「死んでも死にきれない時もあるじゃんよ」 (Shindemo shi ni kirenai toki mo aru jan yo)
“Sometimes You Can’t Live With Dying, Baby”

Four weeks in, some trends are starting to emerge with Space Dandy.

For those that care about such things, Space Dandy seems to have been better received in the U.S. than in Japan – which is not surprising given how much backlash the show got in advance in Japan for being overhyped and premiering in America (and having viewers not comparing it to Cowboy Bebop 24/7 can’t hurt either). Its ratings have increased 25% since it premiered, and it’s exceeded initial projections. As for stalker points they’re actually trending up a bit (and the Niconico ratings are excellent), but the series certainly doesn’t appear targeted to sell a ton of discs. But that may be less important for this show than almost any other anime out there, given the diversity of the revenue stream and the number of companies invested in it.

As far as the show itself, one of the most striking things I’ve noticed is that almost invariably, the second half of an episode is funnier than the first half. It’s been most striking with this episode and the premiere but it’s been true every week. Given that the first ep was the weakest on the whole, the upswing in ratings is very encouraging – and if people stuck around for the B-Part this week they were treated to possibly the best 10 minutes of Dandy yet (though I’d rank Episode 2 ahead overall, as it was consistently funny start to finish).

In the case of the premiere, it seems most likely that everyone was still feeling their way through the material, and learning how to use it to best advantage though. This ep, though, feels as if the first half was used as nothing more than an elaborate setup for the second. It was fine, with some good laughs – but my take on the episode is that there was a high concept in mind here, and the whole point of seeing the Dandy gang live through a stereotypical zombie film was to get to the second half, where the entire concept was turned on its head.

The most surprising thing to me is that anyone could still find anything fresh (no pun intended) to do with the zombie genre after the way it’s been done to death (pun intended) in the last several years. Yet Watanabe and scriptwriter Ueno Kimiko actually did it – they found a way to do a zombie parody that not only came up with gags we hadn’t seen a thousand times but managed to shoehorn a little social satire in too. It started with the unexpected plot twist of following Dandy, QT and Meow as they adjusted to Space Zombie no Nichjijou, and built from there.

In the first place, the whole notion of “Zombie-sempai” was pretty brilliant. But then what he(she?) came up with for advice – “I eat yogurt every day and it makes me feel a lot better!”. This leads directly to the transition from the pejorative term “rotting” to the much more PC “fermenting” – the whole notion of zombies eating yogurt is so pitch-perfect I can’t believe no one has thought of it already. There’s the whole notion of zombies in space having a much easier time not facing discrimination because, as the famous saying goes, “In space zombies don’t stand out so much”. We got a “Where are they now?” feature with the mercenaries and hospital staff, two of whom had met and fallen in love. “What do we do for fun? We go to the mall every day. For some reason we have a powerful urge to go the mall…” Even Dr. Gel and Bea’s spaceship has been zombified like they have – which reminds me that the initials of “Statue of Liberty” are S.O.L..

The entire B-Part was pretty much one brilliant gag leading into the next (the zombie marathon was a fantastic piece of visual humor) but the culmination for me is definitely the insurance snipers. What leads to this is the development that Dandy has figured out that he can live off his own life insurance policy now that he’s dead – a necessity because he and the gang are now too slow to catch any aliens – and countless other zombies have joined him. The insurance company, aghast at their payouts, has hired “zombie hunters” to go around sniping zombies through the head and killing them for real. And of course, it’s not murder to kill someone if they’re already dead. This definitely falls in the “it’s funny because it’s true” category – insurance companies have been behind some of the most despicable schemes in history, and if they could off their claimants without fear of legal retribution I’ve no doubt they’d do it. There’s a happy ending, though – the sniper gets zombified himself when following the Dandy gang into the theater on “Zombie Day“, and turns everyone at the insurance company (and eventually the universe) into zombies too.

As for what’s really going on the story here, I have no idea. Is Meow Schrodinger’s Cat? Are these alternate dimensions (“Hey, Everett”) or is the reset button just being pushed every week? Beats me – but if the comedy continues to deliver at the level it did here, I’m fine with whatever. Rumination on zombie language and facial expressions, zombie baseball, zombie narration, zombabies – pretty much everything after the eyecatch was a bullseye for me. And ending the episode as Watanabe did – with the gang watching “Night of the Living Dead”, and George Romero’s name scrolling on-screen – is the perfect touch.

 

Preview

37 Comments

      1. I guess Dandy was lucky enough to be the early batch of zombies to cash in on the insurance companies. Probably bankrupted every insurance company in the universe after a few planets got converted.

        Allnighter
      2. It looks like after everybody was zombiefied the universe went back to working mostly the same as before, just slower.So Dandy could go back to chasing unknown zombie aliens since the speed problem was taken care of.

        Magewolf
  1. Hoo boy. TONS of things to say here. This is probably the BEST episode of the show to date. It’s extremely unexpected, clever, satirical, and dark in the second half, it has the most laughs yet, and the animation, while less psychedelic than previous eps, is inventive with its gore visuals. Also, it’s confirmed that this show has NO continuity to speak of whatsoever. Episode 2 is so far the only one where the 3 main characters live by the end, and the reset button at the beginning of every ep makes it easy for anyone to drop into the show at any time!

    starss
  2. Laughed so hard at QT becoming a zombie, and even before that with Dandy entering the bloodied hospital dismissing QT’s fears as “but nothing really has changed.”

    So many references to zombie flicks too, from Dawn of the Dead (the mall quip from the zombie couple) to 28 Days Later (escaping the zombie-infested hospital) and even Zombie no Nichjijou (for living as a zombie, or Warm Bodies if you haven’t seen that series yet). Best part though IMO was having the zombies WATCHING a George A. Romero flick at a drive in theater and the whole cop out of “to be continued” at the end.

    It’s like a Saturday morning cartoon all grown up. No wonder Space Dandy does better over here, it’s in a similar vein to South Park in its satire while maintaining the “softcore” focus on psychedelic humour.

    Pancakes
  3. I will assume that there is no overarching plot at this point of time? Though for them to grab the chains of time in episode 1 may be a plot device to explain these strange “reset” phenomenon.

    Flappy
  4. I predict this show to go all cerberus syndrome on us in a couple of episodes, just like Trigun did. I think the directors and writers involved here are the only ones capable of going from mind-bending-comedy into serious-business-and-mind-bending-black-comedy.

    It’s very rare to find black comedy anime (that IS intentionally so). This seems to be straying in that direction and if it does, I will love it forever and buy all the DVDs.

    Blackbird
    1. It’s very rare to find black comedy anime (that IS intentionally so).

      True.

      And yet, we had two black comedy episodes this week: I think the anti-smoking jihad episode of “Sekai Seifuku” also qualifies.

      dbm
  5. My sides went into orbit thanks to this week’s episode. I especially lost it when the zombie couple mentioned that they have a reoccurring urge to go to the mall and when it said “written and directed by George A. Romero” at the end.

    LaughingMan
  6. I hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t get what S.O.L. means…

    And fun fact: I have *never* seen a zombie movie. Not even one. I thought this episode was hilarious, but there were probably some references that went over my head.

    Kurama
  7. It’d be quite ironic if the reason this series would fail were that it is so episodic, when it feels like the choice of being episodic was made in order to cater to western cultural expectations. I mean it’s doing essentially what every american cartoon does. Reset everything.

    I suspect that one of the reasons why anime is attractive to westerners is specifically because it dares to take itself a little more seriously by actually having a continuity. Here we have a show that spits continuity in the face. Actually makes a POINT of not having continuity.

    KGS
    1. There’s some truth in that. Panty and Stocking was also very much inspired by Western conventions, and for most of its run it was ALSO episodic until the series finale two-parter. … also the episodic nature of most of our cartoons come from the now-outdated business model of networks wanting cartoons to be easy to watch in reruns, in any order, since they rerun everything so much. … so this is what the Japanese think of us.

      starss
    2. I know the impulse seems to be towards criticizing this series at any opportunity, but if you know anything about Hugh Everett it’s hard not to take the ED as near-irrefutable evidence that there’s some sort of many worlds scenario being played out here.

      1. @starss

        Wasn’t there that guy on the American production team or something that said he preferred the Japanese version to the American one because the American one actually was missing some vital plot points that couldn’t be transferred between versions? I think I may have seen something like that, but I didn’t really look into much and it might have been a ruse.

        introverte
      2. Jason DeMarco, head of Toonami, said that they’ll be airing the full opening within a week so we should be seeing it on TV either this weekend or next weekend. Not sure about the ED though.

        starss
  8. I wonder what the chances of Dandy ever finding out Dr Gel is chasing him is.

    Anyway I vastly preferred the dub here. If only because it turned “In space zombies don’t stand out so much” into “In space no one can hear that you don’t have a pulse.”

    C
    1. While I usually prefer to watch the subbed version first (if only to enjoy the catchy “Viva Namida” OP), the ad-libs in the English dub definitely make Space Dandy even funnier to watch.

      “I found myself a nurse, and her boobs are big and bouncy
      They go, ‘Boing, boing, boing’, and I feel it in my dawdy bits…”

      The second half of the episode reminded me of Shaun of The Dead (Edgar Wright’s comedic take on the zombie apocalypse), which is a good thing since I enjoyed that movie. And I wonder if that (unnamed) insurance agent Dandy had a fling with was a shout-out to the Devilukians of To LOVE-Ru?

      Incognito
  9. Hugh Everett III was an American physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics, which he termed his “relative state” formulation. (wikipedia)

    katinx
  10. The zombie senpai was so inventive! The whole episode was a hit and I can definitely see Space Dandy’s potential again. Not only was it hilarious, it takes the typical zombie trope that’s really popular atm, and pushes it a few steps further than most people are used to. It fit well with the space setting and was even used to make some dark commentary about life in general. The characters are remaining true to themselves in these weird and different scenarios and it makes the show feel well put together.

    Bolton
  11. And here I was thinking whether I should continue this show or not. I guess the comedy in the previous episodes kind of missed me(although not entirely) but then came this one where it scored nearly full marks,especially in the 2nd half.

    I’m not worried about how Space Dandy will entertain throughout a cour(or two?) in this episodic format anymore. I’ll just accept the fact that I’ll find some episodes hilarious while some not so much even if I’m watching the same show. After all,I wouldn’t wanna pass out on the chance for a pure win episode such as this 😛

    MgMaster
  12. While I love all of the pointless comedy and insanity (which is something that is really common in western animation), the only thing I don’t like in that context is whole reset thing (also really common in western animation).

    asdf

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