Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: March 2014, 12

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

05:43:00 am , 1001 words, 4408 views     Categories: TV, Space Dandy

Space Dandy #10

Dandy & gang visit Meow's home planet and get caught in a time loop. Meow uses the opportunity to work on his feelings of guilt for not having taken over the family business...

Another bang-up episode. This time we're back to an entertainment style more in line with the norm for this show rather than an auteur production like last time, but the episode satisfies in every way, and also brings its own unique touch to the drawings.

Xam'd director Masayuki Miyaji storyboards/directs and brings a breezy charm to the material. Kimiko Ueno returns yet again to write a simple Groundhog Day-inspired story about a day repeating itself, and does a nice job with the concept. I'm beginning to get a sense of Kimiko Ueno's sense of humor, and I like it. Her fingerprints were all over the episode, particularly the denouement with Meow's crush, and yet the episode was not 100% high camp concept episode like the zombie episode. It had a heart and was fairly convincing, if cursory, in evoking the complicated feelings between a father and son. It's just a plain cute episode, and nice getting to know Meow a bit better.

The Groundhog Day aspect is entertaining. They don't delve quite as much into the fun time paradox stuff like Groundhog Day did, due to constraints of time, but they hit all the beats that make it satisfying. When the idiot trio begin to notice that they seem to know what's about to happen, they initially think they've gained superpowers until the narrator sets them straight. At first they despair, but one day it occurs to Meow to try to catch the glass dropped by his crush, and begins to use his knowledge of the day's events to his advantage to win the girl, a la Bill Murray. He begins to think maybe it's not all bad being caught in a time loop, and even warms to the idea of taking over his father's business.

My favorite thing about the episode, though, is that we come away understanding the unspoken feelings that underlie the complicated relationship between Meow and his father. For a brief moment, he was reconciled thanks to the time loop, but in the end he has to go his own way as his own person. It's a nice, heartwarming portrait of a good father who supported his son even when it meant allowing his son to abandon family tradition to follow his own path.

Apart from feline inhabitants, Meow's home planet is a doppelganger for Japan, and the episode goes to respectable length to depict the paraphernalia of everyday Japanese life in its detailed layouts. I like little details like how the various different shoes of the house's various inhabitants are laid out on the threshold. The details make it feel real. It gives the episode a distinct tone that's quite different from the other episodes - intimate indie home drama.

It also reminds of Mamoru Hosoda's Japanese home drama, perhaps because one of the key players in the episode is a Hosoda regular. Two sakkans are credited - Seiichi Hashimoto and Hiroyuki Aoyama. Clearly the former did the first half and the latter did the second half. The series itself is notable for opting to not use the "chief animation director" system to iron out drawing inconsistency from episode to episode, and this episode goes one step further in this regard . Not only does the episode have a unique look, each half has a unique look. These two guys have completely different styles, and it's clear in the finished product. It's nothing jarring - quite the opposite. It's a delight to see that they are going 100% in the direction of standing by their sakkans and allowing them to express themselves, even on a half-episode basis.

Seiichi Hashimoto's drawings are plump and fluffy and cartoony, his lines thick. His Dandy has some delightfully silly and fun expressions that look nothing like anything we've seen before. Hiroyuki Aoyama's lines are thin and his expressions more subtle and the movement more subtly nuanced, the acting not as broad. His Dandy looks like he walked out of a Hosoda movie. I love his expression when he is attempting to pry open the calendar. The part where he confronts the calendar, delinquent-style, makes me laugh out loud every time I re-watch it.

Numerous talented animators were involved: Kazutaka Ozaki, Shigeru Kimishima, Kumiko Kawana, Tatsuzo Nishita. Many of these are Hosoda regulars, so were probably called in by Aoyama. Kenji Hachizaki and Maru Kanako also return. The episode is quite a pleasure in the acting department. Ironically, though, while sakkan idiosyncrasy is strong, animator idiosyncrasy is more ironed out. I suspect they both thoroughly corrected the animation, for the most part, because the half-episodes each have a uniform look, with the exception of a few scenes.

The opening scene with the giant robot is one of the scenes that looks different. Maybe it was the work of Hidetsugu Ito. Obviously, it's robots so it didn't need to be corrected. The scene in the field in the second half was notable because it's immediately apparent that it wasn't corrected by Aoyama. I can't identify the style, but it's a very distinct style, and obviously Aoyama didn't correct it because it was well drawn enough already, so maybe it was done by one of those sakkan-class individuals.

Incidentally, the opening scene was clearly an Ideon parody. I was surprised to find Kunio Okawara and Yuichi Higuchi in the credits, and rightly guessed that they designed the Gundam head and the Ideon robot, respectively, because they were the original designers of those robots. That is quite an involved joke to pull - getting the actual designers of Ideon and Gundam to design parody robots that battle it out against one another. That is taking parody to a downright meta level. It's an in-joke aimed straight at anime staff nerds like me. Chief designer Yoshiyuki Ito meanwhile did a nice job designing the dozen-plus cat alien guest characters.