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: April 2014, 01

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

12:03:00 pm , 849 words, 4534 views     Categories: TV, Space Dandy

Space Dandy #12

Dandy searches for a rare chameleon alien, but the doppelganger wreaks havoc on the crew...

This episode launches back into slapstick entertainment mode. The show is reliably satisfying when it doesn't take itself seriously, and this episode was one of the silliest yet. It almost feels like a cartoon, both in terms of the unusual looseness of the drawings as well as the absurd silliness of the proceedings.

Unsurprisingly, the episode was penned by Kimiko Ueno. It was fairly obvious watching the episode that it must have been her work. She's in top form, delivering inane absurdity fully the equal of her past episodes. The show is safe in her hands. Her sense of humor comes through in things like the takoyaki-flavored Kari Kari-kun, a parody of the popular Gari Gari-kun ice cream bar, and QT getting pissed because people were looking at porn sites on his/her cell phone in the middle of the night. QT also becomes an avid fisher and uploads photos of his catch to his fishing blog. The episode has little to no plot, instead focusing squarely on the situational comedy aspect. It's a string of gags rather than a dramatic arc. In this and the style of many of the gags - the characters all fighting in a cloud of dust, etc. - the episode seems like an overt homage to cartoons.

The story seemed unified around the theme of fishing, including the secret weapon designed by Dr. Gel that provides for an amusing climax. I wonder what this was a reference to. I thought it was Tsurikichi Sanpei at first, but maybe not.

The episode was storyboarded by Toshio Hirata and directed by Satoshi Saga. It's a delight to find Toshio Hirata at the helm. He's one of the great, if unsung, directors of anime history. One of my first major posts in 2004 was about him. He started out at Toei Doga in its heyday, and worked on seminal TV anime like Wolf Boy Ken and Jungle Emperor - straddling both Toei Doga and Mushi Pro. In his mature period in the 1980s, he brought a more zen and restrained style of auterdom to Madhouse OVAs of the period. Toshio Hirata has many great films to his credit, including the great underrated gem The Golden Bird (1984), which is notable for bringing a unique kind of cartoonish sensibility to anime. This episode of Dandy is a great return to this kind of cartoonish material - a great show of youthful silliness from such an old master. Thus this episode features a veteran director bringing to life the ideas of a young new writer.

Satoshi Saga I'm not as familiar with, but I see that he storyboarded and directed the first episode of Green Legend Ran, one of my favorite OVAs, not to mention directing the series overall (the other episodes aren't as good). He started out as an animator and moved on to storyboarding and directing episodes. He seems relied upon as an enshutsu, often handling the directing aspect alone.

The drawings are among the most fascinating in the show so far, because of the incredible variation in style. The animation director is Gainax stalwart Chikashi Kubota, but I didn't get a strong sense of Kubota's style dominating the proceedings. For the first time, we also have several assistant animation directors, and it seems like they each throw their own style into the mix rather than backing up the episode's sakkan. In a normal show, the assistants would just blend into the main sakkan's work, but here they each seem to act as their own individual sakkan. On top of this, it seems like some of the animator's sections weren't corrected at all. The end result is some of the most wild variation in drawing style in the entire show. Almost every minute we seem to be witness to an animator with a new style, even if we can't necessarily identify who it is, which makes this one of the show's most delightful and freewheeling episodes. This more loose approach to visual uniformity is perfectly suited to the cartoony material.

For example, Hiroyuki Aoyama is one of the assistant sakkans. I think we all know his drawings well by now. His section stands out - the Dandy-Dandy face-off. Similarly, one of the animators is the highly idiosyncratic Shintaro Doge, and it seems likely that he animated the extended fishing scene, which was clearly not corrected and jumps out glaringly with its wildly deformed drawings and loosely hand-drawn style. This section is also typical of Toshio Hirata's directing. A feature of his work is that he always goes out of his way to provide sections where an individual animator can shine. This can be seen in the musical interlude in The Golden Bird by Koji Nanke (watch) or even the ending animation of Bobby's Girl (1985) by Takashi Nakamura and Koji Morimoto (watch). Mamoru Sasaki's section also seemed pretty obvious - where doppelganger Dandy appears.

All in all one of the more pleasant episodes due to the crazily uneven (in a good way) animation and basically the sheer slackness of it all.