The writer/director team of Ueno Kimiko and Mukai Masahiro brought us the excellent premiere of Space Dandy S2, and they’re reunited here for a somewhat less surrealistic and frenetic affair, probably the closest thing to a conventional romance episode the series has brought to the table in two seasons. It’s not especially long on the laughs or the soaring flights of imagination, but it does present Dandy in a mode we’ve seen him in more often this season – more self-aware and sensitive that the guy we spend most of S1 with.
If Dandy was going to be paired off with any recurring character, it pretty much had to be Scarlet or Honey – and as we’ve already seen, Honey has a lot of other mysterious things going on and she doesn’t seem like the type for long-term relationships. Scarlet and Dandy always had a vibe, somehow – maybe it was the constant stream of insults that most people wouldn’t bother flinging unless it was at a person they had suppressed feelings about.
The premise here is a pretty timeless romance trope – Scarlet needs someone to pretend to be her boyfriend because her former beau refuses to let go. It’s been mostly tsun so far from Scarlet but there always seemed to be a bit of dere hidden underneath, and while the reasons she gives for choosing Dandy (he’s basically got nothing but time, and she wants to pick someone she has zero chance of actually falling for) seem sound enough, it’s obvious that there’s more going on. The pay is 750 Woolongs an hour and the itinerary is a trip to Planet Trendy, where all the hip young couples go to be seen on dates. Which of course Scarlet could do anywhere given that she has a stalker, but if you’re going to be stalked anyway you might as well have fun.
Some of the week-long “date” is pretty predictable – Dandy steals toys from children and keeps interrupting their dates to bag rare aliens (which all of a sudden he can’t miss catching, including Santa Claus), and he destroys her house shooting at a man-faced spider. But the always-tangible spark of attraction begins to catch, and Dandy and Scarlet obviously begin to see this as more than an act. That’s especially true when they bond over “Chuck” (think Norris), who both Dandy (he even owns a rare VHS tape of cartoon Chuck fighting sumo, just as the real one did) and Scarlet are big fans of. Scarlet clearly has a thing for 80’s action stars, because in addition to the Chuck fixation her old boyfriend (Nakai Kazuya) is named Dolph and bears an uncanny resemblance to Dolph Lundgren – albeit a Dolph Lundgren who rides around in what looks like a yandere Gundam.
Probably my favorite part of the episode is the last few minutes, which see Dandy pop Dolph in the pie-hole when he reveals just how unbalanced he is (there’s eventually an arrest and restraining order) and thus the end of the contract with Scarlet. There’s a bit that I’d swear is a homage to Byousoku 5 Centimeter, and a lonely musical accompaniment which suggests this is just one of those things that’s not meant to be. I also really dig the fact that with her hair down, Scarlet looks eerily as if she’s just dropped out of a Matsumoto Leiji story – she really fits the role of a hard-edged dame with a maiden’s tender heart. But alas, for now at least it’s a forever alone ending – with hints of another romance-tinged episode coming next week.
ED: “Seaside Driving” by Seiichi Nagai