My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Space☆Dandy Season Two, which aired during the Summer 2014 anime season.
These episodics focus more on individual episode production aspects than similar posts.
Looking for my thoughts on Space☆Dandy Season One? Click here!
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 here for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click and scan through numerous pages of unrelated material.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode one]
I am just going to go back to what I was doing after a while during season one ~
The most significant thing Mukai has under their belt is being the director for the Hyperdimension Neptunia television series. It is just as well we have dual animation directors this week, Ito as the more senior one having done a lot of key animation work on things like Cowboy Bebop, various Ghost in the Shell entries since even the original movie, among others. And I do not think anyone would argue against that this was much more of an episode being led by the animation team. On the storyboarding end of the chain, Taniguchi’s previous Space☆Dandy episode was the great space race in episode seven, so he does well in an unrestrained episode like this.
And I have to say, between the megaton avalanche of reference gags both classic and modern alike as our character hopped between timelines, this definitely did feel like an episode that could almost be taken to extensively screw with those who tried keeping any kind of universal continuity or charts between episodes.
As our hero would be inclined to say, this just ain’t that kind of show, baby.
I do fully understand why some folks do not really enjoy Space☆Dandy all that much.
Unlike even a more standard slice of life show where “nothing happens,” there is really nothing to predict regarding tone or quality from week to week. Not in visuals, antics, pace, anything. You may not want to settle in for what you hope will be a nice funny cartoon show episode, and then you end up watching a puppy die instead. And so sidelining the series is a pretty reasonable course of action then. Just like those who may want something more narratively driven, to really sink their teeth into the arcs or the like, which this show just can not provide.
But, I like the roulette wheel, as it keeps me engaged even when an episode misfires for me comedically or otherwise. I have no expectations from week to week other than that the series shows up on my television at the same time, so it is hard for me to ever dread watching it.
This was more of a wacky ~ wacky -~wacky episode than many of the other previous episodes, but as a “I’m baaaack!!!” outpouring after bursting through your door from a season absence? I think it did pretty much exactly what it needed to do, and I look forward the rides it wants to take us on.
That the staff have already said the second to last episode will have an extremely low budget so as to bulk up the funds for going full bore animation team insane for the finale has me quite pleased. This show is such an opportunity vehicle for the professionals involved, and they sure as hell are going to leave absolutely nothing on the table before they are through.
So even if you do not watch Space☆Dandy, I do hope you will at least tune in come the end of the season.
This one has a rather intriguing setup, in that our director is practically green when it comes to Space☆Dandy’s usual affairs. Kidokoro has worked on about a dozen shows, but in random one off directing gigs. Meanwhile, the script comes courtesy of Nobumoto (Screenplay for Macross Plus and Tokyo Godfathers, Series Composition for Cowboy Bebop, etc) to be storyboarded by varied ‘90’s shotgun Ikeda. Hurl in the double experienced animation directing team from Space☆Dandy season one, episode seven (the space race), and one has essentially given a sort of anime sports car team to Kidokoro.
And I feel he managed to navigate a rather effective little piece that is both able to make use of timeline ideas touched on in the previous episode and yet make them wholly their own thing here. The mood a bit more mysterious, but not too serious. Instead of hopping all over with wild style switches and engages us that way, we get a more straightforward delivery that can instead aim to be more lush. The forested planet and frozen statues are the sort of thing that seems simultaneously alien and familiar to our own world in various respects, and it is a nice line to walk after the previous episodes affairs.
Ukulele Man being a seemingly friendly and yet off putting “collector of smiles” and his particular kind of garden also certainly could be read as some sort of commentary on obsessive otaku escapism inclinations. Though, he works just as well on the level of an antagonist straight out of The Twilight Zone, so I do not even think one would need to take things that far.
Dandy imagining the beautiful alien, who he thinks surely must have invited him out so far for their party, as a horned oni girl is the sort of thing that as a reference reminds me that I am reaaaally behind on trying to finish all of Urusei Yatsura in terms of New Year’s resolutions. Gosh darned ding dang currently airing shows, keeping me from lightning bolt hurling alien princess overload death.
As we saw Honey for all of about eight total seconds this week: Remember the big mega internet fuss when a line was slightly altered in the first episode of the dub that it was said would come to massively change her character interpretation over time? I am still waiting for her to get more significant screen time, especially as I feel it could be a nice spin to even give her more of her own episode given the nature of the series.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode three]
I did think it was rather darkly humorous that the “nobody cares about that dumb space stuff anymore” plot was playing out very close to the anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
Well, on the production front this is pretty straightforward.
Moreso than even the Planet Planta or library world episodes last season, here we pretty much just hand the keys to Masaaki Yuasa. What becomes more interesting below that surface level though is that means he brings some of his own rag tag group of contacts with him, such as key animator Achille Bibard, who has never worked on an anime prior. All in all, there are almost a dozen or so western animators / background artists / etc brought in here, near as I can figure out from the credits and online databases. And that is really the sort of thing that would warrant a fuller post in its own right than me trying to condense it all here. Needless to say though, the group he curates is awfully good at being able to both maintain a style one would expect from a Yuasa project while also getting to place their own personal flairs throughout.
Certainly, the visuals of the episode shift several times throughout, as this is very much an animators animation.
We are playing with textures, layers, viscosity, transparencies, elasticities, and so on. One has the classic cartoon hijinks of things like characters flailing around in mid-air after their rope breaks or falling through the center of a hollow planetary body, sure. And that all works in tandem with reinforcing the emphasis on visual momentum or play.
I feel some may find the actual core script, full as it is of Planet Pushy Boyfriend and Planet Girlfriend and a fish astronaut abandoned by his people who has worked tirelessly alone in the efforts of being able to one day save them from a horrible astronomy secret he learned, to be somewhat lacking. Even potentially erratic near the end, given the rapid onset of things like the star roasting the pompous fish civilization and our pained researcher of many gills committing suicide by racing into the hellish heat. Likewise, that Dandy and Meow are perfectly fine so long as they were in the shade, despite the extreme proximity of the approaching star, could perturb folks who would see it as unbelievable or scientifically improbably.
First of all, this is a show where an alien astronaut fish can set up a blanket, umbrella, and boombox picnic and hold a conversation with a disembodied head. It is better to just let it happen, than go against the waves it wants to surf with serious scientific arguments. Watch more old classic cartoon shorts.
Secondarily though, there is the issue where Yuasa is either very good at adapting other folks work, or dialogue free shorts like Happy Machine from the Genius Party collection. He is know far more prominently for his strong visual aspects that he can bring to the table than his own penned screenplays.
But, even Chief Director of this whole operation Shinichiro Watanabe is to me a rather less than stellar writer all by himself as well. I even mentioned as such in far more detail way back in the very first episode of Space☆Dandy. So that things come to lean more on the other aspects of the production, such as direction strength, does seem wholly appropriate in Yuasa’s task here.
I liked the episode, though certainly without the strong presence on the animation front I feel this entry would have fallen apart in other hands.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode four]
One of these days I risk getting really lazy and just hurling my shorthand notes up as a comment instead. An avalanche of character reference observations and woefully abhorrent spellings, especially when everything is me gleefully reacting to 1980’s montages and High School Prom Queen event musical numbers.
The credits this week were a field trip, and I am really glad I have the ability to record episodes via my satellite setup so I can keep the screen paused. There are a couple of odd things in this episode. For one, Hayashi Mori has never written or even worked on anything else involving anime prior to this. He happens to be a live action television screenwriter and actor in various shows, such as Tough Nights of Club Indigo and Delusional Investigation – A Stylish Life of Associate Professor Koichi Kuwagata.
I have no idea what he best known works would be, as I know little of what is popular in Japanese live action television domestically, but those titles such stood out to me.
Oh my god that whole sentence rhymes, and I am so sorry.
But I can not in good faith delete such a thing now, and especially not in this episode.
Elsewhere, Aoyama is a guy who has been around for a while, having done key animation on Akira and such.
Which is a gig he still does for various Ghibli films even today, as well as being Animation Director for Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars and The Girl Who Lept Through Time. He brings with him multiple Assistant Director’s though, who have worked with him on various projects over the years. Which is fairly essential for an episode like this, by its very nature a big ball of musical sequences with requisite dancing and dynamic camera work that needs to be maintained and watched over to make sure all the parts actually fit together. It is not like most television or indeed anime are made in a linear “start of the narrative to the end” process, one has a lot of animators doing different things. And musicals, for how little “plot” it may have when the tunes get going, are a really technically difficult thing to do.
Perhaps appropriately, Takaaki Wada has never actually directed a full series or film before. Rather, he is one of the industry workhorse types, with a very vast resume over numerous years. One could say this means he does not stand out much, but rather I like to think of it as recognition of his reliability. With Mori’s scripting to turn to storyboarding for the animators, he is not going to be railroading the process with via a headstrong personality or folks worrying about an imposing series of prior award winning achievements. The job will get done, and the workgroup will have a fair amount of fun.
Which, if one is going to make The Space☆Dandy 1980’s Prom King And Queen Sing Off episode, I think is a feeling one needs to be able to maintain in the office, were they to ever have a hope of getting that sentiment across organically to viewers at home.
And between the Twitter references, swirly glasses nerd girl, a clear appreciation for ‘80’s movies and anime to make visual shout outs to, and all the rest, I think they managed that. In terms of raw unleaded enjoyment, for me this has been the most entertaining of any of the episodes this show has cranked out this season.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode five]
With significantly less fanfare than Maasaki Yuasa received just two episodes ago, we have received our second Space☆Dandy quadruple production crown winner. This is understandable, of course, as Yuasa has a string of critical successes under his animation belt. Oshiyama, by contrast, has a smaller resume in terms of size. He has been a key animator on works like The Wind Rises, The Secret World of Arrietty, Letters to Momo, and Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, and this is what makes up the bulk of his accomplishments so far. Previously on Space☆Dandy, Oshiyama was the Animation Director on Eunyoung Choi’s episode first season (the one revolving around Planet Planta). But he has never professionally directed a full episode, storyboarded, or written scripts for any prior anime. Until now.
And you know, I like this a lot, giving such extensive creative oversight powers to someone who really could use a breakout expressive opportunity in these areas. The series is a lot of different things to various folks. It is a playground for animation directors to screw around in, the setup of the series allows for wildly divert scripts when it comes to tone, experienced professionals get to try some things they have always had kicking around in the back of their head, and so on. But it is also a kind of promotional and training vehicle for more up and coming creative folks too, and in that respect Oshiyama had quite an opportunity here. I will be interested to see what types of projects he gets attached to going forwards.
I saw folks on Twitter going “This feels kind of like a Studio Ghibli episode,” and there is good reason for that sort of reaction given his background.
I enjoyed that we returned to fishing as a pastime activity, as it was something QT had gotten into quite a bit last season.
Here we get to rotate things a bit and give Dandy the line for another one of his more solo outings with a little kid sidekick, such as Adélie’s case in episode five last season. That the character mechanics come to follow a pretty routine path (gruff elderly fisherman nobody else believes in but the little girl, fisherman saves Dandy from a treacherous spill, everyone in the community sets their past differences aside to team up and try to reel in the legendary catch, etc) I think is fine. It is reliable, it works, and especially in a case like this where Oshiyama has so much on his plate it allows for more attention to go towards other areas of the production. More inventive animation, dynamic camera choices, and all the rest.
A pretty straightforward story can be helped a lot by being the stability point for a number of other aspects. And when one has mermaids, Dandy getting harpooned through his pompadour, and giant sea creatures making gravitational jumps out of the ocean to passing planetary bodies I can more than understand the desire to keep other aspects more grounded or relatable for wider audiences.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode six]
Hiroshi Shimizu almost runs the complete table this week, which is still a massive feat in and of itself. Similar to Kiyotaka Oshiyama last week, Shimizu here is primarily a Key Animation specialist, whose work ranges from FLCL, The Girl Who Lept Through Time, Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade, Metropolis, Millenium Actress, and many others. At times he has stretched out into other production areas (such as Character Design and Chief Animation Director for most of Michiko & Hatchin). But by and large most of his work has been in the drawing aspects of anime team staffing and not so much on other oversight ends. Which is a great opportunity here for him to mess around for a while as part of what is in essence an anthology series.
This was also the episode to provide us the most information, screen time, and overall grounding for Honey as a character. Normally, she is just our passing waitress in the restaurant scenes or an occasional Dandy fantasy related to the same. Which, as a line change of hers in the very first episode of the series between the English dub and the Japanese version caused a member of the production staff at the time to freak out that this would sufficiently alter perception of her character between regions, this episode seems far and away overdue to roll out so we can actually get to know her a bit more.
As I would have expected, all of that prior internet hubbub may as well be deemed as drama for its own sake, as even here we really do not get to see Honey too terribly much.
Captured by Doctor Gel, she is to have her brain scanned so he can perhaps suss out even the most minimal of clues regarding Dandy, but things just do not go as planned. And she is half of a species of alien we have never heard of until now, of which dealing with a more full blooded and male member of that type is what we are generally dealing in for most of the run time. The Cloudians then, as a species, are what essentially amounts to being perfect for running a host or hostess club, as their entire being is pushed in the direction of ensuring others have a wonderful and entertaining time. Which, in the case of a male of the species, results in them literally having their own cloud to whisk a lonely single woman away for a time to embark on an evening of magical wining and dining to provide a light of enjoyment in an otherwise potentially greatly depressing life situation.
The scenario is fine for a passing fancy, as it breaks a character we really do not get to see out of her Alien Registration Center workplace into fresher and more ridiculous set of circumstances. That our male host gets to play the role of the more traditionally gallant gentleman, complete with a challenge of Dandy to a duel, juxtaposes simply but functionally against our more brash leading man. Plus, we get a rather gimmicky laugh track, which I feel while perhaps a bit overused was subtle enough in tone to where it did not tend to suck the energy out of a scene or otherwise grind affairs to a halt. There were not multiple extended beats of dead air while waiting for the laugh track to resolve itself, at any rate, which is my far more significant personal issue when a production chooses to lean on them too much or for too long at a stretch.
I liked the episode well enough on the whole as it was happening, though for a second season that has for me been hitting the mark more often than even the first did this showing reminded me of some of the consumable but less revisitable episodes the series has in its repertoire.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode seven]
Arguably one of, if not the most critically well regarded woman directing anime in the present industry today, I was pretty excited to see what Yamamoto was going to bring to the table for her crack at the Space☆Dandy buffet.
Best known for helming Michiko & Hatchin and the Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, the later of which being the first Lupin III television series in over a quarter century, she has been carving out a name for herself when it comes to stylistically vibrant works. Of those two, I have only so far seen Fujiko Mine, and it is deserving of all the velvet pillow in a smoke drenched whiskey bar praise it receives. Really, any problems I have with that work come from quirks in other areas (like some of Mari Okada’s script choices for the finale arc), while the overall direction, timing, etc holds so much of it together.
On the Animation Director front, we have another team up affair. Ito is the more senior of the two, having done key animation work on Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade, and Cowboy Bebop, among others. Inadome is no slouch either, their list of credits merely being smaller and less fleshed out due to having been in the industry for less time. Their primary resume guns consist of key animation on Crest of the Stars, the RahXephon: Pluralitas Concentio film, and being one of the three Main Animator credits on Oh! Edo Rocket.
In short, this is a setup that brings in Ito as the heavy for technical consistency oversight, with Inadome as someone able to perhaps better capitalize on how to handle a space fantasy visual look.
I feel for some of these most recent weeks I have to indulging in the technical staff overviews more than what actually goes down in the episodes themselves.
Admittedly, some of them have been pretty straightforward plots (episode four being the school musical, five being the legendary fish expedition, etc), so things have tilted more towards that direction to really get into anything for these posts.
Arguably, this situation is not all that different. A rock group assembled by circumstance, with big dreams in their eyes, only to go on to have a single hit or famous show before they are broken up. Plus a mashup with a high level but young government leader leading a double life for a while to see what he could do with his talents on his own, before returning to his original position style of plot thread.
But my word is it stylish. Lighting and bloom effects as far as it can reasonably be stretched without looking garish, dynamic camera work, some technical trickery like a few scenes shot through the “lens” of a camera (something Flag pretty much wrote the entire book on, but gets painfully little use in other productions). Right down to the ample application of Ben-day dots throughout the episode, which one only sees in very occasional circumstances so abundantly used in animation, like the Gunsmith Cats introductory credits.
Even the aspic consomme of lobster sparkles and glows a golden hue.
I found it to be an incredibly fun episode, committed as it was to energetically plowing ahead while rambling off as many of these rock band film or television media cliches as it could with its own sensibilities. Here for example, it makes sense that Honey is more sexualized than usual, as her restaurant table service is by far the most provocative in the series so fat. But, it works for the general flashy aspiring rock star thematic vibe I feel, so it gels more cohesively than it otherwise would had it been dropped into another episode.
Really, the most disappointing thing in the whole display for me is that, while Johnny makes a grand concert entrance in what may as well be an RX-77-2 Guncannon straight out of Mobile Suit Gundam, with a giant feline face emerging from the torso area like they ripped a body part off something from GaoGaiGar, we do not run the complete circuit for a Super Dimension Fortress Macross style musical warfare finale. Johnny’s Jaicro forces are all lined up and ready to invade the Gogol Empire, while he decides the concert is where he would rather be and scampers off, but Dandy and friends do not get to (un)intentionally inspirationally power a space armada to an extravagant Do You Remember Love? style victory.
But, if that is my biggest personal hangup with an episode, it really is not must of an issue at all. I had a pretty goofy grin on my face the whole time.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode eight]
Yasuhiro Nakura’s name showing up in the direction and storyboard department made me all kinds of hopeful for this episode going into it. He was the fabulous Animation Director during Mamoru Oshii’s lavishly ambitious Angel’s Egg project, as well as Rintaro’s realization of Metropolis (where he also took command of designing the characters), and he also did Key Animation work for both. Likewise handling some of that later role in the visually enchanting Night on the Galactic Railroad, among others. He is an undersung powerhouse when it comes to visuals, their construction and direction, and being an essential part of productions I still enjoy greatly and come back to again and again. I looked forward to what he was going to lead here.
Shinichiro Watanabe, as a man with enough industry clout to get the entire Space☆Dandy operation off the ground, I historically have issues with in the writing department. Even in the first episode of the initial Space☆Dandy season, I went off regarding his writing in respects to other parts of his work. His production strengths, many as they are in areas like directing and music supervision, I do not feel often extend to tight and snappy character writing. His own episodes of his critically acclaimed series do not tend to hold the same level his other screenwriters can employ, and that is fine. Certainly, I do not begrudge him dipping his toes into the water now and and again, and he seems to generally have writers who cover his weaknesses on this front, which is essential in any creative process. I think it is something that manages to make his directorial works as generally memorable as they tend to be, as having others able to forge scripts synergistic with his other areas of expertise is part of what makes them so.
This episode is really no different. Concepts like an individual who has passed away having their own personal Black Box so that on a planet of the dead they can revisit and recall the circumstances of their demise? That is something one can play with, from the phases of rejection on along. The actual execution is kind of slippery in my opinion (especially in the latter half where Dandy is quasi negotiating for his life in an aerial cable car and the kinds of responses the young lady there provides), but to its credit it has buckets of ambition behind it.
Ito, Inadome, and Kubota have all featured as Animation Director staff in previous episodes of this Space☆Dandy season, and the need for so much oversight this time around is abundantly clear.
We have elements ranging from a deceased someone who is also a motorbike, musical interludes, an alien where their eye and mouth exist on their hands, Dandy attending his own funeral procession, Limbo melting away, and so much more.
The episode is a home theater system test unit of a television animation scorcher, really. I know that I dearly enjoyed having access to a 5.1 surround system for this, and around 12:30am – 1:00am when these episodes air on Toonami makes everything naturally pitch dark for the experience. That, in addition to the kind of calmness of mind one would tend to be in around that hour. I have seen every episode of Space☆Dandy with the same setup each week, of course, so this is nothing new. But, this showing has the feel of a demonstration unit, even down to it largely revolving around a singular character so one does not even need to know the cast. The kind of thing one would pop on to show off to a friend what this show can be, and is, for a wide variety of audiences to find an appeal in. Something to try and wow them.
That this show is a Cool Thing.
I like this Cool Thing.
And there is a definite place for that, in a collection such that this series is. I am very glad that this series received its second season, because it has on the whole felt so much more at ease with itself and its ability to indulge like this.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode Nine]
Going into this episode, as far as I was concerned, it was going to be one that would almost be required to lean more extensively on Kameda’s skills as Animation Director. Episode Director Miyoshi and Yoetani on the storyboards end each have numerous one shot episode positions in their respective roles, but not a whole lot of extended time doing any one thing. In turn, they have generally needed to gel into an existing setup than getting to do more of their own overt things. So, they are excellent for the setup of Space☆Dandy to get to strut an experimental end of their creativity more.
Kameda’s inclusion for the group is interesting for the mix then. Not only as a relatively young (he only turned 30 this year) but highly proficient Key Animation talent, coming in off productions like Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, but if one goes so far as to check a visual compilation of his animation resume highlights they will notice where his proficiencies are often applied. Namely, should one watch the linked video, they will see he is skilled in making use of highly dynamic camera work within the action scenes he often charged with drawing himself. Flairs for shifting linework heaviness for anything from selling rage to speed. Characters can often end up stylistically contorted or otherwise “messy”, but such sequences where that comes into play are also generally aiming for visceral nature to their impact. This kind of work is technically extremely difficult to pull off appealingly while also retaining attention to relative proportions within any exaggeration. And yet this is what he does himself, so he is well placed to be granted an Animation Director chair.
Here then, we turn to an area that requires similar “action” skills and complex animation desires, but an entirely different tone than even he normally gets to play around with: dancing.
This has for certain been a much more musically oriented season of Space☆Dandy, between the rock band episode, the high school musical, the ukelele man episode, perhaps even last week on Planet Limbo if one wanted to extend it to how heavy the acoustic guitar use was, etc.
Another music heavy episode then I could see being perhaps disappointing to some. And I did see ruminations to that effect on Twitter and such as the episode was airing. Interestingly, this is also the third episode this season Keiko Nobumoto has done the script for. They previously worked on episodes two [“There’s Music in Darkness, Baby”] and six [“Gallant Space Gentleman, Baby”] in season two, compared to just episode eight [“The Lonely Pooch Planet, Baby”] in season one. This is also by far the most laid back of their writing in the franchise I would say, which may indicate they too wanted to just break out further / focus more on raw “fun” with their submissions.
Certainly the content plays to that effect. Disco. A planet named Grease (for the double jab at musical references and the crushing economic issues of real world Greece like the planet is suffering from). A cast of colorful characters, including even M.C. Hammer and King Ghidorah knockoffs, as well as an afroed space dancing alien named Ton Jravolta. Reaction faces. A record which accelerates and rewinds time, for all the character visual changes that results in as they age in both directions. It is very much banking on just being a groovy time for everyone at home.
While I enjoyed the episode on the whole, I would also say it did not do as much for me as the high school musical or rock band episodes did. Those are more comprehensive vessels and stories on the whole, while this entry was very much a more spectacle oriented affair. Which was really neat, and I appreciated the song and light show as it was happening. But, it all likely works better as an accessory to the larger fashion line of the series than as a central look on the runway. This would not be an episode I would introduce someone to the franchise with, but it likely has more value only if one is already invested in its brand of creative roulette wheel shenanigans.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode Ten]
We hand the directing reins back over to Mukai, who handled the first episode of this Space☆Dandy season.
As that premier was a more raw off the wall fun and comedy fest to act as a sort of celebratory return party, delving into alternative universe Dandy’s and friends as it did, is is nice that Mukai is allowed a more personal or exploratory episode here later on to make marks with. Similarly, Kubota and Inadome have each been Animation Director’s on several previous episodes of the show, and Koiso has been an Assistant Animation Director twice prior this season. Even going steps further than that, this is Ueno’s third time at the scripting bat during this second run of episodes (having previously written episodes one and seven of this collection).
This is about as close to an all veteran Space☆Dandy production selection as one tends to be able to cobble together, aside from Kotaro Tamura providing storyboards. It is a position they have served in here and there in selected episodes of various productions, but most would likely know their work best from being the Assistant Director under Mamoru Hosoda for Wolf Children. It is an experience which plays well to their task here: how a scene can look and play out from one place to another to attempt to sell and shift between different emotional tones of a bonding relationship.
Which, as the plot of this episode is quite literally Scarlett trying to fool her ex-boyfriend into thinking Dandy is her new beau, is a warranted skill set to call up.
For all the little media references this series slips in throughout itself, especially when the 1980’s is involved, Chuck Norris jokes are a territory that was probably all but inevitable for it to apply at some point.
Given that the scope of the episode encompassed a wider “We are just pretending to be in a relationship but this is getting dangerously close to becoming an actual one” progression over just Reference HumorTM, I feel it came off better than I would have expected. Using the idea of the fictional action hero as a media franchise in universe for Dandy and Scarlett in universe to find a silly bond over, while elsewhere in the plot the crazed Dolph Lundgren ex-boyfriend foil frenzies on in a bulked up giant robot firing off Itano Circus style Macross missile barrages. It is balanced by it functioning as a small plot device that perfectly works on its own even if the viewer has no idea who Chuck Norris is as a film star (or what he became later in life, for that matter). The core idea of a super cheesy action film hero star showing up in multiple works they both happen to be a fan of still functions, and it does not interrupt the overall flow of the episode.
It also moves toward giving additional little personable quirks to Scarlet, who has not really received too many over the course of the series. All mixed up with the idea that she and Dandy may have more in common than they realize, compared to their usual interactions at the Alien Registration Center. Even the idea that Dandy is significantly more successful with rare alien finding when he is on vacation with Scarlet than he has been at any other previous point in the show. He is not just finding one or even two, but whole carloads to cart back to the point of it seriously impacting their “actual” mission of messing with mecha pilot Dolph Lundgren’s head. They do, in their own ways, work better together.
And it almost works out.
When one gets right down to it, after they part ways when their “goal” of misleading the ex boyfriend had been accomplished, Dandy turns down a trip to his favorite space Hooters restaurant chain in the whole universe chain to run around town chasing after her. So they can go watch some silly action movie they talked about having her over to see together. Even for a series that is wholly episodic and thus has little real continuity, character personality traits are consistent, and so that is a rather particular thing for him to do for anyone. It was never going to succeed as a realized romance of course, and deep down everyone watching knows that. But, we get the hints of it all, the what could have been, and perhaps the broader concept that in some other timeline of events this all did work out for them both.
It is very much a back to basics episode executing on a reliable narrative with an established stable of Space☆Dandy veterans. Which, as there are only three episodes left of the series after this, there is likely a good call to be made for having that here.
Next episode look to be an ex girlfriend story for Dandy, apparently having once had a relationship with a tesseract from the looks of the preview and likely then to be hitting more experimental buttons. The penultimate episode? Already mentioned by the production team months ago to have significant budget cuts, to funnel more resources into an all out finale.
This may well be the last “normal” episode of the show then, potentially, and at that I feel it achieved its goal in pacing as regards the relationship to the viewers at home. Even if that also means one of Scarlet and Dandy could not come to be.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode eleven]
This episode is the second ever anime script worked on by Toh Enjoe.
The only one prior, incidentally, being episode eleven in the first season of Space☆Dandy (the library planet episode). He is a fascinating pick-up, as he has such an unlikely career path to get to where he is currently: He has a Ph.D from the University of Tokyo (from a project which involved a mathematical study on language), did a bunch of post-doc and research position gigs for almost a decade, quit the academic life to join a software firm, then quit that to become a writer and novelist. Appropriately, his previous episode was a kind of The Twilight Zone style thought experiment, and here we are dealing in everything from a Fourth Dimensional Being to Zero Dimensional Space. And the 3D, 2D, and 1D positions in between, in their own ways.
Elsewhere on the staff, Fumihiko Takayama is a very particular talent to pull in for storyboards. They have only a few anime credits to their name, when accounting for being in the industry for so long: an Episode Director on roughly a third of The Super Dimension Fortress Macross television show way back in the early 1980’s, handed Screenplay and Series Composition duties on Sword of the Stranger and Sweet Blue Flowers respectively, and were even the Director of Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket. Storyboarding on episodes can often be an undersung responsibility, but especially with a lot of the concepts Enjoe would b e bouncing around in his script Takayama’s varied experiences between science fiction, action, and romance productions I imagine provided a solid foundation to visualize the flow of a multidimensional narrative.
On the Animation Director end, we have two this week, each with extensive histories on high profile works. Kawamoto more so, whose resume even includes involvement on things like Royal Space Force – The Wings of Honnêamise, Macross Plus and Cowboy Bebop (among others), but Saito has his own Bebop history to boot, in addition to Key Animation on the Neon Genesis Evangelion television series and was a co-Animation Director on Sword of the Stranger.
Satoshi Saga’s involvement as Episode Director is perhaps the least standout-ish, but I by no means that as an insult. He filled this same position on episode twelve of the first Space☆Dandy season, and as I mentioned there he is more of an industry omni-tool. Key Animation here, Storyboard there, but primarily a prolific Episode Director who comes in and maybe handles around one to three episodes of a given production (and usually one, at that). This is its own kind of talent, as rather than guiding his own auteur works Saga instead needs to usually slot in to an existing setup and essentially perform personnel management.
Given the high profiles of some of the other creative staff cobbling this episode together, such a hand is invaluable as a directing style.
As for the actual episode itself?
Much like with the library planet episode Enjoe wrote, it is one which on the textual surface wants to deal in a lot of high level concepts. Multiple dimensions and how they look / function compared to others. The secret of warp drives and how they work within this view of universes. The consistency of oneself as a being between them. And other similar topical branches and facets.
Here also though, we have this wrapped up within the notion of an ex-girlfriend of Dandy’s (who is in our view akin to a tesseract around a heart), and the implied jerk she had left him for to be with someone who is quite literally two dimensional. A royal leader of his universe, mind you. But, still two dimensional, with the thinking and views to match (such as not being able to tell when the Aloha Oe was directly above them in three dimensional space, because it would be incomprehensible to a 2D worldview). That, in addition to elements like Doctor Gel plunging into the 2D universe to fight off its forces Galaga, R-Type, and Space Invaders style, likely made this far easier to swallow than it otherwise could have been. I enjoyed the primary black and white color scheme of the library planet episode for instance, though I understand how it could have drained some visual enthusiasm in others, and this episode came equipped to deliver on holding attention via vibrant colors and pixel style art.
Personally, I do not have a problem with the episode choosing to avoid dealing much in the actual relationship Dandy and Catharine are said to have had in the past. I feel this is a very packed episode on a conceptual front, and with everything it was already doing to keep things fun and active for the viewers at home without losing too many folks in the science talk, too much more on the personal relationship vector would have likely caused other aspects to give out more and collapse. We had our almost-relationship episode last week with Scarlet on the personal character interaction front, which stated some appetites there on seeing Dandy in more of a relationship or dating situation, so this is a case where episode order I feel plays a somewhat larger role.
While this episode still had to kind of switch gears a bit at the end to ensure everything it did have fit, and thus Dandy and Catherine’s farewell was also kind of a denser This Is How Warp Drives Work session, I feel it largely achieved exactly what it needed to do. There is interesting physics, geometry, and overall science concepts at work for those wanting to engage with them in an entertaining way, mixed with an easier to follow former love triangle plot as well and the varied visual aspects to keep events dynamic.
This may be the last “high concept” episode, as I imagine the last one may be more of an all out party, though the one coming up revolving around a trial could go a few ways.
In either event, I have enjoyed this show more than any other I’ve been writing about this season, so I will miss this after the next two weeks.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode twelve]
Takahashi is a very intriguing selection as an episode director and storyboarder. Especially, for a second to last episode of a generally non-linear series which looks to actually have its final two episodes flow into one another, and then even further so given that this was the long publically stated episode the overall budget was kept to a minimum for, so as to allow more resources and extravagance to be poured into the very last episode as a send off. While many an episode director in this franchise has had a varied anime industry work history, Takahashi comes with everything from having directed the Blue Exorcist film and the Rideback series, but also Production Advancement crediting for Studi Ghibli’s My Neighbors the Yamadas. He ran publicity for Pokemon 2000 – The Movie, and was even one of Naoki Urasawa assistants on the Monster manga (and who go on to do various storyboarding and directing tasks when it was turned into an animated show). For someone who is going to need to manage so much that goes on during an episode while having far fewer methods at their disposal for their vision, having as much of an omni-tool as possible for the time and budget is essential.
Michio Mihara returns to one of these four spots for the first time this season, though he has done some gust alien design here and there throughout. The last time we saw him up here was back during episode six of Space☆Dandy season one, for the underwear wars, where he ran the quadruple of the four areas I highlight here. Dai Sato is also a returning figure for the first time this season, after having done roughly a quarter of the scripts for season one. I feel there is a tendency where many anime fans do not tend to run either hot or cold on his writing. He has worked on various high level productions, like Samurai Champloo and various parts of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, but I rarely see folks championing or deriding him specifically. He does well at geling into large setups and generally blending in as an industry workhorse so the job gets done, for all the good and bad that may entail.
I do not feel one usually sees much of his personal philosophy spill out in his anime screenwriting, for instance, which can be taken as a positive or negative depending on the situation.
This episode then. Our second to last dance with Dandy and pals.
I feel it was appropriate for this episode to be announced weeks ago as being made on the cheap end, and for what reason. At least for me, that tempered my expectations a lot, and so I am probably more forgiving of this episode than I otherwise may have been. Even so, I know it can not be expected that everyone in the viewing audience would have received the sufficient heads up notice, and so their more disappointed reactions are indeed also as equally valid.
On a mechanical level, we do have a lot of minor shaky camera movement for our courtroom proceedings. Stylistically, this does fit in with what many a live action crime show uses so as to attempt to heighten a sense of realism, disorientation, or the like, while for a television animation moving the camera around is a reasonable and cheap way to ensure we are not just looking at a series of largely static shots. Indeed, we also see a lot of zooming in and out, as well as general camera swings for impact. The courtroom, even a space one like this, is an environment where it is understandable as an audience member that characters are not moving around too much in. Everyone can stay largely seated, and we can just jump cut when different witnesses take the stand over having to animate them walking to or from it. Using largely red outlines for the character drawings gives things a bit more of a flavorful and distinctive punch over black ones, while also not really introducing any additional work on to the studio team. These characters would still be drawn anyway, after all, no matter the outline colors. Even the special credits of showing the backgrounds again over new music, as the series has done at points on particularly special episodes like the Planet Limbo one, is a way to squeeze further additional value out for a viewer while not needing to do too much expensive extra work.
I feel this episode has with it the unenviable task of needing to function both as a courtroom drama for characters we generally do not know (aside from Dandy being charged, and his crew being called up to give some small testimony statements) as well as trying to better establish and explain his connection to pyonium.
And, well, to be honest I do not really care too much about the pyonium stuff. I have seen other commenters across various places like Reddit and Twitter complain more about wanting more definition for elements like pyonium, Dr. Gel, the international relations of the Gogol Empire, and so on, but none of that really matters to me. I take Space☆Dandy, as I always have, as a rotating set of carousel creatives hurling out anything from one shot Looney Tunes to The Twilight Zone style episodes, and I am perfectly content with that. I do not really need to know Dr. Gel’s deep rooted scientific motivation for why he would be chasing Dandy anymore than I need to know why Wile E. Coyote chases The Road Runner. It can just be a thing he does that pretty much always backfires in one way or another.
I feel this episode probably did rather well as a final product given its budget circumstances, but even so: as just a story removed from the animated elements on screen I probably would not revisit it again outside of a larger series marathon.
I look forward to the finale a lot though just the same however, and I still feel Space☆Dandy has been the overall highlight of my summer season.
Space☆Dandy Season Two [Episode Thirteen]
At this point, for our grand finale, there is actually rather little to say within these team spotlight sections.
Watanabe and Ito have shown up enough other times where their roles and skillsets are pretty well covered, for one thing. Shingo Natsume is the crucial but often less mentioned Director of Space☆Dandy under Watanabe’s Chief Director position, and then all of the various Episode Director’s under him. So he has been absolutely essential over the course of this franchise as part of juggling staff oversight responsibilities, approving who gets to do what, what freedoms they are allowed, and all manner of other things. By and large this series has allowed its creative team to leave their unique personal handprints all over it in their individual episodes and scenes, and in that respect having Natsume directing the finale (just as he did in season one) becomes more of a raw workflow situation. The ending of this show should, appropriately, be an animation celebration. Especially as this is, after all, the episode that was advertised as having a significantly ramped up budget and animation team, to the point where the second to last one took a significant but forewarned visual drop.
Gosei Oda is brought in for the only instance of a full blown Mechanical Animation Director and Effects Animation Director in this season, and for good reason. Given the more elaborate nature of the episode, there is a whole lot more animation material to manage, and dedicated eyes for the effects and mecha details that will really make their antic pop is especially welcome. If you remember Dandy and Meow’s transportation to the Phantom Ramen stall in episode two of season one, Oda drew that in all of its blobby space time warping glory. So his oversight here, especially where so many key animators were going to be going hog wild in general with their assigned cuts, is appreciated to ensure a certain level of additional production feedback to the animators and a final consistent punch to robots, explosions, and all the rest at the end of the day.
Picking up from last week then in our only bit of genuine episode-to-episode continuity then, Dandy has been captured by the Gogol Empire. His friends must try and get them to unhand him, even if it means full scale interstellar war, due to his often mentioned pyonium concentration allowing him to act as the key to an all powerful universe destroying weapon.
Works for me.
I treat this series a lot as an animation playground, so the plot itself here is not my biggest concern. Really, bringing full scale Jaicro armadas to assault the Gogol home planet is essentially the fasted way to bring our most familiar characters together as quickly as possible. Dr. Gel, Bee, and Admiral Perry will all be there, Honey, Scarlett, QT, and Meow in the Aloha Oe, and we can even bring back Johnny given his leadership of the Jaicro Empire. It means plenty of other characters used previously in the show through its episodic tales do not make a return, but the tradeoff then becomes one where we can instead here focus more on the race against time to get to Dandy. I am willing to accept that, as I do not think this episode would quite work the same on a pacing level trying to give screentime to everyone.
In that respect then, this was a huge send up to so many different grand finale battles from a variety of franchises. To even attempt to list them all here would be a titanic task on my part, and even then I would surely miss a bunch on my own without the help of others. That said, even if none of the nods work at all for a viewer, the episode flows on its own as a visual piece without incident. That the Jaicro empire is fielding a robot that is parts Ideon, Guncannon, and GaoGaiGar while storming the Gogol forces in what may as well be the Macross: Do You Remember Love? final assault sans-idol music is just a bonus. And that has been such an important thing for a lot of Space☆Dandy episodes: the references and media callbacks are rarely ever in a position to disrupt the narrative chain of events to someone who does not catch them. That remains true here, especially as I personally can guarantee you I did not notice every finale nod this episode tried to throw at me.
The battles were lush, the chase scenes had very dynamic camera work and long takes, and one can definitely tell the team were not kidding around when it was said right from the start this final episode was going to have so much extra work poured into it. The end of this very creative series, and a universe where a man turns down the ability to be God because that would mean he could no longer go to his favorite restaurant and hit on the ladies.
While not all of the episodes hit their mark for me, even in what I consider to be this stronger second season, if one was enjoying the show to any significant degree during its run I feel this was as larger than life and flashy of an ending party as we could have asked for. As I feel it needed to be, given the dandiest man in space.
It was the show I looked forward to writing about the most each and every week during a very packed Summer 2014 selection.
I can only leave you as the series itself itself does: “May be continued?”