of seiyuu legends. The fish is Carpaccio (yes, a fish named after slices of raw fish pounded flat) and he’s played by a hilarious Namikawa Daisuke. He’s from the planet Girlfriend, and he’s marooned on this, the planet Pushy Boyfriend, which has snagged Girlfriend in its orbit and won’t let go (Yuasa, you cheeky devil). He’s figured out that his own planet is going to be scorched by the sun, which burns Pushy Boyfriend to a crisp every hundred years, and is desperate to get back home to warn his people. So much so that he agrees (once Dandy’s translator finally figures out his language) to go to the Alien Registration office after Dandy and Meow (who’s teleported himself over using a mirror) help him get his makeshift ship to the surface and he can return home.
Well, it’s all pretty bizarre stuff really – amazing visuals, invisible giant halibut and silly plotting, poor Meow slobbering over the delicious-looking fish even as he continues to insist he’s not a cat. There’s double-crossing everywhere – Carpaccio double-crosses Dandy, only to get home and realize his former girl Yoko (Shiraishi Fuyumi) and best friend Minato (Nakao Ryusei) have double-crossed him and raised a family together, and they’re not remotely interested in his warnings of imminent destruction. The now-suicidal Carpaccio ends up being salt-encrusted and broiled as his planet is wiped out – along with Dr. Gel and Bea (naturally) and Dandy and Meow barely escape because Girlfriend is awash in D Batteries. Once safely back on the Aloha Oe, they consume Carpaccio – now known as “broiled” or “dinner” – and he’s delicious. Good things come to those who wait.
I’m not sure if this fits into the larger mythology, but it’s interesting that both aliens Dandy encountered in the last two episodes ended up being burned to a crisp after revealing themselves to be adversarial in nature. It’s harder than it used to be to chalk things up to coincidence on Space Dandy, given how much of what seemed coincidental in Season One was in hindsight not coincidental at all. In any event while there was a good deal of humor in in this ep – certainly more than last week’s – this season certainly seems to have a bit more of a menacing air than the last did. And Dandy himself seems a bit more in on the joke than he did as well, almost as if he’s starting to recognize the patterns in his seemingly random existence…