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, 15

Monday, September 15, 2014

08:38:00 am , 776 words, 7310 views     Categories: Animator: Yoshinori Kanada, TV, Space Dandy

Space Dandy #22

Dandy heads to planet Grease to enter a dance competition, which predictably winds up bringing about the apocalypse.

This is the disco episode. Retro Italodisco being where it's at in the world of pop music right now, it makes sense for the show to have such an episode. Luckily the staffing is strong, so it's an entertaining and well-animated episode. In fact, this episode probably has the most dynamic and playful animation in the whole show, which is saying a lot.

The animation comes courtesy of Yoshimichi Kameda, who acts as sakkan and the character designer of most of the episode's aliens. Kameda brings in a more Kanada-school touch to this material than has been seen before, which means characters flying all over the screen in strange poses. But the nice thing is that he mixes it up with the styles a bit, and doesn't go as extreme as someone like Hiroyuki Imaishi, so it still sits well within the Dandy universe. The dance animation is fun and well animated without relying on reference material as in the previous dancing episode. We get to see hand-drawn animation of the Aloha Oe ship.

Kameda's Kanada-school lineage wasn't as obvious in his previous gigs such as FMA because the material was a little more serious, and his animation correspondingly more sharp and ferocious, but it's nice to see him let his hair down and have a go at more silly material for once. You can see the sporadic brush ink drawings that are something of his trademark here and there in this episode.

I like that Kameda's Kanada-school influence seems to harken back to the original. This feels like the good old Kanada, not so much the Gainax version. So you get character designs like Miranda, who looks like a character straight out of some Kanada's 1980s anime like Don De La Mancha episode 6. And things like a face drawn on the tonsils when Dandy screams, which is just generally a very 1980s gag. The dancing meanwhile reminds of the dance scene Kanada drew for Devilman episode 1. Other little details get the feeling right. For example, there's one shot around the midpoint where we see Miranda from the back looking at Ton Jravolta, and the way her hand is drawn really nails the way Kanada or Masahito Yamashita would have drawn it. It's one of their classic identifying traits.

Other characters are designed in a totally different way that's amusingly random. For some reason the head of the planet and his wife look like Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert from Isao Takahata's Anne of Green Gables (though they looked like Dokonjo Gaeru characters when the rejuvenated), while the record shop owner is the weird kid from Yoshiharu Tsuge's classic Neji-Shiki. They even put the word 'memekurage' on the record label in the ident. The three-headed bikini-clad dragon seems to be a Ghidora reference, so maybe he's a classic Godzilla fan to boot. And it's funny how every planet they seem to go to, even the ones light years away in some backwater of the universe, seem to wind up looking exactly like Japan. Matthew Cuthbert even wears geta.

The episode features a slew of playful animators drawing things in their own style - Kiyotaka Oshiyama, Michio Mihara, Toshiyuki Sato, Shingo Fujii, Hokuto Sakiyama, Yutaka Nakamura. I'm guessing Mihara drew at least part of the first meeting between Dandy & the Cuthberts, Oshiyama the record store scene, Nakamura the handful of crazy fast weird dance moves right before the Akira-esque apocalypse, Hokuto the black and white bits afterwards. Not sure about Toshiyuki Sato but maybe the dancing in the ring?

The weirdest part of the episode is the fact that Katsuhiro Otomo was involved. He came up with the whole concept of the seaweed-like organisms whose growth is accelerated to form the rings of light that destroy the planet. He's easily the biggest guest name yet, but the irony is that you would never have been able to guess that it was him based solely on the final product. He seems to have written at considerable length about the whole process in the design sheets posted on the home page, although they're too small to read. It's a weirdly earnest sci-fi concept sitting next to the silliness of Kameda's animation.

I suppose writer Nobumoto Keiko was saddled with the job of wrangling the two together and she did the best she could. Storyboarder Yoshitomo Yonetani does a great job cooking the episode into an entertaining stew. He previously did episode 9 of Lupin III: Fujiko. His trademark of always having a foreigner speaking bad Japanese is present in dancing alien Ton Jravolta.