Space Dandy 2 – 08

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Every once in a while a rare and truly special episode comes along that wraps you up in it like a warm, thick blanket on a cold winter’s night. It’s not the kind of episode an anime, even Space Dandy, can or should do every week, as it would then cease to be rare and special. But when it does come around, it’s a wonderful thing.

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This episode is oozing with highly refined whimsical trippy goodness right from the start, as the camera pulls back from the Aloha Oe’s pinup to show her crashed on a planet with plants growing out of her, followed by a kind of Norse funeral, with a long-haired Dandy as the honored dead. The show often makes fun of blowing up its world and characters only to hit the reset button, but there’s a much more serious tone here.

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Then Dandy wakes up in his viking boat, which crumbles away to dust, and starts wandering a utterly alien and yet immediately comforting world of lush, gorgeous imagery and a similarly lush, immersive soundtrack to match. There are enough visual and musical cues to make this identifiable as a Dandy episode, and Dandy remains the same old Dandy, but there’s a heightened dreaminess to everything around him. Compared with his usual alien milieu, it all feels a lot more human here.

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Everything has this lovely, fantastical, trippy “off” quality to it (reminding me of everything from Ghibli and Bosch and Pink Floyd to Schim Schimmel and Alice in Wonderland), but as I said, not in a threatening way. As it turns out, this is Planet Limbo, a world without sadness, which also means a world without joy, as you can’t have one without having experienced the other. Any world that lacks one or the other is not a world Dandy, or any human can live in happily.

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None of the colorful characters Dandy meets cast reflections in the water, meaning they’re ghosts who are caught between the worlds of the living and dead, and are neither as long as they’re there. Dandy’s not done living yet, so he elects to board one of the awesome trams strung along the sky piloted by a strange white girl, a girl who has a brief monologue in the beginning of the episode but otherwise wordlessly watches Dandy from afar.

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This girl is Limbo, the avatar of the planet itself, the only living thing left on a world whose civilization destroyed itself long ago. Now that another living thing, Dandy, is there, she has fallen in love. But loving him, she is willing to let him return to the living world he treasures, even sacrificing the planet’s remaining energy to send him back. As it turns out, Dandy hit his head on a lever in the Oe during a choppy ride through a dark nebula.

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When QT and Meow see him passed out over the lever, they assume he’s sleeping and leave him be, and he returns to Limbo on the same Tram he left on. It’s a very sudden and bizarre but strangely sweet twist, because it means Limbo will be reunited with her love, suggesting that maybe, with at least some life among all the dead, there can be joy in limbo after all.

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It seems unfair to call this just another anime episode. This was a 24-minute psychedelic cinematic masterpiece: an offbeat exploration of life, death, and in-between; soaring vistas; a wealth of memorable images; a simple little love story for good measure; and an absorbing, truly inspired and score that complements the visuals and themes perfectly (if you enjoy DSotM, you’ll dig this music too). The only downside to this episode I can see is that its greatness will cast a long shadow over the show’s five remaining outings.

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Weekly OP: Spice & Wolf

We’re still on our Ghibli high (both from Poppy Hill and from the surprising Super Bowl commercial for the Maserati Ghibli; no relation), and so this week’s OP is from a show that we felt tapped into the Ghibli magic of a totally new, same-yet-different world, where the emphasis isn’t on fighting villains, but on cultures, systems, ideals, and the journey. Later shows that follow this formula with success include Maoyu and Sunday Without God.

Spice & Wolf is also interesting in that its two seasons were produced by different principal studios (Imagin for the first go, Brains Base for the second). This is the OP for the first season, an enticing invitation to be absorbed into its lush world. Fittingly, the name of the song by Kiyoura Natsumi is “Tabi no Tochu (旅の途中)”, or “Journey,” and is suffused with wistfulness and anticipation.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind – Retro Review

What’s one of my favorite films – animated or not – in existence? Why, the twenty-six year old Pre-Ghibli Miyazaki masterpiece known as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, natch. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times, but I never tire of it. Why? I could waste a lot of words and end up with nothing but paragraphs of inane babbling which I’ll spare you. Lots of reasons.

It’s a spectacularly gorgeous movie. Just about every still frame could be framed and put on the wall of a gallery as far as I’m concerned. The music sends up all the hairs in the back of my neck, it’s so good. The characters are rich and varied, and the cast is full of powerful women. I honestly don’t even mind the Disney sub, though it can be distracting hearing Captain Picard and Admiral Adama doing voice work.

Anyway, as I said I could go on ad nauseum, but do yourself a favor and watch this film. If you have anything bad to say about it, just keep it to yourself, because I don’t want to hear it, ok? That may sound immature, but understand this film and I were born in the same year. If, as a newborn, I was able to go see this film, I would have. And there’s nothing less mature than an infant. Rating: 10

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