My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from the second half of the first season of, which aired during the Winter 2014 anime season.
These often feature a lot of focus on the production crew aspects, specifically.
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click through numerous pages.
It is a good thing these episodes come out over the weekend, so I have plenty of time to process them. It is especially helpful when needed to watch an introductory episode twice, which I did with Kill la Kill last season to appropriately check myself and I did again this time around because we have that really dandy English simuldub to tear into.
Based on what I have in front of me right now, I’m left feeling… pretty alright. Which honestly… kind of disappoints me?
In either language, a lot of the humor, especially in the first half of the episode, just did not hit their marks for me. Fourth wall breaking jokes are fun and all, but need to be used either in moderation (Like a few selective opportunities Martian Successor Nadesico makes turning to the audience in the midst of a bigger series joke arsenal) or just cranked out with extreme glee (ie, the Narrator from Sgt. Frog, large swaths of Excel♥Saga). Space Dandy… kind of tried to walk a hazy middle line with all of its jokes, fourth wall or not. As if it wanted to tell jokes, but presented these jokes on some kind of display platter and went “Would these be all right?” It wanted to be edgy and aggressive (like “breastautrant” and Boobies), and yet it seemed afraid and did not what to fully embrace its own potential, in turn falling flat for me by throwing its own timing kind of off. It is the “safe” kind of aggressive, where it everything about it is still completely marketable because was not actually pushing itself all that hard.
It is a really weird taste, because I thought the episode was generally pretty alright!
And yet, I wanted it to be more than alright. I wanted it to sound the space train whistle, give that clarion call for folks to pile on board, and then blast off with extreme eye peeling prejudice. Instead we had some nice bits (the diverse alien designs and movement are really great, for instance!), and a whole lot of putzing around with some softball meta humor jokes. It was nice, wholly consumable, but… I expected to be having more pure unleaded fun with it, I guess.
The incredibly nice thing Space Dandy has going for it would be the innate capability to be a highly episodic action comedy series, and the large amount of varied stories and sequences they allow to be generated while retaining the central character dynamic. Dirty Pair is one of my all time favorite anime franchises, for instance, which is certainly a space action comedy reliant on character dynamics and that makes use of sexual humor at times. Space Dandy, especially once we get more time for the team to actually gel, could have some really swinging adventures in the pipeline. I really look forward to seeing what the future has in store for them, and the various worlds they could visit with such creative creature designs.
A bit of a below the surface thing that has kind of been on my mind for a very long time and this episode really only put on a more butler presented silver platter is Shinichiro Watanabe, while he generally deserves his accolades for directing staff and producing music, can not actually write at the level of his other abilities. Which is fine. He only really primarily wrote one episode of Cowboy Bebop (“Boogie Woogie Feng Shui”) for instance, nobody really ever really thinks about that episode in particular when considering the series as a whole, and it does not sabotage the larger work. It just kind of exists. It also has the advantage of being episode twenty one of that series, where so many other flavors have already been developed and yet early enough where the series could end as it pleased without him getting much in the way.
Space Dandy could very well be a similar position. It just might be having one of those as its first foot forward.
And if it is getting the Watanabe written episode out of the way first, well, then things can likely only go up from here. Which is actually the exciting part.
Space Dandy (Episode 2)
This week we switch away from Watanabe as writer over to Dai Sato, so that was a promising thing from get go given how last week went down in terms of material not quite hitting the mark.
Even so, I think Space Dandy might have this weird trend where the first half of the episodes turn out not as nice as the second half. Like, really clear cut “after the commercial break” levels of shifts. Which, admittedly, if you are going to have to pick between the two one should much rather want the episode to ramp up and improve over its duration so folks leave happy rather than the other way around.
I do tend to mentally groan a lot when it comes to certain joke topics that have been tapped too many times in recent memory, and in that department I really am exhausted of social media humor due to the raw amount of it that has been spat out. I’ve been tired of them for several years now, actually, and there’s only so many Space Twitter jokes I can take in succession before I start wanting to check my own phone because the episode is slowly losing me. But that’s a “me” thing, and such circumstances merely mean a certain cooling off period is required and they’re funny again, so who knows what I’d think in five or ten years.
Even so, despite his phone shenanigans I think Meow is my favorite member of our crew so far, love pillow and all. I think the way his character works, as he is fundamentally the straight man when compared to Dandy’s routine, allows him to function better for me in the dubbed version than the subbed one.
The Phantom Ramen Chef housed them all though, with a well told personal story and endearing interactions with our crew. By far the highlight of the episode, and proof of concept that the series will be just as capable of being quite touching or serious should the need arise, which is a great card to be able to show us this early while we are still getting all of the episodic building blocks in place.
Something that I have found interesting, in reflecting on these two episodes so far, is that I have been less interested in the journey the episodes take as opposed to the destinations they lead to.
In a lot of cases it would tend to be the reverse, and I’ll certainly stomach a whole lot more Space Twitter jokes so long as it means great conversations over a bowl of ramen an entire wormhole away.
Space Dandy (episode 3)
Honestly, when the television ads for this week’s episode were playing (which is still a weird concept to me to get used to again), I kept hearing Dandy’s english delivery of the “I’m on this” line as him actually saying “Gozongas.” I heard it correctly in context, but, you know, “Gozongas” would still very much fit in with his character and how he was physically preparing himself at that moment.
That, and we are still harping on the notion that the mere mentioning of the word “boobs” is hilarious. Gotta get back to Boobies, I don’t need oxygen I need Boobies, a giant boob monster, and so on. I wonder if this is going in be one of those things where we eventually drill our way around so much that the joke somehow finds new meaning.
I’m not even really sure it has to though, in a certain sense.
I enjoy Space Dandy, but is a kind of puzzle where I’m kind of not sure what to do with it yet in terms of writing. For example, my breakdown of that first episode was mostly about personnel and the like for instance, or my own feelings on meta humor, rather than much the show itself. It is a Late Night Anime that kind of fits how western Late Night Cartoons operate. And it is, well, airing at the same timeslot as those things. It wholly works in that respect, and yet, is sort very odd as a result because there is a kneejerk reaction to want to squeeze critical juice out it due to the names in the credits. With the rotating staff carousel however, perhaps it would be more suited to talking more about various creator styles?
To draw a different comparison, things like gdgd Fairies are fundamentally the same as how Space Ghost Coast To Coast operated for instance. And I adored me some gdgd Fairies this past year, the second season was in my top anime of 2013. But I’d be totally lost if I tried to do episodic breakdowns of it.
…Space Dandy could well be in a similar boat?
I could be frustrated that I don’t know how the Gogol Empire’s plans involve Dandy….but, why? As in, this is the kind of show that wants to give lines like “They’ll eat you until you’re dead,” a universal space translator that gives the vagina penis face monsters silly voiced lines about “…get all up in our face with your fancy guns that don’t have batteries!” and a transforming robot with a Hawaiian shirt.
This weeks episode literally finished with a Looney Tunes style End card.
And that is, you know, totally ok.
It still makes for television I have set to DVR each week, because I’m enjoying the English dub far more than the subtitled version as it is genuinely sillier and punchier in script. I’m just not sure what to write about when it comes to a week by week breakdown, much like gdgd or how I would ever attempt to handle something else on the Adult Swim programming block like American Dad.
Space Dandy (episode 4)
Episode Director: Ikuro Sato, Animation Director: Tomohiro Kishi, Storyboard: Namimi Sanjo, Script: Kimiko Ueno.
I figure I’ll just keep doing something like this going forwards, since every episode has had different handlers in these departments as they play around with the character toys and playsets they are being provided to go hog wild with. Maybe someone will find it useful, but at the very least for myself it makes for some interesting reading about folks whose names I don’t see as much.
Also: I want to know what Dandy is getting ice for his drink for. What fine beverages is he drinking in his spare space time?
I do continue to love the alien designs. The doctor with the nose horn thing that also loops around his mouth structure? Very nice stuff. I kind of wish the mercenary team sent to hunt Dandy down was given some sort of cool operational code or unit name or anything. There’s a lightsaber wielding mustached crawdad alien with a Scottish accent. His team needs a name. Gel’s presence on the ground during their operation was also actually rather unexpected I’d say. Good job Gel, getting out of the space ship and all.
I do rather like what the episode did in the second half, as a zombie chase would have gotten old for the rest of the run rime. The narrator is put on display to carry the entire second half since the infestation just gets to… fester. Well, ferment, I suppose, in the words of the zombie lifestyle guru as they go about their business living off the life insurance money and avoiding the life insurance hitmen trying to cut down on expenses. Which… is not an idea I can say I’ve seen explored in zombie fiction previously, which is an accomplishment given how played out that whole entertainment area has become.
Space Dandy (episode 5)
Given Hayashi’s work on the “From the Other Side of the Tears” short from the Ani*Kuri15 collection, and the focus in the television ads on a more thoughtful tone complete with some tears, I was kind of wondering if there was going to be some sort of musical montage. Not only did she deliver on that front, but I thought it was a really well done little thing. Montages are really easy to mess up as a storytelling device, but she seems to have a real knack for executing on them. I hope that continues to be something to further explore as her career develops and she potentially takes on more of these higher level production positions.
The most grounded and down to earth of Space Dandy so far then, shoving two of our established crew pretty much out of the picture to focus on our main pomapdor and a sort of little girl space gypsy. And her penguin doll consciousness storing plushie.
As a result, the actual content of the episode itself kind of leaves me with little to really comment upon directly. Which is kind of funny, given how both myself and others probably felt they were steteching when it came to the more madcap episodes.
It was a well executed little single episode character exploration, where we met and got to know a new individual through a complete arc and have our main guy get some much appreciated personable action. All of it wrapped up in a lovely visual stew of space trains carrying passengers through the stars and red convertibles driving folks on the ground with lovely evenings at an otherworldly alien carnival complete with a glittering sand spewing whale creature. Extremely solid work, especially with the tonal shift, and I’m certain Hayashi is going to be really proud to have this in her portfolio going forwards when new projects are going around.
Adélie’s “Can I join the crew?” request, turned down though it was with the “Maybe when you’re older” kind of line these sorts of situations often have, does seem like exactly the kind of thing this series is going to come back around to. Which, admittedly, I don’t think is a very unique opinion.
The series has shown both in universe and in the ending credits theme itself that it likes the idea of mucking around with time and a many worlds interpretation of universe timelines. So Dandy’s “Sure thing” coming back around to later bite him in the butt on this matter in some chain of events somehow I’m certain is exactly the kind of thing they are trying to prep us for.
Please tell me she has some kind of character demeanor change during the growing up process though, as I feel there’s territory there they could play around with for humorous effect when it comes time to collect on that promise rather than just going for “Adélie as she was before as a little girl, but taller.”
Space Dandy (episode six)
So this week was essentially the Michio Mihara Variety Half Hour, which is pretty noteworthy as this is roughly the most number of higher level production hats they have had to juggle simultaneously on a professional work outside of Shin Chan.
And, perhaps most appropriately given that background, we swing things around to a literal war over underwear and vests.
Neither side can remember how or why it started, and there is only one remaining representative of what I’m sure were quite proud species who are left to battle so routinely they can set a clock to it. That’s fine, it’s whatever, as I already was going into this episode with a sort of Shin Chan mindset to just kick back and consume. I found Meow’s pillow talk to be very endearing though, right down to the cadence swings in his voice as he tried talking about just getting away from all this war and heading to Boobies. I hope we get an episode that can be focused around Meow’s love life or something. Pillow Talk Meow seems like too good of a thing to let go to waste as just a one off. At least make it a two off.
The peace conference bit naturally interested me quite a bit, since peace studies makes up a large chunk of what I worked on in graduate school. One of the biggest obstacles they tend to have in reality is sides feeling like their opposition do not have enough investment in seeing it through, or that there is not enough being given up by their opponent in order to feel comfortable in their commitment towards achieving the peace. The notion of two sides needing to transfer their most prized possession is certainly an extremely simplified level of personal investment, but it fits the nature of the conflict and what it was about while also showing that something seemingly so simple as this exchange brings with it an immense number of personal and historical hangups that were very difficult for the sides to really overcome. So, you know, I enjoyed the small but I felt pretty robust little handling of that.
And then we all went space surfing on a planetary destruction wipeout.
Space Dandy (episode seven)
Toyama was going to be a pretty big wildcard, as they are very new when it comes to anime production credits. Fitting then for the whole “Space Dandy is a lot like watching Looney Tunes” idea, this episode went after similar fundamentals and was Wacky Races right down to Honey cosplaying as Penelope Pitstop. And we even have Hiroyuki Imaishi as a guest mechanical designer this week!
Somewhat appropriately for the programming block, this episode did make me recall watching Outlaw Star on the Toonami of old, as there is a part of that series involving a similarly styled space race setup and a long blue haired hotshot. It didn’t have lines like “The gorilla has passed the Boobies” or old spaceship arcade game gags during the proceedings, but, you know, different tones and narrative objectives.
I watched the pretty colors fly by, had a drink, and enjoyed the dwindling hours of my Saturday night as Dandy achieved a higher level of existence while he car got more physical rumpus action than he himself has had all series.
Space Dandy (episode eight)
With many of the controls in the hands of Hiroshi Shimizu, this could have gone any number of directions. He has a wide array of projects under their belt, though is primarily a key animator kind of guy rather than episode director.
Combine that with Nobumoto for our wordsmithing (creator of Wolf’s Rain, multiple scripts of Cowboy Bebop, etc), and I think that played well into what we got this week. We have bouncy green space alien fleas, black holes, a Looney Tunes circular fade out, and a sad puppy on dumpster trash junkyard planet. While any kind of continuity is certainly debatable in this series, there were some good character moments here.
Dandy having the dog eventually come to him rather than the other way around and approaching himself I think is a subtle way of showing us the kind of guy he is. For all his posturing, he is rather standoffish and prone to how others may see him even when there is nobody around. When walking off to build the rocket coffin, he initially does so quietly and is unresponsive to Meow’s cries so as to not allow the emotions through so as to stay focused on the objective he has, only speaking again when he is in the robot suit alone and thus with more confidence.
Meow had a good show as well, where he is sassy over his name and being called a freeloader, and he took it out by punishing himself by not playing with Dandy and Pup. Then, the moment is gone. He really did want to play, and he liked being complimented on his hat, but did not take advantage of the opportunity to spend the time with others. As he spends lots of time on Space Twitter and the like in other episodes, certainly he tends to think he has way more time to do something than he may really recognize.
Compare this with the more uniforming serious episode five or the space race from last week, and this episode managed to blend the wackier elements of the series with the more heartfelt material well.
Space Dandy (episode nine)
One of the reasons I’ve liked doing this little staff point-out thing is Choi is a super nifty creator from a resume or training standpoint – she has worked on many of Masaaki Yuasa’s projects. A lot of those elements were in play this week in regards to guiding the look and feel of the episode. The general Twitter timeline freakout should be delicious when the actual Yuasa episode pops out in a few weeks.
The narrative isn’t all that much, but I liked it more than the first episode when Watanabe was also the writer. This is a chain of events where Dandy winds up tracking down a lost Chaos Emerald out of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise while Meow gets plumped up like a snake eating a whole deer. There’s nods to things like the number of plant nations on plant planet, but it’s all window dressing for the, well, window. And given, it had a pretty swell view for the realtor to show off.
Dialogue wise, my biggest takeaway was when Dr. H raised the notion of the meteorite having guided their evolution and that now they could return to what they were meant to be. There’s a notion there on outside forces acting upon native species that a series about an alien hunter tracking down unknown life forms could make use of. Some think it may make use of its potential alternative timeline nods down the road, and that would be an interesting point in such a case.
I’m excited for next episode: Meow talking all western style in the preview, combined with it being a homecoming for him, should make for a lot of great moments. The furball is definitely my favorite character in the series.
Space Dandy (episode ten)
Masayuki Miyaji is a bit of a wandering soul; some storyboard work here, some episode direction there. They were an Assistant Director on Spirited Away though, and had a movie of their own just the other year (Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress).
In a sense, it is rather appropriate he was the person to handle our restless space heroes getting stuck in a blue collar time loop episode. Miyaji seems to have gone to great lengths to generally avoid doing the same thing for too long, and in a sense could in turn perhaps sympathize with that end of the struggle.
I loved watching Meow’s mom, dad, siblings, his whole family. Some of them did not get to say much, or even anything at all, but I felt they were characterized well enough from what we did see. That some did not make much of an interaction effort does speak of their own relationships with their older brother.
Dad being a machine worker making screws that he does not even know what they are implemented into dovetailed well with the time loop plot. It is the kind of life where every day does get to feel the same. You clock in, you make your product. You do not have a lot of money perhaps, but you do own the business and get to provide for your family. When you leave at the end of the day perhaps you head to the bar for a nice drinky drink and talk about what your son is up to out in the wide reaches of space. Then you do it all over again.
It is not a bad life, per say. I appreciated how Meow, despite leaving to get away from such a life, even comes to the conclusion that it does have its selling points. And that he sucks at making screws, despite having (at least at one time) other craftsmanship abilities. One can come to wonder how much of that may have perhaps played into his choice to leave home.
This episode also reminded me of why I have been enjoying the English dub so much more: elements like Meow’s video game stoner otaku “Believe it!” associates just comes across much funnier to me that way.
Space Dandy (episode eleven)
All the primary key animation this episode was cranked out by two people, who also served as Animation Directors in different capacities (Mori on the mechanical end). The episode director was also Okuno, who has a vast industry history covering multiple decades. We are talking was doing key animation for Armored Trooper Votoms, with nary a hiccup over thirty years. His resume is a deep well of all kinds of drawing, so one can look at this episode as a sort of showpiece performance demonstration.
With a narrative revolving around a giant library planet never being able to remember an alien, this episode did give me vibes of a Doctor Who or Twilight Zone episode.
Likewise, the black and white sketch style reminiscent of ink and paper reminded me a lot of Watanabe’s A Detective Story pulpy newspaper looking short from The Animatrix. In turn, what we have is more of a stylish thought exercise than much of a character story, involving the idea of books reading us so that they may see what they themselves read about. I think this keeps it from going too far off the rails though. It stays squarely on classic television science fiction fundamentals while our smaller staff deliver it up. Right down to statements like “It happened – whether you remember or not is irrelevant.”
Very purposeful, beat-like delivery on a small perception idea. Not one that lead to much on the action-comedy front, but, I made the transition and enjoyed what I saw and the time I spent without feeling I needed more to that particular narrative. Which is a great compliment to that variety of science fiction writing.
On a side note, as Honey got to read this episode:
Remember where there was that big internet hullabaloo weeks ago because a line of Honey’s dialogue was changed in the first episode of the English dubbed version? And this was going to supposedly massively change how the character would be perceived? We’ve barely heard a peep from the poor girl outside of the occasional line, even so many episodes in.
Looking back and reading some of what was said when that one staff member remarked on the Honey situation, and seeing where we are now… It’s like folks are talking about entirely different programs.
I’d be watching it regardless, even without knowing what kind of show it turned out to be by this point, because pulpy raygun and space alien stuff makes up a lot of the movies I watched as a kid. But, I do feel Space Dandy is in a boat with much of the anime community like when serious movie buff folks feel compelled to have to watch an auteur director’s newest film, even if it isn’t their kind of thing. Which is why I do try to at least minimally emphasize more of the rotating staff carousel material.
Space Dandy (episode twelve)
Satoshi Saga’s career is a real grab bag mishmash hodgepodge. They were a Key Animator on the likes of Dirty Pair: Project Eden and Five Star Stories, they were the Animation Director for the Tenchi Muyo! The Night Before The Carnival OVA, and their Director chair resume area is things like Green Legend Ran and Armitage III. There are many parts floating around in there, and a lot of single episode stints flitting between various programs.
His episode is all about a space chameleon. Sounds about right.
If I was in the business of ranking the various Space Dandy episodes thus far, this would be on the lower end for me. There are a lot of individual parts I should in theory like. Some classic cartoon slapstick (complete with spinning stars and birds over the head). There is someone taking a casual activity like fishing for aliens way to serious. Verbal references like “Game over man, game over” from Aliens while our characters were at their wits end looking for an extraterrestrial on the prowl.
But so much of it felt strangely… flat. And I watch and enjoy lot of classic cartoon antics.
Even nifty science fiction mind snack things like the idea of what does it matter if Dandy was real or the fake came across more like a desperate late game saving throw attempt than trying to tie up the whole package. It is unfortunate, as a nonstarter is never the way one wants to head into a finale off of. But the rotating staff does allay most of the fear I could have.
Space Dandy (Episode thirteen)
In our first episode directing repeat, Shingo Natsume returns to the stage after their previous stint there in the very first episode.
While some may have hoped for it, I can’t say they brought the series full circle for the finale or anything. Unless one wanted view it as as that initial one being all character introductions while this run has a primary focus on QT, who has never had such attention until now.
On a certain level, this was like a giant film melting pot. 500 Days of Summer and The Brave Little Toaster. The Matrix sequels and Ultraman. And so on and so forth. On the visual front, I think it manages to blend and transition these disparate parts very well. The higher focus on machines assisted quite a lot with the abstraction, as Dandy and Meow spend most of the episode removed from events. Scenes like QT giving Maker a piggyback ride up the mountain to watch the stars over the city are cute, and yet also fit in the same episode where we transition to full on Godzilla style city threatening fisticuffs.
In the middle of all this is the notion of the why and how a machine can come to love, and QT’s initial philosophy can actually be seen as rather unexpected. He adores the coffee machine because she was built to do only one thing. Of course there is beauty in simplicity, just as there is in complexity. A machine could find different things to love in either, just as humans do. And QT has even shown us in places like the library episode how much they love complexity.
What is interesting to me though is how this compares to Dandy. He is very direct and upfront in being a man who most enjoys butts on his ladies above all else. Some of that comes down to how his potential female companions are built, yes? In a way, QT is not all that different despite all the more intellectual airs and dismissive remarks he makes regarding Dandy’s proclivities. Our robot vacuum pal was not thinking about how many interesting layers Maker had to her personality, that is for sure.
If we want to take the comparison another step further, Meow here is now most interested in 2D girls and visual novels. I have played a few of those myself, and some of them are really quite good in terms of story and aim. But, for all the analysis one could choose to do for a character in one of those games, or an anime one for that matter, they still lack in a certain connective aspect. They are not real, after all, and so can only do or say what has already been produced. What they were built for. Our crew actually has more in common with each other regarding the ladies than they may think.
This was a fun show for me show, on the overall. I enjoyed more episodes than not, and the rotating staff aspect made for a variety of careers for me to look into and for a lots of creative folks to play with an established set of toys. It kept me coming back with minimal preconceived thoughts every week, at the very least. Had this all been put on the shoulders of a more limited directing team and the like, I feel I could have soured on it a lot sooner if the mix hadn’t worked out. It was great to have as a simuldub experience, to pop on the television on a Saturday night. Highly consumable, like most of the American Dad, Bob’s Burgers, etc on the Adult Swim block the rest of the time and I enjoy having on where the opportunity presents itself.
At the same time, I may not make a dedicated revisit to the series again for quite a while. The varied staff makes the complete package lack a more cohesive comedic stickiness that encourages one to come back again and again from start to finish. I might catch select episodes in reruns later in the leadup to the next season though, and for a comedy in particular I appreciated the efforts taken to make it easier to just kick back and watch on my television.
I would like to see more initiatives like it, without a doubt.