「旅は道連れ宇宙は情けじゃんよ」 (Tabi wa Michizure Uchū wa Nasake jan yo)
“A Merry Companion Is a Wagon in Space, Baby”
I suspect this episode was exactly what many semi-gruntled Space Dandy viewers were waiting for.
I decided to re-watch last week’s excellent Space Dandy in the English version, just to give it another chance to impress me. To be honest I still don’t see what folks are talking about – I think the Japanese version is why better, even if the English cast is decent – but the interesting thing was that the Japanese OP and ED were missing (another baffling CN decision), which I hadn’t realized earlier. That’s a crime to begin with given how great they are, but if those of us who assume all the Hugh Everett references in the ED are hints about where the series is going, how are the folks watching it in English supposed to know it’s coming?
In any event, on to this week’s Dandy episode, which I sort of knew had to be coming sooner or later. Pretty much every screwball comedy has to have a “serious episode”, and this one will no doubt be looked at as the most “Bebop” episode so far. Certainly it was a massive change-of-pace from the first four eps, though whether that was a change for the better I suppose will depend on your point of view. If it is well-received (as I expect) that will pretty much re-affirm the inverse relationship that seems to exist between my tastes and a show’s popularity about 90% of the time. Well-executed as it was, I found it a bit of a bore.
With that said, I’ll be the first to admit that this episode served some important functions in the series’ development, and for what it was it was very well-executed. I won’t call it a necessary evil because it was pretty good, but I do think this ep was necessary – necessary to establish character, reach out to a different subset of fans and lay the groundwork for some potential developments in the rest of the cour. The vehicle to do that was Adelie (Hanazawa Kana), a loli alien of a species called Gentooan that has the ability (once every day and 666 seconds, though whether that’s a 24-hour Earth day I don’t know) to use it’s tentacles to remove someone’s consciousness from their body and insert it into a puppet. And you know who’s going to receive the treatment in short order.
My favorite part of this episode was that it felt like a certain type of anime episode you’d have seen 10 or 15 years ago, in shows like Outlaw Star and – yes, I admit it – Cowboy Bebop. Watanabe-sensei’s fingerprints are all over it, from the insert music to the pacing (it feels like a 22-minute movie, in the way episodes of shows like that often did but that you don’t see much anymore). That authenticity and retro feel is what keeps the episode from coming off completely as a formulaic effort – which, to be honest, it kind of is. I mean, Kana Hanazawa as a loli is hardly avant garde in 2014, is it? Another thing I really liked was seeing Amelie’s Grandpa played by Okhi Tamio, Ken-Goh from Eureka Seven. 86 years old and still spot-on, bless him – and kudos to Watanabe for using seiyuu like Okhi-san. See – if you watched the English version, you’d have missed that…
There’s really not much to say about the plot – it’s your classic road picture pairing the inappropriate and debauched adult male with the absurdly cute little girl that we’ve seen in anime and movies countless times. I think the significance here is that we see another side of Dandy – most obviously when he lies and tells Amelie that he’s going to Boobies, when in fact he’s secretly searching for her missing grandfather. He even lets her leave with Grandpa at the end rather than take her to the Alien Registration Office – thus forfeiting the large bounty for a Gentooan and leaving the Aloha Oe stuck in the impound lot where it’s been sitting for the entire episode. This is very familiar terrain here, but it’s brought off well – this is Watanabe after all – and as I said, probably necessary for Dandy’s development. That said, if we get a return to comedy and a lot more of QT and Meow – who I really missed this week – I’ll be much happier. And it looks as if we’re going to get that next week, fortunately.