「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.