It’s not every anime that’s going to fit Lucha Libre and a laugh track into the same story (or any story). In fact this is the first time I can recall a laugh track being inserted into any anime episode, which makes it pretty much a given that Space Dandy is going to have to explain its presence. This episode is kind of a microcosm of a prominent side of Space Dandy as a whole, as it presents very familiar elements from a skewed and discordant perspective.
Directed by veteran animator Shimizu Hiroshi and written by SD regular Nobumoto Keiko, this episode offers some welcome development for both Honey and Scarlet, as well as some interesting nods to continuity (such as Meow’s reference to the zombie incident) and comic highlights. Despite that I found it to be probably the least engaging Dandy episode of the season, possibly because it’s the least distinctive. This was really the first time this season where for me an episode felt a little tired, somehow a bit short in the relentless creativity and originality which are the hallmarks of Space Dandy. Then again, that’s a pretty high standard the show has set for itself in this area.
The key alien here is Gentle Nobra, the rare alien Cloudian the BBP trio has been haplessly trailing for six months. That’s left them as emaciated as zombies (thus the aforementioned reference by Meow) and Dandy delusional and rambling “I am love!”. Gentle (who looks like a Rose of Versailles character with Coke-bottle ears) is played by none other than Kimura Ryouhei – a very welcome second appearance today for him – and as part of his schtick, he offers a free buffet for females which Dandy and Meow lie their way into. The reason for this event is that Cloudians (for reasons that are never explained) like to “take lonely females into their ship and be nice to them”. Though Dandy infers it there’s not a hint of malicious intent visible here, and if there’s a deeper intended meaning behind the Cloudian behavior pattern I confess I can’t see it – it seems plot-driven more than anything.
It’s Scarlet – also attending the buffet though rather than the free food, it’s the idea of meeting men that’a drawn her there – who ends up being Gentle’s chosen recipient of the day. Meanwhile Honey has been kidnapped by Dr. Gel (with Bea in Lucha Libra costumes) with the intent of mining her brain for info on Dandy. Honey turns out to be rather surprising given all of her Boobies appearances – a biker chick with a hard edge who’s also half-Cloudian and Gentle’s half-sister (real name Lady Nobra (I get why she’s named “Nobra”, but Gentle?). And of course the BBP have to get involved here too, and they end up following Gentle’s cloud ship in order to rescue Scarlet (and capturing the rare alien is a nice potential fringe benefit).
I do like the idea of seeing both Scarlet and Honey out of their normal context, and the fact that both are more than they appear. Scarlet offers hints that she’s attracted to Dandy, in fact, but she’s also clearly lonely and resentful at the notion someone like Gentle would take pity on her. But for whatever reason the comedy just didn’t connect with me this time around, and the story didn’t half a deep emotional connection the way many of this season’s SD episodes have. As for that laugh track, it turns out that it was the “Ambiancians” – another alien species hired by Gentle to provide background ambience for whatever’s happening around him. That’s a clever gag, though the laugh track itself – like all laugh tracks – is more annoying than anything else.