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This solidly produced episode finds us in zombieland. Shinichiro Watanabe seems to like the zombie genre, because Samurai Champloo had a zombie episode. Dandy ramps up the episodic genre parodying aspect of Champloo with an even more aggressive bent and silly extremes. It's a simple structure on which to build a series but it makes for enjoyable variety.
The previous episode ended with Meow dead, and as expected, this time we start over as if nothing had happened. This episode ends with the entire world turned into zombies, and presumably we'll hit the reset button again next episode. This seems to reinforce the idea that every episode is a parallel universe or something. Not the first time this sort of thing has been done in anime, but I like how in this case it just makes the show feel more like a cartoon adventure where they're just sloppy and aren't very good at continuity, rather than some high-concept postmodern headscratcher.
The episode was goofy entertainment. Don't seek any deep message or sophisticated storytelling here. This is pure parody at its best. The episode builds in suspense until the midpoint, when it seems as if only Dandy is going to make it, and then veers in a completely different direction in the second half. What happens when everyone finally gets turned into a zombie? Universal peace. Writer Kimiko Ueno again does a great job with the material. Yogurt gives Dandy the clue he needs to turns the negative of being a zombie into a positive: He's not rotting, he's fermenting. Not sure if it works as well in English. The final card was a genuine LOL moment.
The drawings were nice and solid throughout thanks presumably to sakkan Tomohisa Shimoyama. His drawings aren't as detail-oriented or stylish as the designer Yoshiyuki Ito, but they've got a good sense of cartoonish stylization. There were a few bits of animation that stood out as being above average, namely the part where the mercenaries attack the hospital and the part immediately following where Dandy feeds QT to the zombies. I'm guessing the first part was done by Shintaro Doge due to the wobbly, loose style of drawing and movement that seems like a cross between Yasunori Miyazawa and Shinya Ohira, and the second by Toshiyuki Sato with its slightly more Kanada inspired timing. But according to the official web site, Shintaro Doge designed the zombie hunter, so maybe he animated that part instead. French animator Eddie Mehong was also involved.
The storyboard/directing wasn't done by one person for once. The storyboard was by Namimi Sanjo, which is the pen name of Hitoshi Namba. The directing was by Ikuro Sato. I wasn't familiar with either, but I see that both have been active since the late 80s and are regulars in Bones productions every year. Hitoshi Namba debuted at Telecom as an inbetweener on Cagliostro no less. Ikuro Sato has been working exclusively as an episode director (not storyboarding) for Bones since it began, and even worked on Cowboy Bebop. The episode doesn't have the sort of idiosyncratic finish it might had a single person with a strong style done both tasks, but instead the episode has professional polish.
I've now discovered that the official website is uploading a few of the alien designs for each episode, with credits, which is great, as I was wondering with each episode who designed what. I've been a fan of Takuhito Kusanagi since his manga Shanghai Kaijinzoku came out in 1994, and it's great to see that he continues to work, even if just as a designer. I remember him being a major design contributor to Samurai Seven. His design work on Dandy is probably the most impressive of the lot from what I've seen so far, with daunting detailing and creatively conceived creatures. His design for the "trench maker" in ep 5 is particularly impressive. In this episode he designed the doctor who examines Dandy, but the character animation was more perfunctory than I would have liked. I'd like to see his organic, entangled designs get some classically detailed animation for at least a few shots. His designs look great on paper but don't fare well in the transition to the simple lines and flat colors of anime and wind up looking a little crudely rendered. He's got a great design aesthetic. I wish we could see a whole short anime done with a hand-drawn touch that did justice to his unique style, although the very nature of his style makes that difficult.
This was the first episode of the series that I found legitimately funny. Unfortunately so far, the series as a whole seems to be carried only by its visuals and the skill of the people behind the episodes. I enjoyed episodes 1 and 2 (and 5, even if you haven’t covered it yet) because they looked fantastic, but as soon as the animation comes down to more human levels like in episode 3, the show starts to lose its appeal. Fortunately the show looks amazing more often than not, but if it wasn’t for that it would be quite the disappointment.
I completely see where you’re coming from. The episodes have been well produced so far overall, but there isn’t much of a pull other than that - no strong characterization, interesting story, or any pull at the emotions. Those are the things that usually get people to LOVE a series, and short of having these, Space Dandy is admittedly just nice eye candy for now.