「パンツとチョッキの戦争じゃん」 (Pantsu to Chokki no Sensō jan yo)
“The War of the Undies and Vests, Baby”

And back off the grid we go…

Turns out last week’s trip to relative normalcy was a short-lived one for Space Dandy, which is squarely back in surrealist mode this week. Episode 5 was certainly a pleasant interlude and the positive response (though rather Pavlovian) not underserved. But that clearly isn’t what this show is or is going to be, at least most of the time – and while the other episodes of Space Dandy have been more diverse both in style and tone than its detractors would have you believe, there’s no question in looking at the body of work so far which ep is the outlier.

To my tastes this may just have been the strangest episode so far, or at least the most anachronistic in the context of anime in 2014. While certainly bizarre, this was less abjectly comic than the first four episodes (though the second half of the second episode had some sincere moments). Rather, I thought this ep was very much in the mold of a 1970’s sci-fi film – or rather, several 1970’s sci-fi films. This was an era when camp and surrealism was used to satirize the perceived failing of modern society, and the more outlandish the imagery the more pointed the social commentary.

The most obvious 70’s sci-fi allusions here are of course to the most famous of all 70’s (and indeed, probably all – period) sci-fi films, Star Wars. Star Wars is definitely cut from a different cloth than the other films which this episode stylistically homages – movies like A Boy and His Dog (adapted from a Harlan Ellison novella) and Dark Star (one of John Carpenter’s early works, from which this ep clearly borrowed its ending). The arrival of the “Vesties” and “Undies” aliens was clearly a tribute to the Tusken Raiders (“Sand People”) who captured Luke early in the first Star Wars film, and their electronically-translated speech had a distinctly Yoda-like quality to it.

Of course, most folks will pick up Star Wars references. How many people are really going to spot Dark Star – which was obscure even at the time it was released, never mind 40 years later? It’s clear evidence that anything goes with Space Dandy, and that Watanabe-sensei has given his parade of big-name guest creators freedom to do what they want. Indeed, I think the goal here is for the overall vibe and mood to work whether you get the (sub) cultural humor or not – it generally is for me, though that’s something every viewer will have to answer for themselves.

Story-wise, this ep actually put me in mind of Doctor Who – but the old, campy series, not the reboot. Specifically the classic Tom Baker episode “Genesis of the Daleks” (likewise a mid-70’s piece) which featured two races which had been battling for thousands of years and were basically down to a parody of a war which started for reasons neither could remember. The hook in Space Dandy is that one race only wears underpants, the other only vests – and this leads to Meow and Dandy (who’ve crash-landed on the moon which is all that’s left of the original “Eden” world, searching for aliens to register) being paired off with their respective counterparts, last of their races and set off against each other in sympathetic support of their new friends.

The satire here is certainly not as subtle as the meta-humor, but I personally found the whole premise – and the delivery of the dialogue – pretty darn funny. The ending is hardly sentimental (last week’s ep deeply in the rear-view mirror). QT arranges a peace conference in an attempt to get both sides to stop fighting so they can be registered, but it goes bad when neither can stomach putting on the other’s garments (and seriously – can you blame them?). It ends with both of them fatally wounding themselves by dropping boulders on their own heads, then setting off the “Dr. Strangelove” doomsday devices they’ve rigged to ensure final victory. The apotheosis, though, is the glorious finale. First, QT abandons the others with a Christian/Buddhist prayer (just as Dandy abandoned QT and Meow at the zombie hospital) – but not before ejecting “Shubee” Dandy’s surfboard, which he and Meow use to surf the debris ejected in the death-throes of the moon, to the strains of the 70’s-style groove of “Pipeline of Stardust”. They still die, but at least they do it in style (turns out Dandy wasn’t a shubee after all). It’s a masterpiece of art and animation, simultaneously funny and strangely tragic.

It’s all pretty out there, no doubt about it – though I’m becoming more and more convinced that the MWI angle from the ED (speaking of surreal, they played the extended version of “Hey, Everett” while I was in the supermarket on Sunday – try listening to that while browsing cup ramen) is going to come into play over the final episodes. As well, I find the chemistry between the three Aloha Oe crew members is really starting to click. I love their banter, and more and more it’s QT I’m getting the biggest laughs out of. He’s the oddball, the most responsible and earnest person (bot) in the cast, and his futile efforts to maintain order with so much bakayaroucity in the air are frequently hilarious. Satake Uki – a full-time idol – has only worked in two anime (though given that the other is Hunter X Hunter, her standard is remarkably high) but she’s doing a terrific job here.




    1. I’m going by the movie the ending is a homage to (Dark Star) and what happened there. You could also point out that you can’t breathe in space, but of course this isn’t the sort of show that worries too much about that sort of logic. Of course we can’t say for certain.

      The interesting thing, I think, isn’t whether they did in fact die but this – does it matter? Hey, Everett…

      1. I am out of the loop when it comes to Dark Star references as I have never heard of the movie until now. I am familiar with the concept, characters, and key weapons and space ships of Star Wars, but I’ve never watched Star Wars either. I just viewed the episode as two opposing side fighting over something silly with a reference to blue vs. red that stems in what I think is Japanese tradition of some sort.

  1. Although not as “good” as last week, have to admit the Red versus Blue reference and the Star Wars parody were hilarious.

    Not sure if it was Dark Star the ending used as homage entirely, however; seems more likely that Eureka 7 is supposed to be the main reference there.

  2. This ep didn’t make complete sense, but then, I guess if I’m looking for common sense, I’m on the wrong show. The ending was kinda tragic for the fate of the whole two alien races and the planet they lived on. 1,000 years of war and it’s ended by no resolution and with the last 2 remaining leaders killing themselves? I know it’s funny, but I’m not exactly laughing. The song at the end was another favorite of mine, but the whole moment felt a bit empty to me.

  3. The background, especially the moon’s landscape, of this ep is …erm weird.
    I can’t put my finger on whether it’s their intention or that they couldn’t made it in time, judging from the painting and rough sketch lines still left to be seen.

  4. Dark Star, in short

    It is a Spaceship sending from Earth, to Destroy instable Planets that can harm or go in Collision course to it. They use Big Planet Buster Bomb. But this Bomb has an AI, also he can talk…

    But with the Time, they lose their Captain, and the Moral fall down to Zero. and so on, in the End the Spaceship get Destroyed, because of a malfunction Bomb. And some Survivor in a Spacesuit, is doing the Surfing to the Planet on some Debris…

    Well, if you are interest. Try Google or Wikipedia

  5. Each episode is like it’s own short movie so it doesn’t really matter whether they survive at the end or not. I’m on the side that prefers the more surreal Dandy, for example I liked the more zombie episode to the more traditionally structured road trip one last time out.

    Having said that character development takes a back seat, I liked the grudging respect that developed between Dandy and Meow when they fought.

    The surfing ending was beautifully done, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t make the Dark Star connection earlier.

  6. I feel like you can just sit down and enjoy Space Dandy and not have to think too hard or try to understand it. If you know the references, then it is that much more awesome. The ending of this episode was pretty smooth. Made no sense but it was still cool to see. Episode 5 still takes the cake though.

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