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Space Dandy – 10

「(明日はきっとトゥモローじゃんよ」 (Ashita wa Kitto Tumorō jan y)
“There’s Always Tomorrow, Baby”

The cream, as it usually does, is rising to the top.

The welcome news that Space Dandy will indeed be 26 episodes (split cour, with the second presumably coming in the Summer or Autumn) couldn’t have come at a better time, because the series is on a serious roll at the moment. There’s no official word that the second cour will air on Cartoon Network as this season is, but it seems very likely – without the support of CN I don’t know if the series figures to generate enough revenue to support another season. For a show with excellent TV ratings and (projected) mediocre disc sales to continue only in Japan would be a real surprise.

I’ve liked Space Dandy from the beginning (well, after the first 10 minutes at least) despite some peaks and valleys inherent to its narrative style. But I’ve really come to appreciate just how adventurous it is, never treading the same ground twice and acting pretty much independently of anime storytelling convention. Great directors usually produce top-rate anime, and Watanabe Shinichirou is one of the best. He’s never tried to repeat himself, to cash in on his own success by self-plagiarizing – every Watanabe work is different, and he’s taking that to a new level with this series by sourcing top-notch talent from all over the anime industry to lend their vision to the individual episodes.

Compared to some, the names at the top of this week’s staff list are modest – the director is BONES veteran Miyaji Masayuki (who helmed the underrated Xam’d) and the writer Ueno Kimiko, with her fourth contribution to the series (including the classic zombie-themed Episode 4). They may not have star power but they’ve teamed up for one of the best episodes of the season, coming on the heels of last week’s surrealistic masterpiece. This one is totally different, quite traditional visually, striking perhaps the best balance of comedy and seriousness of any episode in the series. And it offers up a plot twist that’s straight out of Hollywood, using it to gently offer some pretty deep philosophical insight.

The episode starts out with the Narrator breaking the fourth wall a bit, teasing us with the possibility that the reason why Dr. Gel and Bea are chasing Dandy might finally be revealed. Instead it’s a brief refresher on the galactic conflict between the Gogol and Jaicro Empires. The latter have just launched their supreme weapon, the A.L.E. (Armed Legendary Equipment – which looks exactly like the galaxy-destroying Ideon). In response Commodore Perry (remember H x H fans, that’s the new Netero voicing him) launches the Gogol’s own C.O.R.E. (Cranium of Raiding Enemies) despite the fact that the “Pyonium control” is incomplete. As with everything Team Rocket does the results are disastrous, but this rare pre-credits snippet is here for a reason despite being hilarious – the Pyonium released when the Ideon A.L.E. blows up the C.O.R.E. makes it all the way to Betelgeuse, where it plays a crucial role in the premise of the episode.

We haven’t gotten much background on Meow up to this point, but that’s corrected in a big way – what Episode 5 does a good job with for Dandy’s character, this episode does a great job with for Meow’s. Meow is of course a Betelgeusean, and that happens to be the closest planet when the Aloha Oe breaks down beyond the abilities of an enterprising Roomba like Q.T. to fix it themselves. Despite Meow’s protests – rather one might almost say gleefully in spite of them – Q.T. and Dandy take the ship to Meow’s homeworld, with the promise of free lodging and embarrassment for Meow far too much to pass up. Also making its way to Betelgeuse is the aforementioned Pyonian energy, which zaps Meow’s hometown and traps everyone inside it inside a time loop (July 8th) straight out of Groundhog Day.

This whole sequence could have been cliche, saccharine, boring or any combination thereof – but it was none of those things. The scenes between Meow (real name Me#$%*, Mii-kun for short) and his family are genuine, unpretentious, funny and surprisingly emotionally resonant. Betelgeuse is a backwater – a planet with nothing much there except a “NO MICE” road sign – and Meow’s family, a working-class bunch living in a modest, somewhat ramshackle house. There are several younger siblings, a kind and supportive Mom (Ichijou Miyuki), old pals and and old crush. Most importantly there’s Dad (Yamaji Kazuhiro, genuine and utterly convincing), a simple, honest stiff who makes screws in a one-man workshop that not even he can tell you the use of. But it puts food on the table and a roof over the kittens’ heads, and it’s clear from the beginning that Dad isn’t the complaining type.

It’s easy to see why Meow wanted to get away from this place – it’s the same story for kids from small towns all over the world. But just as obvious is the emotional connection to his parents, who’re not at all angry or judgmental about Meow’s decision to flee, even though as the eldest son Meow should have taken over the factory. Meow’s dilemma is a universal one – it kills him to be stuck in this place but leaving it behind he leaves part of himself, too. It takes a while (108 loops, in fact) for any of the BBP trio (Baka, Bonehead, Pinhead) to realize that the days don’t just all seem the same – they actually are the same.

What to do when tomorrow won’t come? One of Meow’s middle school pals says it’s easy, just go to Yahoo Answers – which they do, and quickly are given the reply “Google it, idiot! You probably just forgot to tear the page off the calendar, LOL.” That’s a brilliant gag on so many levels, but it does turn the trio’s attention to the calendar in Meow’s house, which stubbornly resists everything the BBP can throw at it. It falls to Meow’s Dad – “I’ve been a metalworker all my life” – to save the day. Literally, in this case.

I don’t want to make too much of it, but this episode is actually pretty deep. You’d think that being forced to repeat the same day in a place he couldn’t wait to flee would be pure hell for Meow, but he actually begins to appreciate the appeal of it. His old crush Katie (Matsuki Miyu) works as a hostess at “L’il Mama’s”, and there are wistful notions of settling down – though she crushes those by revealing that she’s a lesbian. There’s also a chance to let Meow’s father know that he appreciates him and that’s he’s sorry he can’t follow his path, and a “grass is always greener” realization that a comfortable daily routine has its own charms. The time loop is just a metaphor, of course, a stand-in for the daily routine that’s at the heart of so many lives – and highlights the choice so many young people must make between the lure of adventure and a new vista every day and the knowledge that you’ll never want for a bed, food on the table and people who care about you close-by.

After Meow’s father fixes the time loop (if only it were that easy) there’s a fairly low-key farewell with the family where Dad tells his son that he should live whatever life he wants to lead. A return to the Aloha Oe means a return to that life – and it turns out that not recognizing time loops may be a more common problem than we realize. It’s a beautiful way to close to loop on a beautifully written story, another winner for a show that’s really firing on all cylinders now. It’ll be very interesting to see what sort of series this ends up being in the second season – will this episodic one have been the introduction, or will Space Dandy continue to put on a new guise every week, each episode only loosely connected to the others? I’m not sure which I’d prefer, to be honest – as much as I’d like to see Watanabe tackle a larger plot I’ve become quite taken with the prospect of a completely different style and tone every week, and curious to see where else Watanabe and his team can take us.

 

Preview

March 10, 2014 at 6:39 am
45 comments »
  • March 10, 2014 at 7:01 amMochaCookies

    This episode was absolutely beautiful on an emotional level, resembling episode 2 a lot in that respect. There’s not much left to say about it that you haven’t already said, Enzo, or that which is already obvious from viewing. I really like the way that a symbol of monotony could be turned into one of change when Meow’s father drills the calendar open. It’s just a beautiful way of portraying the ties between Meow and his family.

    When Meow’s father says he doesn’t know what the screws are used for near the end, there’s a quick cut to Meow’s primary school device with a silhouette in the background. Am I mistaken in thinking that it looks like a giant robot?

    • March 10, 2014 at 7:46 amham and brie

      It’s a Gundam reference. In one of the episodes Amuro is reunited with his father, who’d been missing, potentially dead. He gives Amuro that device, believing it’s an upgrade for the Gundam that’s he’s developed, but he’s suffering brain damage and it’s actually just junk.

    • March 10, 2014 at 8:39 amCybersteel

  • March 10, 2014 at 7:02 amDvalinn

    26 episodes, awesome! I’d been hoping for that, because I’ve gotten attached to these guys and I like how it’s always a mystery what the flavor of the day will be, episode-wise. Because it has already proven there’s some real gems among them.

    This was one of the better episodes as well. You’re right in saying that this is specifically Meow’s turn for fleshing out, and I appreciate the low-key approach in the emotional department. No screaming matches or people threatening to disown him – his family is just a normal one above all else, and they don’t judge him for running off like that. Because of that, the bonding between him and his family seems a lot more genuine and slice-of-life-ish. It manages to create a nice atmosphere.

    And of course, besides the clever metaphor that it represented, the groundhog day loop was hilarious too. The fact that the narrator had to butt in because the story wasn’t getting anywhere, the attempts to murder a freaking calendar, Meow’s reaction to hearing his childhood crush was a lesbian – I laughed out loud multiple times.

    Welp, onwards to more Space Dandy. Now give us the QT episode!

  • March 10, 2014 at 7:38 amKen

    This episode was just pure wonder. I really enjoyed it! Now what we need for this series is an episode focusing around QT and maybe about how Dandy found her. Him. ‘It’. But maybe that’ll be an episode for the second season.On a side note, the next episode looks to be a very serious type of episode, with a very actiony feel at it too. Plus a very darkening pallette of coloring. Something that probably hasn’t happened a lot for the series. But whatever the case, I’ll be looking forward for more Space Dandy next week!

    P.S. Anyone know when the 2nd season’s coming? I heard it was gonna air at the fall.

  • March 10, 2014 at 7:39 amCrook

    Meow’s dad is awesome.

  • March 10, 2014 at 7:45 amCybersteel

    For a moment there, I thought Meow was gonna leave Dandy’s crew and eventually lead to Dandy’s eventual death XD

  • March 10, 2014 at 9:59 amNinjorz

    I love how this episode pokes fun at a certain other show’s time loop arc by constantly having a certain numerical digit appear frequently.

    • March 10, 2014 at 2:36 pmSingerOfW

      Honestly, you don’t have to know anything about anime to recognize the similarities between infinity and 8.

  • March 10, 2014 at 10:17 ammac65

    You know, they left one itme loop to enter another “time loop”
    if you pay attention to the last lines of the show…

    Really well done, loved it!

  • March 10, 2014 at 10:39 amExukvera

    What’s wrong with the anime industry?

    In other times, series like SD would be sure winners but now they are struggling to make serious cash and losing ground to those who fall into the usual fanservice/moe crap with not much else to offer but sell like hotcakes.

    Looks like Miyazaki was right, the Otakus are ruining the anime business.

    • March 10, 2014 at 11:23 amstarss

      …………….. what the HELL does any of this have to do with this episode!?

      • March 10, 2014 at 12:27 pmintroverte

        There’s no official word that the second cour will air on Cartoon Network as this season is, but it seems very likely – without the support of CN I don’t know if the series figures to generate enough revenue to support another season. For a show with excellent TV ratings and (projected) mediocre disc sales to continue only in Japan would be a real surprise.

        I believe that he’s responding directly to how Guardian Enzo mentioned that Space Dandy is doing badly only in Japan. No need to get all bothered.

    • March 10, 2014 at 1:19 pmDvalinn

      I think you’ll find that being good is no guarantee for being successful in every other type of media as well. From books to movies to videogames. The utter crap has a good habit of outselling the good stuff for one reason or another. There’s nothing wrong with the industry, really, that’s just how it is everywhere.

      And besides, the otaku are keeping the anime industry afloat in the first place. Not to mention that money gained from one crappy show can be used to fuel the making of a better yet less succesful other one.

      • March 10, 2014 at 4:49 pmTre

        And besides, the otaku are keeping the anime industry afloat in the first place.

        That’s not true, actually. Before the early 2000′s a large portion of the anime industry was making a decent profit on general audiences. Otaku were there, but they weren’t needed to keep the industry afloat.

        The problem is that the industry found that they could make a lot more money by focusing exclusively on otaku.

        That’s why focusing on the economic health of the anime industry is a straw man argument. They’re making more money than ever, of course. But when people complain about the current status of anime, it’s not about how much money they’re making, but the fact that most anime seem to be focused on a few specific niches. That’s why there isn’t as much anime airing in the US as a decade ago. General audiences in Japan can have fairly similar tastes to general audiences in the United States, but both are currently largely irrelevant to anime executives right now.

      • March 10, 2014 at 4:51 pmCybersteel

        Karl on Duty?
        Like White Fox animating Super Sonico?

      • March 10, 2014 at 5:01 pmPancakes

        Tre is correct. A similar thing happens over here in terms of blockbuster movies. Where Hollywood judges movies based on their ticket sales, anime studios come to judge their productions on BR-DVD sales. Since Otakus are the primary consumers who purchase DVDs, studios are more inclined to pander to them (like Hollywood is inclined towards blockbuster sequels rather than original stories because at least a quick profit is guaranteed).

        If anything, anime executives are responding to the demands of the market.

      • March 10, 2014 at 5:23 pmguardian enzo

        Actually the industry is making less money than ever. Consolidation of studios is ongoing and working conditions are the worst they’ve ever been. This is partly a result of marketing exclusively towards an ever shrinking special interest marketplace, but the worse it gets the less most studios are willing to risk trying to market to anyone outside that tiny slice (actually two tiny slices) of the pie.

      • March 10, 2014 at 6:24 pmDvalinn

        Well, maybe I should’ve elaborated a bit more.

        Because you’re right in saying that anime is focusing more and more on that otaku niche nowadays. Mainstream appeal is slinking and it’s a business model that’s slowly failing. Otaku are making them money [i]because[/i] they are focusing on that market exclusively. Hollywood has that problem too, and so does the games-industry. Which is why there’s all those failing WoW and Call of Duty-clones and the rise of microtransaction-filled mobile games that only get revenue from a tiny part of the players. It’s all the same thing. Still, to blame the otaku? They’re merely buying what is offered. It’s investors who are at fault, who by their very nature are a bunch of short-sighted buffoons. Blame the industry, not the consumer. Because my first point still stands – just because something is good, won’t magically make it sell. And I’m not one of the people that is of the opinion that anime was better in ‘the good ole’ days’, either – the crap to good ratio was always there (Sturgeon’s law and all that) it’s just that there’s way more shows and thus way more crap.

        Also, Tre, it would be too simple to say there’s less anime in the US simply because of this. Bad business models on both sides were far more to blame for that. Not to mention the mainstream appeal of anime in America was mostly a fad that’s run its course at this point. There’s still been plenty of shows that could’ve had that appeal since then, but people (both the tv executives and the consumers) have already moved on to something else.

      • March 10, 2014 at 11:24 pmGuardian Enzo

        Dvalinn, I was actually responding more to Tre’s “they’re making more money than ever” comment. I think “blame” is sort of beside the point – I can blame the people who drive anime BD/DVD sales for having what I see as bad taste, but I’m sure they think I have bad taste too – it’s subjective.

        The real issue for me is the objective observation of the economic health of the industry, which depending on which Japanese experts you talk to is either worrisome or dire. There’s a perception that the industry is getting rich on big otaku (and now female-directed titles like Free! and KuroBas) shows, but the reality is revenues are down for the industry as a whole, and this is projecting as the worst sales season since the Blu-ray era began. It isn’t a question of a small niche market making producers rich – it’s more like an addiction, where production committees know this isn’t sustainable long-term but they can’t stop going back to the well.

        There are already signs the bubble is leaking air – KyoAni has struggled with their last few otaku titles, the aforementioned (deservedly) dismal overall sales this season, overall drops in revenue, small studios being gobbled up by big ones and by larger corporate entities (like TV networks). This tiny target demographic has a finite amount of money to spend , and if most shows every season target the same two small groups of buyers, only a couple will succeed. These are some of the many reasons I applaud studios like BONES that continue to try and appeal to a broad audience and look for other ways to make profitable shows.

      • March 11, 2014 at 11:28 amGermanguy

        Is it in this industry that bad?. I only saw the Animes. But i never looked deeper.

      • March 11, 2014 at 12:07 pmGermanguy

        Perhaps for our generation (30+) it is still Special. Our Eyes where glowing with sparkles, when watching. Our hearts was dreaming like the Animes and Mangas. We used our fantasy to flee into our Dream Worlds…

        But for the Younger generation, that grown up with Anime merchandising everywhere. This is not special anymore, it is normal for them. No sparkles in the eyes. the hearts dreaming of the newest Iphone or something.. fantasy? thats old parents stuff… dream worlds? to be mr. ice cool baby…

        perhaps this is a generation thing…

      • March 11, 2014 at 11:20 pmTre

        Missed out on checking up here for the past day.

        If what Enzo is saying is correct, then I’m glad. I’m somewhat of a believer in self-correcting markets, so if dwindling profits is what it takes to make the anime industry change course, then I’m all for it.

      • March 12, 2014 at 9:44 amGermanguy

        even the Relight Videos… (yes, exactly what you have in mind), are changing. Well
        l, the Story (if you can call that) are coming from H Mangas. See, even this industry are moving to please the Otakus

        Normal Animes has not effect anymore. You need “stronger/specialize” ones, to outshine from the mass

  • March 10, 2014 at 10:44 amPancakes

    Second season? About time it was announced, even with the hit and miss for some of the earlier episodes Space Dandy is something too adventurous and creative to pass up.

    This episode was very good, showing once again how ingenious the producers involved are in turning very common tropes on their heads to create something interesting and refreshing. The time loop discovery was bloody hilarious, especially the fact it took 108 cycles before any critical thinking skills booted in, and then only QT ever cared about the problem at hand for several more.

    Personally I hope the episodic base remains for Space Dandy, a “serious” cour-long plot would take away from the sheer fun many of these weekly stories are. With a framework and end goal in mind, much of the imagination and ridiculousness would have to be toned down in favour of keeping the story moving. Often being forced to fill in the blanks ourselves is as fun as having the plot unfold before our eyes and ears, there’s no one right way to tell a story.

  • March 10, 2014 at 11:13 amstarss

    This was one of the best episodes of the show so far. The humor was actually funny without being awkward (like the first ep, oddly enough), it was an awesome take on the Groundhog Day story, and I really felt for Meow here more than in any other time.

  • March 10, 2014 at 12:16 pmlorenzo

    AWESOME NEWS. PERIOD.

  • March 10, 2014 at 12:43 pmrunner

    Maybe they’re implying that what Meow’s dad make is a part of something grand?
    Like part of kick-ass giant robot. *cough* gundam *cough*

    Also, landscape of backwater street with gargantuan planet in the sky is pretty awesome.

  • March 10, 2014 at 3:11 pmSDFGS

    I know they’ve been cutting the Space Dandy op short on Cartoon Network, but was this the first time they actually showed the full opening? (I haven’t really been paying attention during that part until now)

    • March 12, 2014 at 2:11 amAggron

      I was surprised about that too, it was really nice only having 1 commercial break during the whole episode too.

  • March 10, 2014 at 3:47 pmlorenzo

    I was laughing so much at C.O.R.E. (“kore”, this) and A.L.E. (“are”, that). Too bad the subs left it at the viewer’s hearing. How did they translate the joke in English for the dub?

  • March 10, 2014 at 4:31 pmHochmeister

    And just when I’m about to drop this show it pulls out an episode like this and reels me back in. Probably the best episode yet IMO, it was a near perfect blend of comedy and feels. Dandy’s been a real mixed bag for me; sometimes I really enjoy it and other times I feel like I wasted 20 minutes of my life, but episodes like this are just enough to keep me hooked.

  • March 10, 2014 at 5:12 pmpaulrenzo

    I hope A.L.E wins the war, simply because they seem to be the “mecha” faction.

  • March 10, 2014 at 5:46 pmpetitorenji

    I can’t get enough of QT

  • March 10, 2014 at 7:04 pmtruthseeker01

    This show is still god awful and a pain to watch but this episode was decent. the show is 2 for 10 now.

  • March 10, 2014 at 8:55 pmNamaewoinai

    26 Episodes, Meh, we know that from the beginning…
    Who knows what secret lies to these people especially to dandy and that so called gogol empire!

  • March 11, 2014 at 12:29 amTakaii

    I love how the day they get stuck on happens to be my birthday.

    • March 11, 2014 at 1:31 amGuardian Enzo

      Srsly? That’s pretty cool.

  • March 11, 2014 at 7:33 amPyroShield

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the clear reference to Endless Eight. If you don’t know what that is, Google it idiot!

    • March 11, 2014 at 11:02 amleatherhead333

      That’s because no one wishes to bring up that abomination if it isn’t necessary……^_^

  • March 12, 2014 at 2:18 amAggron

    I am seriously surprised that nobody has commented about this, but it was March 8th when the episode aired and the loop broke once the episode ended because it was then 12:00am March 9th (Eastern time zone that is) :D

  • March 12, 2014 at 5:35 pmOyaho

    Cowboy Bebop had poor reception when it aired in Japan too. I’m not surprised Japan hasn’t caught onto Space Dandy. Japan likes conformity, and Space Dandy is anything but.

  • April 6, 2014 at 9:41 amMorricane

    This episode…it was so priceless.
    Ridiculously funny and quite a number of modern Japan issues…

    And did I see a Dead or Alive (Miike-movie) reference in there too? :D

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