Space Dandy – 01

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Solaris author Stanislaw Lem wrote: “We don’t want other worlds, we want mirrors.” We long for a distant future in which we travel the stars, but the creepy unknowns that await us out in space must be tempered with the familiar trappings of life on our planet, like restaurants stocked with hot waitresses. Space Dandy dwells in that tasty world between the comforts of the familiar and the thrills of the truly alien. This is no hard science fiction; it gleefully mocks stodgier archetypes of the genre, like Gundam. This is Science Comedy; It’s a circus mirror, and it’s an absolute gas from start to finish.

While taking place in a bafflingly vast and complex universe, Space Dandy’s underlying story is blissfully simple: Space Dandy travels the cosmos with his robot pal QT, hunting for new aliens to register; wacky adventures ensue.  Oh sure, interstellar wars between huge empires are waged, but far in the background. Space Dandy has a great head of hair, passable fashion sense, and a penchant for surprisingly deep monologues, while preferring asses to boobs. At the end of the day, he’s a bit of a boob himself, surrounding himself with obsolete or substandard technology (which is still pretty cool to us) and goes wherever the tides of fate take him, which is a fancy way of saying he just goes wherever.

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There’s a lot of Star Wars influence in the sheer diversity of aliens we encounter, but packs a pulse and joie de vivre Coruscant’s streets were sorely lacking. One alien they pick up is Meow, who looks like a cat but is really from Betelgeuse, who they thought was an unknown because of the sticker on his cheek. Meow wouldn’t look out of place in a Chuck Jones cartoon, nor would the rocky landscape he and Dandy find themselves clambering around after a quick succession of decisions that send Dandy’s ship screaming in and out of normal spacetime and into the middle of a menagerie of gargantuan alien baddies.

In keeping with the episode’s cheeky attitude, in the end Dandy has QT activate an explosive device that obliterates the ship, the planet, and him, leaving us with the narrator proclaiming “No one will ever forget your gallant, appropriate actions…probably.” We like a show that’s not afraid to blow everyone and everything up in the first episode and start off fresh next week with a different observation of the human (and not-so-human) experience through the lens of a super-weird, ultra-colorful, manic universe where anything can happen and even the narrator doesn’t bother fully explaining everything. A great start to the Winter 2014 season.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kyoukai no Kanata – 06

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In order to afford her expensive bonsai habit, Mirai vows to defeat a nonviolent plant-type youmu on the roof of the school for the 500,000-yen bounty, but it releases a torrent of horrid-smelling liquid that soaks her and Akihito. He tells her the youmu likes girls, so Mirai dresses up to distract it so Mitsuki can take it out; the plan fails, and Mitsuki is drenched in even more powerful stink, which won’t go away until the youmu is defeated. Hiromi says the youmu also likes singing and dancing, but the first attempt fails because Mirai can’t sing, drenching Hiromi. After a week of training with AI, the group puts on a idol performance that has the youmu fully enthralled  but didn’t decide who would deliver the decisive blow, and it douses everyone once more.

A curious cold open, in which idol outfits lie on the floor covered in yellow liquid, and Mitsuki furiously pumps an empty shampoo dispenser, is the harbinger for perhaps the funniest, most inventive, and most satisfying episode of Kyoukai no Kanata yet; one that helps the show take one more step out of the shadows of its KyoAni forebears. It’s the story of a fiasco that starts out as seemingly easy way to make big bucks, but things snowball out of control quickly as this youmu Just. Won’t. Go. Down.The gang jumps from one plan to the next, Wile. E. Coyote-style, learning a little bit from their mistakes each time, but following them up with new ones each time. The episode was also most impressive in that it somehow managed to integrate not only fanservice but a friggin’ idol concert into the episode by making those elements crucial to capturing the youmu and therefore relevant to the story. Yes, there are times when the characters act a little bit too dumb or short-sighted, but the episode knows this as well as we do.

In fact, it revels in it, as things go from bad to worse, despite the gang exerting more and more energy each go-around. Perhaps most hilariously preposterous is the group’s ability to put on a perfectly polished (and beautifully-animated) idol performance in just one week, and turning Mirai’s tin pipes to gold. Again, the episode is quite aware how ridiculous this all is and milks it for all it’s worth – even juxtaposing scenes of the concert with scenes of the torrid week spent training for it, making it seem like far more than a week had passed, and with it, an epic amount of trials and strife. The youmu itself is suitably freaky-looking and confounding. Best of all, it isn’t defeated by the end of the episode; we end up back at the beginning, with Mitsuki pumping that empty shampoo bottle, because she’s already had a hundred showers and used it all, to no avail. The fourth episode showed us this show’s dramatic potential; this episode just as ably demonstrated its comedic chops.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Mirai has a surprisingly frank, casual discussion with Akihito about her underwear before remembering who she’s talking to, then whining on her blog.
  • “Shocking Pink” is the episode’s title, which refers to the pink discharge the youmu shoots at Mitsuki, as well as Mirai’s pink honeypot outfit.
  • Everyone in gas masks around Mitsuki seems like overkill against the stink, until Hiromi comes in without one and after a momentary flash of poise, becomes violently ill. 
  • Mitsuki as a bubble girl: another great sight gag.
  • Just wanted to reiterate, too-perfect concert inter-cut with the over-the-top training scenery was just brilliant stuff.
  • On that note, the fact that everyone practiced so hard they all forgot someone had to actually capture the thing.
  • Remember…all this was to make enough money so Mirai could tend to her pricey bonsai and afford to eat – a very random but awesome cause.