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: September 2014, 13

Saturday, September 13, 2014

09:22:00 pm , 936 words, 2795 views     Categories: TV, Space Dandy

Space Dandy #20

Dandy forms a rock band with his new friend Johnny (the Dropkix because they're always drop-kicking each other) and sets out to become the #1 rock star in the universe.

This is the rock episode. There really doesn't need to be much more to the synopsis than that. It does exactly what you'd expect such an episode to do. That said, it's terrific fun and the quality is as good as ever.

Sayo Yamamoto storyboards and directs and Kimiko Ueno writes. It seems like almost a no-brainer that the team of Yamamoto & Watanbe should produce a rock episode. Their very attitude towards anime is rock - Watanabe with his rock star sunglasses, Bebop's affected cool and various western influences, not to mention the actual music. Watanabe is known for going to special lengths for the music side of his productions, bringing in actually interesting musicians from various corners, rather than just falling back on whatever generic J-Pop is being produced by the parent corporation. Yamamoto carried on the cool factor in her Michiko & Hacchin, with exotic locales and flamboyant fashion displays. The show had a general air of urbane hipness that is the antithesis of anime. The two seem to be on a lonely mission to inject a little cool into the image of anime in the eyes of the world.

Yamamoto's presence was felt mainly in the episode's more graphical sensibility, not least the manga-like onomatopoeia for musical sounds that appear on the screen during dramatic 'kime' poses. She even uses halftone dots to accentuate the 80s rock manga parody aspect of the episode. Her episodes tend to have a strong visual flair like this, as well as beautiful and stylishly dressed protagonists, in this case Johnny. She also makes striking use of colors, and does a lot of digital processing with faux lens flares and the like to make the screen feel richer and to bring alive the whole rock concert feel.

Kimiko Ueno's humor is unmistakable. I couldn't imagine the episode working without her touch. Dandy's pathetic wannabe rock band mimics everything about rock greats - the squabbling over contracts, the self-serving interviews - except the music, and winds up saving the universe from intergalactic war, unbeknownst to all. There were any number of memorable elements. When they were squabbling over drugs, it was actually a drug store... The quip about Dandy not having washed his hands when he grabs Johnny by the scruff of his neck... Johnny and Dandy hitting it off because they visit the same shrine on New Years Eve. Meow had a lot of memorable 'tsukkomi'-style comments, though he and QT were otherwise relegated to the sidelines. The best part was that Dandy & co never figured out Johnny's real identity, even after he outright told them. They just thought he had become the manager of his convenience store. There were so many other nice touches. Dandy setting his hair on fire with a ray gun. The Ideon giant turning out to have a Voltron-like lion's face. The hilariously forced Honey fanservice. The episode just kept on giving.

All in all, an awesome episode by an all-female creative team.

Initially I thought the episode reminded me vaguely of To-Y in terms of the character design as well as the setup about two beautiful biseinen struggling to put together a rock band, right down to the final concert where one of them has said he won't go but arrives at the last minute to join in the concert. Even the whole storyline about a scout is there, though here it's a dude. It had been a while since I'd seen To-Y, so I thought maybe I was imagining things. But I started to re-watch it and finally realized that it was intentional: the character designer of Johnny is in fact the guy who made the To-Y manga, Atsushi Kamijo. Now that is typical of the extra mile that the Space Dandy staff will go. They will get the original designer of whatever they're parodying to draw the parody design.

The episode featured lots of alien designs by other folks, as usual, but they played second fiddle to the rockers and were relegated to a drawing or two. Takuhito Kusanagi regularly provides these wild and intricate designs that look amazing but only turn up as a crude still drawing totally lacking the feeling of his original design. This is no doubt partly because his designs are pretty damn intricate and would be difficult to move. Johnny's design, on the other hand, is mostly white space, which makes it easier to move and render the features correctly. I liked the extra touch of giving the the record company president (by main character designer Yoshiyuki Ito) devil's horns.

The drawings throughout were nice thanks to Yamamoto's good visual sense, and there were even a few spots giving the animators a chance to play around - the human bowling scene where Johnny and Dandy first meet had some great drawings. The final concert scene had plenty of nice movement. I particularly liked the part from where we see Dandy's six pack (accompanied by screams from the female fans) to where the two get into a fencing match. I suppose it was by Norifumi Kugai and/or Gosei Oda.

More Pocari Sweat product placement near the end of the episode when the crew is waiting backstage. And more Ideon. I love the scene where the Ideon giant takes off from the Solo Ship (I'll just assume that's what it's called) while laser beams are firing every which way. Looks like a scene ripped straight out of the original show.