Space Dandy 2 – 10

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Yet again, Space Dandy demonstrates that it can handle a conventional human love story as deftly as the most tripped-out existential alien fantasy adventure. Of course, even the alien tales are based on elements of the human condition, but sometimes it’s nice for Dandy to have another actual human to relate to in a universe full of non-humans.

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The only two recurring human characters are Honey, with whom Dandy has a more playful, less personal relationship, while Scarlett has been teased before as a more serious, mature potential mate for the Dandy, and despite the fact she looks down on him, it’s clear she’s simply doesn’t have that many other choices out there. Space is so big, the saying “Not even if you were the only man in the galaxy” is a claim that can be legitimately tested.

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That’s exactly what happens when Scarlett asks Dandy to enter into a contract whereby he pretends to be her boyfriend, a plot line normally reserved for high school romantic comedies, but which can be an endless font of said comedy in the right hands, and Space Dandy’s are almost always the right hands. But because this is also a sci-fi show, Dandy can also blend elements of that genre; specifically, Gundam.

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In a bit of a masterstroke, Scarlett’s ex Dolph is a Gundam pilot who utilizes its capabilities to stalk her incessantly. It’s a hilarious look at the possible downsides of putting emotionally weak or stunted young men in such powerful machines. The close-up of the mecha’s red-glowing eyes being repurposed from igniting fighting spirit a to creepy obsessiveness.

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Going to Planet Trendy, which has any possible date setting trendy young couples crave, allows for lots of different environments in which Dandy and Scarlett carry out their week of fake romance in hopes Dolph will get the picture and go away. He doesn’t, but sticking him in the corner of every idyllic romantic setting makes for great visual gags.

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Also deliciously ironic: while Scarlett is behind the desk of the Alien Registration office, Dandy only ever has failure to show her, but while on their dates, he keeps ending up “hunting” (i.e., being chased by) legit rare aliens. It’s almost as if Scarlett is his unwitting muse. This sudden rise in fortune for Dandy mostly irks Scarlett because he’s doing this stuff on their dates, when he’s supposed to be looking after her.

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This episode is packed with so many great moments, like Dandy and Scarlett parting ways at the end of the day, only to come running at the sound of her scream. Turns out it’s only a spider, but that spider is horrifying, and in the act of neutralizing it, Dandy destroys her entire house, after which the two can only laugh about it. It’s nice to see Scarlett’s hair down, armor off, and cheeks flushed.

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Eventually, Dolph can’t take it anymore, alights from his Gundam, punches Dandy out, and gets way too close to Scarlett. Dandy realizes that the only way to get rid of him for good is to kiss her, and that sends Dolph into a fury worthy of a climactic Gundam episode, only he’s arrested, jailed, and has a restraining order filed against him. With Dolph off her back, all that’s left is to end her arrangement with Dandy, a day early, too…but their parting is melancholy, and both end up back at home feeling miserable that it’s over.

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The icing on the cake of this episode is one last gorgeously staged romantic interlude, where the two meet at the bar like they were scheduled to, only Dandy is just a minute or so too late, and so the storybook happy ending doesn’t happen. Things go back to normal with Scarlett at the office and Dandy showing up with crap, but they exchange looks that indicate that things are at least a little different.

9_ses

Space Dandy 2 – 06

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This week on Space Dandy, love is in the air…sometimes. A co-worked convinces Scarlet to look after her love life better by attending a Space Mixer, but Scarlet is quickly disillusioned and gets too drunk, which leads to her finding seemingly the perfect man: Gentle Nobra, who invites her aboard his giant purple cloud-mansion ship.

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Gentle is a Cloudian, who just so happens to be the alien Dandy & Co. have been searching for in vain for over six months. Dandy is starved half-to-death and has love on his mind, but once he gets some food in him at the all-you-can-eat-buffet, he returns to normal. That buffet happens to be the same mixer where Scarlet is.

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Believing Scarlet was abducted by the Cloudian, Dandy hauls ass to intercept the cloud ship, passing through it like the cloud in Castle in the Sky, but finds that Scarlet is fine where she is and resents Dandy’s mere presence. Then Gentle gets a distress call from Honey, who was abducted by Dr. Gel to get intel on Dandy.

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Dr. Gel underestimates Honey, who is able to escape from his clutches, and an angered Gentle crushes his ship with his. We later learn that Honey is Gentle’s half-Cloudian half-sister, for what it’s worth. Gentle loses his cloud, making him useless as Dandy’s bounty, but he vows to make a new one.

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Gentle reminded us of Tuxedo Mask from Preston’s Sailor Moon program, while a few of Scarlet’s reactions to him reminded me of Usagi from the same show. There was also a persistent, reverbed laugh track accompanying the cross-banter, lending the episode a distinct sitcom-y feel.

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Perhaps this was just a send-up of how ridiculous and nonsensical romance anime can get, especially when fantasy elements are included. It was also one more opportunity to demonstrate Dr. Gel’s incompetence. It’s nutty, and a little unfocused, but all-in-all not a bad ride.

7_ses

Space Dandy 2 – 05

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After a middling high school musical episode, Dandy bounces back with a particularly spiffy alien twist on the classic “Big Fish” adventure. It starts as an ordinary fishing trip, with QT lording his expertise over everyone, until Meow suggests they fish for something that will make them money. To whit: the legendary Munagi of the planet Kayu.

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A bit of defining: we learned after watching that Munagi means “ridgepole” while Kayu means “porridge.” And Kayu indeed is a world with an exceedingly thick, goopy, viscous ocean. The world is also suitably alien and bizarre-looking, looking influenced by some canny combination of Dali, Seuss, Dunning, and Hokusai.

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When the Aloha Oe is stuck in space kelp(!), Dandy teleports to Kayu and meets the small, adorable Erssime, who lives with her grandfather(?) L’Delise, a seasoned fisherman. These two happen to be the only ones who, like Dandy, believe in the Munagi, but L’Delise wants nothing to do with Dandy and snorts at his feeble attempts to catch it.

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We’re treated to another lovely Dandy montage of Dandy and Erssime fishing in various strange landscapes. Eventually some other locals laugh at Dandy for believing the ramblings of a little kid and a weird old man. The legend doesn’t even make sense: the Munagi is said to come on a blue moon, but Kayu has no moon.

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But then, one stormy night, a blue moon does appear; in actuality it’s the blue Rubini Comet, which last passed by Kayu 3600 years ago, matching the timing of the Munagi legend. L’Delise and Dandy put their differences aside and, with the help of Erssime, Meow, QT, and a gaggle of convinced locals, get a good grip on the emerging Munagi.

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Ultimately, the King Munagi and all of its smaller subjects are far to collossal to be caught, and in any case they’ve risen to the surface in order to hitch a ride on the very comet that deposited them at Kayu nearly four milennia ago. They lost the Munagi, but everyone is safe, and the collective experience brought everyone closer together.

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Dandy, Meow, and QT end up in the same place they were in the beginning: fishing, with Meow suggesting they catch something profitable. After all, there are plenty of fish (-populated planets) in the sea (of stars). Unlike the high school ep, this one took it well-tread story—the Big Fish Tale—and put a truly creative, whimsical spin on it.

9_ses

Space Dandy 2 – 04

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There are Space Dandy episodes I can run out onto the parquet dance floor and bust various moves with, and then there are those where I’m just kind of chilling in the periphery of the venue, sitting on a folding chair, sipping some punch, and tapping my foot, half to the beat, half impatiently. This was one of those latter episodes.

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Dandy has done a lot of different stuff, but hadn’t tackled the “high school musical” genre yet. But it just didn’t feel like its heart was in it in the same way it is for all of its trippy, metaphysical, and high concept episodes. As Dandy remarks upon first meeting his future prom date, much of the episode had a “well-honed plainness” to it. Much of the ground it covers has already been covered in better ways.

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A good musical, high school or no, has to have good songs, but most of the songs here were seriously lacking. The lyrics were dull, simplistic, and repetitive, and the pacing of the song and dance numbers dragged on way too long: the Queen Bee describing the school’s caste pyramid took up way too much time, and even if the awkward pacing was intentional, it just felt like stalling.

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That said, it was still a fun episode with some good bits: Dandy getting shot down by increasingly alien girls, and the 80’s-style pre-prom training montage, and the fact the girl was the rare alien Dandy enrolled to the school to find in the first place, but he, QT and Meow simply forgot about by the end. With Dandy, if you don’t like one episode, just move on to the next.

6_ses

Space Dandy – 09

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The vibrant variety of Space Dandy is such that there’s a little of something for everyone. This flora-centric episode is perhaps the show’s most psychedelic outing yet, relying less on plot and characters than the pure atmosphere of the far-out planet-of-the-week, somewhat unimaginatively-named “Planet Planta.” Large swaths of the episode have no dialogue, using alien ambient sound effects and some very trippy yet catchy music during a colorful and wondrous interlude. This show does some terrific montages.

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This is another episode in which QT stays on the ship and Dandy and Meow are separated on a new planet, but rather than following nearly-identical courses, Meow stays stationary as the simpler southern plant-folk around him fatten him up like a foie gras goose. Dandy, on the other hand, scarcely ever stays still, being swept up by microbes working for the highly-evolved northern plant-folk and delivered to a somewhat daffy scientist. He, his daughter, and his staff are all plants that lack conventional “faces” to lock on to, but still come across as people, not things. We like how things seem a little perilous at first but the doc turns out to be a decent sort; and his daughter is cute as a button.

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Like Dandy, the scientist is after “Code D”; he believes to be of considerable scientific significance, while Meow learned from a magazine that it’s a valuable rare alien. So they load up the plant-caravan and head off on an epic journey vividly illustrated in that interlude we talked about, a grand tour of most of the 18 “plant republics” that make up the northern hemisphere. As they draw nearer, a former colleague and present rival of the scientist arrests them all for illegal travel, but the scientist’s friends bust them out of plant jail and the journey continues.

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The Daliesque odyssey is a lavish feast for the eyes, full of wonder and other-ness, and we particularly like how audio-visual cues are used to effectively portray the intensifying stench of their quarry. Code D turns out to be a technicolor crystalline meteorite, and when Dandy snaps its cables and tries to snatch it, he causes a chain reaction that tears all of the advanced republics’ biodomes, causing a planetary de-evolution of all of the plants back to the inert kind we and Dandy are used to. The scientist doesn’t deny that this was his plan all along: to return plants to their natural state; to their “roots.”

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Space Dandy – 06

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As expected, Space Dandy completely changes gears from a heartwarming friendship story to interplanetary diplomacy, as they crash land in the midst of the ongoing struggle between the two last survivors of two warring civilizations. It’s a very old sci-fi concept brought back to life by the show’s passion and knack for fresh storytelling, and unique in what differentiates the otherwise very similar factions: clothes. The Undies wear only boxers, whil the Vestians wear only vests…and n’er the twain shall meet.

Dandy and Meow reconnoitre and are both captured in quick succession by the aliens, in scenes spoofing Luke Skywalker’s capture by Tusken raiders. Ironically, the “droid” in Space Dandy, “QT” isn’t captured. That’s key, because on this particular world with these particular factions: only Dandy and Meow could have been captives…and they’re lucky enough to be captured by the side that favors their own clothing preferences. Dandy is actually most at home in his boxers, while Meow sports the far more Disney-esque vest.

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The aliens themselves are funky designs with awesome voices, and the show makes a point to cross-cut their conversations with their captives-made-allies in order to accentuate how they have far more in common than different. One reason the war’s gone on so long is that they only fight about a minute a day in fighters, and have terrible aim. But their respective causes are quickly taken up by Dandy and Meow, so when they meet, they find themselves fighting on behalf of their new alien friends. More to the point, when the clock expires, both come away with mutual respect for each other. It’s very chivalrous and both sides play fair.

It’s also key that QT stays aboard the crashed Aloha Oe; in addition to staying above the fray and making repairs, she reiterates the overarching goal of being there in the first place: registering these two aliens. That can only happen if there’s peace, so Dandy and Meow set to work (in the aliens’ oddly romantic-looking bedrooms) convincing their friends to set their conflict aside. It’s win-win: the last Undie and last Vestian would get to experience what else the universe and life have to offer; while Dandy & Co. get a payday.

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The Accords get off to a good start, with a treaty being signed, and hands shaken. But when it comes time to exchange clothing—a final gesture of differences exchanged rather than merely set aside—neither of the aliens can do it, even though the color of the star on their would-be new garb matches their skin (maybe this was done before in the past?) They take out concealed guns and empty their clips at each other, missing everything, then hurl progressively larger rocks at each other (returning to the most primal tactics of conflict) until they smush themselves to death.

With their dying breaths, each whips out the remote for their trump cards: orbital nukes that will assure mutual destruction. Unfortunately for Dandy and Meow, they’re not aboard the Aloha Oe when repairs are complete and the planet starts tearing itself apart. At this point it seemed likely QT would simply leave them behind to die, after promising to “never forget them”, a common refrain in such situations. But not this time.

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The show had very casually set up a trump card of its own in the first scene of the episode—Dandy’s rocket surfboard—and Dandy and Meow surf the “Big Wave” Dandy been waiting for: the kind that only comes when a planet is exploding. It’s a thrilling, beautiful, joyful end (set to an equally lovely, upbeat song), but it’s also a little wistful, as it demonstrates what could have been had the red and blue aliens committed to peace, waved goodbye to their ten-millennia-old battlefield, and ventured out into the universe. There were two more surfboards, after all.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Nice slice-of-life aboard the Aloha Oe to start us off: Dandy chilling in his very Dandyesque room with a Playboy; QT vacuuming; Meow ensconced in a hilariously Serial Experiments Lain-themed room full of computers and amazon shipping boxes.
  • This is also a way for Meow and QT to mock Dandy as a “shuubie” and poseur for never using his surfboards. Obviously they’ll come in handy later!
  • Dandy mistakes the alien’s advances as sexual. Not a bad instinct.
  • We’re sure there are a whole lot of other clever references in this episode, some we got, some we didn’t; but most omnipresent was the fact the Undies and Vestians reminded us of Dr. Seusse’s Sneetches: both in the elemental nature of their conflict, the odd shape of their bodies, and, of course, the stars!

Space Dandy – 05

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Even though he ends up mired in them almost all the time, Dandy doesn’t like complications, or things that will tie him down or threaten his transitory nature. He does what he wants and doesn’t do what he doesn’t; taking orders from no one. While he may ‘sign’ every other line with “baby”, an actual baby would be anathema to Dandy. The moment someone starts a family they cease to be the most important person in their lives, and they cease to be their own boss to boot. That’s partly why Dandy doesn’t have a family; just a robot and a layabout cat-alien for company. This week, if only this week, that formula changes with the addition of Adélie, an alien who’s been humiliating alien hunters with a huge price on her head. Turns out she’s just a little girl looking for her family, and finds a fleeting one in Dandy.

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This is almost the inverse of Michiko and Hatchin, in which a wronged mother seeks out and snatches up her daughter (we really need to get back to that show someday…): Dandy had no intention of hanging out with a little brat, and indeed, he doesn’t seem he’d be guardian material, considering all the sleazy places he hangs out at, and the dangers his vocation lends. But with the Aloha Oe impounded, the 8 million Woolongs are worth a space train ride to the registration office with said brat. But like Hatchin, Adélie proves a match for Dandy’s robust personality, which is after all so much bluster and bravado…and boobs. At first they can’t even agree on the proper condiment for eggs, but they gradually warm to each other, and have fun adventures on their journey.

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We’ve said that Space Dandy never fails to put on a hell of a show with whatever genre-of-the-week it decides to focus on, and this kind of story is no different, hitting all the right comedic and dramatic notes. Of course, its effectiveness could have suffered had too harsh or bratty a voice been selected to play Adélie. Fortunately she’s voiced by Kanazawa Hana, provides a perfect balance of cheek, angst, and vulnerability. We imagine anyone would be eager to play such a beautifully-fleshed out, believable character even for one episode (though who knows, she may be back), who just happens to have stingers that can transfer peoples’ consciousness to plushies—a power that’s always used cleverly. More than anything, this episode redeems Dandy as someone with a heart of gold, which is beautifully revealed as his emotional stake in Adelie grows along with ours.

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After checking into a motel, Dandy announces he’s going out for a night of Boobies (which we know to be his church), leaving Adélie to stew alone. Our hearts literally soared when it turned out he was feverishly investigating the whereabouts of her grandfather, her only living relative. The reunion at the station goes delightfully un-smoothly when Adélie bristles at their apparent parting; accusing Dandy of abandoning her because she’s inconvenient; being no different from the other adults. Dandy’s daring rescue of her from the scorned alien hunters—while stuck in a stuffed penguin—was truly inspired. In the end, they do have to part ways, but not after changing one another’s preconceptions. Dandy met a decent kid and got a taste of fatherhood. Adelie met a decent adult and got a taste of daughter-hood. Hell, for all we know, Dandy IS her real father…


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List