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.

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Space Dandy 2 – 01

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Space Dandy is back, baby! But as Dandy himself laments in the middle of this particularly chaotic episode, they “came back too much.” After trying to pass a cow off as an alien, Scarlett gives them a stern life counseling session, suggesting they may not be cut out for alien hunting, being the worst such hunters she’s ever seen.

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As they ponder a future in space trucking, Dandy pulls at a stray hair on his head, it gets longer and longer until it envelops him, Meow and QT and zaps them into another dimension, where there is another set of Dandy, Meow, and QT (and Honey), only this set is much better at their jobs. They notice another stray hair, tug at it, and the process repeats.

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They’re not stray hairs, but cosmic strings, and continually tugging at them zaps the crew from one alternate universe to another, in all of which some form of Dandy & Crew exist. Those forms get more and more bizarre until we end up with a scary Meow who simply stands around grinning and holding a helmet he never wears, QT as an old codger who thinks he’s a robot, and a gloomy Dandy who just wants to die, having clearly been around the other two for far too long.

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With all the alternate Dandy crews springing up in one universe, not only does the Aloha Oe get overstuffed with people, but the universe itself starts to become full of contradictory information, to the point where even the normally unflappable narrator begins bickering with other narrators over what exactly is going on in the episode. If this goes on it can’t end well.

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So the Dandys and their crews come together and decide to light the cosmic strings like fuses. When that happens, a big explosion occurs and the universe is seemingly back to normal, until it’s dropped on us that Gloomy Dandy and his two insufferably strange companions are the new cast moving forward. The show is just joking, but in the end, Scarlett was wrong about the Dandy, Meow, and QT she knew being the worst. There’s always worse.

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Space Dandy – 12

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Well, presumably it had to happen sometime: a genuine clunker from Space Dandy. It was still fairly entertaining, but the “alien that looks like anything” plot was somewhat lacking, that this was also the first episode that we really felt went on too long, rather than not long enough.

Now, because something can transform into a duplicate of one of our characters, repetition is part of the game, but it was a card that was overplayed and grew tiresome. What also grew tiresome is the abject lack of basic observation skills. Honestly, the BBP crew just seemed dumber than usual this week.

Despite being a subpar Dandy outing, there were bright spots: Scarlett’s constant debasement of Dandy’s alien hunting skills, QT geeking out on fishing, and his reaction faces in the “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire”-parodied Dandy Quiz. But even these things felt overstretched and undercooked. We just weren’t feeling this one.


Rating: 5 (Average)

 

Space Dandy – 11

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We open this episode with gifted scientist Dr. Gel so deep into complex, esoteric calculations, he doesn’t even hear Admiral Perry’s orders to invade the library planet Lagado. Gel’s assistant Bea, who seems like a capable chap, takes command. Meanwhile Dandy is trying to register a rare alien in a box he isn’t supposed to open for reasons he forgets. When the box is opened, sirens blare, a booklet and ticket to Lagado are revealed. While we suspect Gel’s calculations have something to do with all this, we are, for the moment, as confused and clueless as Dandy.

This episode gradually reveals its premise regarding the Great Librarian of Lagado (an alien in the form of a book) being checked-out by Admiral Perry because Dr. Gel said he needed it. The book manipulates Dandy & Co. to steal her from Perry, then manipulates them to successfully escape from the Gogol fleet and return her to Lagado. She had a desire to see the outside world with her own eyes, not merely in print. Now home safe and sound, she rewards Dandy with the box we see in the beginning, which they open again to reveal a videotape…and the cycle continues.

This episode was a showcase for Space Dandy’s uncanny ability to open an episode with a messy pile of disparate building blocks but end up with a relatively sturdy, recognizable whole by the end. The episode does so stylishly too, adopting a totally different aesthetic for the time Dandy, QT and Meow are being manipulated by the book, with most of the color being sapped out of the world, lighting becoming more dramatic and textured noir-ish. It’s a fitting depiction of the somewhat hazy, incomplete nature of memory.

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All the sci-fi mystery aside, the episode also manages to make a fairly unadorned commentary on the consumption of media. Whether it’s books, tapes, laserdiscs or floppies, mankind’s drive to record anything and everything is absolute and unrelenting. Such media provides their consumers with thoughts and ideas they didn’t have to come up with on their own, which can lead to those consumers being manipulated and their very lives directed by said media.

For us, that media is anime: we can scarcely get enough of it, and we schedule chunks of our lives to watch and review it. We’re not much different than QT sucking up punch cards of smooth yet bold-tasting data; it’s just a matter of complexity. And with the ultimate knowledge of the cosmos taken to its extreme, we witness Dr. Gel finally comprehending everything, leading to his destruction; moderation was not practiced. But hey, at least we now we know why the end credits contain all those weird calculations!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Space Dandy – 03

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This episode exhibited that sometimes there’s a definite method to the madness; that the chaos is very carefully constructed. Therefore, while a multitude of stuff flies past the screen in the course of an episode, a small, innocuous detail from the beginning could pay dividends in the end. There’s a great cat’s cradle of cause-and-effect that propels Dandy, QT and Meow on their adventures, who all end up partial contributors.

Let’s unravel that cradle:

  1. Dandy is having no luck with the alien hunting, getting desperate enough to try to pass Meow off in disguise.
  2. With no money, QT has to stretch pennies to feed the other two, purchasing 365 packages of space food that’s 10,000 years past its sell-by date.
  3. With no money or edible food, Dandy must whip out his Boobies card (also an effective distraction for Meow) It has enough stamps for a free meal, But it too expires in less than three hours.
  4. With no money, edible food, or time to waste, Dandy hits the “Warp” button. Then he gets impatient, and hits it way too many times (waiting for computers to do something can be a torturous ordeal; good to see this won’t change in th distant future.)
  5. Let’s not forget Meow’s role: last week, they spent all their money chasing the Phantom Ramen, with no alien to show for it.

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All of that leads to their adventure: crash-landing on an inhospitable planet littered with skeletons. There are two life-forms there: a swarm of vicious, disgusting-looking monsters, and a blonde hottie named Mamitas, who has also crash-landed. In a classic don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover scenario, the hottie turns out to be the more dangerous, all-devouring Deathgerian; so dangerous, in fact, that the second his men identify her, Dr. Gel turns turns his fleet around. (Her photo in his monster catalog, kneeling in a meadow, is priceless.)

Both the “ugly aliens are evil” and “the pretty lady is evil” are well-established conventions, but both so well executed here that we remained in the dark right up until Dr. Gel entered orbit, even though Mamitas just got finished saying “I’ll eat anything.” Her metamorphosis into a mammoth monster covered in boobs evoked shades of Cronenberg’s “body horror” oeuvre, both aesthetically and in the subtext of Dandy’s somewhat jejune view of women. It’s also just an awesome design in its own right, as is Dandy’s FLCL-inspired mecha “Hawaii Yankee.”

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Back to cause and effect: the fact Deathgerian wants to eat everything becomes it’s downfall, as she swallows a few boxes of the spoiled space food QT bought and gets sick. The monster turns out to be unique enough for Scarlett’s “OK” stamp and a reward of 99,000 Woolongs. All’s well that ends well…except for poor Meow.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Space Dandy – 02

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Space Dandy is the intergalactic comedy that takes its time and hangs out in bars—ramen shops. When none of Dandy’s alien quarry turns out to be rare, he ejects Meow into space, only letting him back into the ship when Meow promises he knows the location of a Phantom Ramen. A wide-ranging culinary journey ensues, with the contents of the bowls growing more bizarre and outrageous as Dandy’s bank account empties.

So what happens here is that Dandy, eager to make a buck, agrees to spend what money he does have matching noodle bowls with his unreliable new sidekick, who Dandy knows is only interested in eating and wasting time. All the while, Meow is inadvertently telling the enemy Dr. Gel exactly where they are by tweeting each restaurant they patronize. Dandy also meets the lovely (and limber) Scarlett, who takes out the first wave of Gel’s foot soldiers not to save Dandy, but as payback for spilling her bowl.

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Honey may give Space Dandy the time of day, but that’s her job. Scarlett is not the least bit seducd by Dandy’s wiles, especially when he asks for money. Still, once QT discovers Meow’s tweets and his phone is disposed of, the threat from the Gogol Empire is neutralized. It’s about this time when we started wondering how Dandy & Co. get themselves killed this week, but the episode’s final act didn’t follow that pattern; not exactly, at least. The only similarity to last week’s ending is that Dandy and Meow end up in another tense, dangerous situation, as the source of the stale but tasty Phantom Ramen turns out to be in a wormhole.

But after that mind-bending journey they emerge on the other side in a very calm, eerily gorgeous alternate dimension, and the comedy is put on hold for the surprisingly moving story of an ancient Earth-trained alien ramen master, possibly inspired by Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which we still have yet to see). The alien lives there alone for centuries, and his tears are the secret ingredient. After hearing the old alien’s tale, out of deference, Dandy lets him decide if he wants to come back with them. He declines, and in a hint of karmic justice, Meow loses his to-go bowl in the wormhole, and only Dandy gets the final taste ever.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)