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This episode was like a cross between a creature feature and the classic trope of space hero saving damsel in distress from hideous aliens. Dandy crash-lands on an alien planet in search of a Boobies before his stamp card expires, but instead finds a pack of ravenous aliens chasing a stranded girl. He runs to the rescue, ray gun ablaze, but all is not as it seems: She transforms into an enormous many-mammaried monster who wants to eat them. The seemingly ravenous aliens were just trying warn him. Irony begets irony as the boob monster who foiled their Boobies run turns out to be a rare alien who wins them the prize money they need to eat at Boobies.
Writer Kimiko Ueno does a nice job with the material, weaving many levels of irony and boobies into the narrative, and throwing amusing curve-balls like the sudden shift into giant robo battle mode and the horrifying looking aliens who turn out to be good guys with country bumpkin accents. I wasn't familiar with her because she just started writing a few years ago, but I see that she co-wrote last year's Shin-chan movie together with nonsense gag master Yoshio Urasawa. I haven't watched those movies in a few years, but I'd like to see that.
This episode was a bit of a step down in quality from the previous episode. There was nothing egregiously bad about it, and it was still entertaining, but it was a little less tight in terms of the directing, especially compared to Sayo Yamamoto's versatile work on ep 2. The drawings also felt a little slack, but the quality never dipped to an unacceptable level.
Hiroshi Hamasaki is the storyboarder/director, and he does a good job bring alive the horror factor around where the girl transforms into a giant boob monster, which is perhaps no surprise coming from a onetime Yoshiaki Kawajiri associate. He is also credited as guest alien designer, so perhaps he even designed the monster. I don't know who designed the girl, but she is an amusing parody of cute moe girl designs: she wears both a skirt and shorts, yet we can see everything. The directing plays up this parody of fetishistic anime designs in the shot that needlessly lingers a little too long on the butt before moving to the rest of the scene.
The animation highlight came at the end with the battle with the mammary alien, which presumably came courtesy of Takahiro Shikama. He's been working at Bones for a while now, having come to prominence for his good mecha animation in Star Driver, but he actually debuted as an inbetweener on Champloo in 2004, so perhaps it was destiny that he would work on Dandy. There wasn't much other good work that stood out. Jiro Kanai and Naoyuki Asano can be seen in the credits but I didn't spot many other good bits so I can't tell what they did.
The show hammers home that it isn't to be taken seriously. It's episodic in the extreme: they forget that the protagonists died at the end of the previous episode (though this is probably one of the puzzle pieces that will make sense in the end). Damaged spaceships are patched up with bandaids. Suddenly the show serves up a pompadour-sporting, aloha shirt-clad, double-barrel-ray-gun-shooting transforming robo. I enjoy it for not taking itself seriously while still feeling like there is some narrative mystery twist hiding behind the curtains.
I mistook Hiroshi Hamasaki for the animator Hirotsugu Kawasaki a while back because their names are so similar so I thought I'd jot down a few notes about him (mostly for my own edification).
Hirotsugu Kawasaki (川崎博嗣) is, of course, the ex-Oh Pro animator and director of Spriggan and Onigamiden. I wrote about his near-debut in the excellent Oh Pro episodes of pink jacket Lupin.
Hiroshi Hamasaki (浜崎博嗣), on the other hand, started out in 1980 at Tatsunoko and moved to Madhouse in 1987 and is best known for directing Shigurui and Texhnolyze. He was an associate of Yoshiaki Kawajiri for a while, acting as character designer/animation director of Cyber City OEDO808 and Midnight Eye Goku. He continued in the same Kawajiri-inspired contrasty gothic noir character drawing style with Bio Hunter, Dark Side Blues and the remake of Vampire Hunter D.
Hamasaki directed the Iron Man: Rise of Technovore direct-to-video movie for Madhouse last year, so apparently he still does work for them, despite the debacle with Madhouse's change of ownership that sent many of its more notable artists packing. But he also obviously does work for other studios now, having notably directed Steins;Gate a few years before this. He is one of those guys who can do it all. He'll draw animation, storyboard, direct episodes, and direct series.
On the subject of Madhouse, looking through the announced credits now I realize that many of the names are ex-Madhouse, so it seems Hiroshi Hamasaki is just the forerunner of a flood of former Madhouse artists involved in the show. I suppose potentially some of these are now working from Mappa.
The monster and the girl were designed by the same person, Namaniku ATK. Katsuya Terada designed the country aliens.
Oh, cool to know they’re revealing the designs and designers for each episode on the official site.