DRAMAtical Murder – 02

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With most of the characters introduced, the plot gets a chance to thicken this week, as a mystery surrounds Aoba and Ren’s impromptu trip to Rhyme, and none of his elaborately-dressed buds can shed any light on it. There’s a ton of questions asked, but its slim pickings, answer-wise, which combined with the leisurely pace of this episode, made it more of a drag than the first.

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The entire first half consists of a rehash of the Rhyme battle with that annoying bunny thing, which I really didn’t need to see again. Turns out the outdated Ren’s initial attacks are no match for the foe, but Aoba instinctively busts out some kind of orders that win the day. He wakes up where he passed out, is excused from work, and goes home to rest and repair his Allmate. Things are very slice-of-lifey.

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That’s not a lot an awful of ground covered, by the standards of some of the better-paced shows out there, but it’s also arguably admirable the show is still keeping its cards close, preferring to show Aoba interacting with his friends and grams more and let subtle clues trickle out one by one. It’s obvious, for instance, that Aoba has played Rhyme before; he even has a handle: “Sly Blue.” The popularity of Rhyme is also sapping the ranks of real-world gangs.

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But due to an unspecified “accident” a while back, Aoba’s memories must have been messed with, the same way the data in Ren was damaged. He also must have been a player of no small accomplishment, since he not only seems to have some antagonist on his trail, but also has an apparent fan who reverently calls him “master”—that’s Clear, the gas-masked fellow we thought was behind that first battle but turned out not to be. In any case, Aoba’s a popular guy right now, and there’s a lot more to him than even he knows.

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Space Dandy 2 – 02

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As anyone who watches knows by now, this weeks episode of Space Dandy was always going to be absolutely nothing like the last one. Rather than explore the chaotic possibilities of Dandys from far-flung parallel universes interacting, this week’s Dandy exhibits its whimsical, free-wheeling way with cause-and-effect…or effect-and-cause, if you will.

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A seemingly innocuous argument between Dandy and Meow (on how some song went) leads to Dandy saying goodbye to his two long-time crewmates forever…before Honey can even serve him pancakes. He boards the Little Aloha and flies off to answer an invitation from a fan he believes to be a shapely rare alien girl. Of course, this is only a gross misunderstanding on Dandy’s part; something he’s so good at, QT finds and then enters him into a Misunderstanding Grand Prix, which he promptly wins in absentia.

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Much to Dandy’s dismay, the rare alien turns out not to be a hot alien chick, but “Ukeleleman” a somewhat frightening marionette-type golem with a very calm, dull voice; someone who collects smiles and wants Dandy’s for his own. While hardly the strangest Strange Alien-of-the-Week the show’s dreamed up, he’s definitely very random and more than a little offputting; not necessarily evil, but dangerously single-minded.

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In fact, Meow and QT had already met him and fallen victim to his “hypno-petrification” tune, after locating where Dandy crash-landed, then transporting from one highly hazardous area to another until coming across Ukeleleman. The sight of his friends reduced to garden statuary keeps Dandy from giving him the smile he wants, and Dandy eventually runs off with them. His plan is to throw them into the Strange Phenomenon-of-the-Week: the River of Time that rings the planet.

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First referred to by Dr. Gel as a means of capturing Dandy once and for all, the River is much like any other in that it’s made of a water-like substance, only the water represents time, its source the past, and its mouth the future. It’s also subject to the Pororoca phenomenon, meaning at times it flows backwards, returning the past to the present.

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On a show Space Dandy that hits the reset button every week, a device such as the River of Time might seem redundant. Despite that, and despite the fact the actual practical mechanics of the river are a bit loosy-goosy, the execution is entertaining, showing us ducks turning into ducklings and then eggs, or a Space Battleship turning into a Galleon, as the waves crash. Dandy also gets to break out his surfboard.

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That battleship crushes Dr. Gel’s dropship, and his latest attempt to capture Dandy along with it. The final showdown between Dandy and Ukeleleman is muted and lacking in emotional investment—frankly, we’re glad to see the weird-looking bastard go up in flames. But it’s in death that he finally achieves the smile he’d worked his whole life to achieve. And when his ukelele drops into Dandy’s hands, Dandy is able to properly remember how that song went.

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Weekly OP: Rail Wars!

Like it’s most interesting character so far, Sakurai Aoi, Rail Wars!’s OP is hard-edged, boisterous, and take-no-prisoners bad-ass. The thing that stands out the most, of course, is the theme, “Mukai Kaze ni Utarenagara” sung by Chihara Minori.

When combined with the fast-paced animation of CGI trains and action shots of the various characters, one gets the feeling of jumping on a moving train and being sped along on your way…to the episode you’re about to watch!