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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« Space Dandy #6Space Dandy #4 »

Sunday, February 16, 2014

12:05:00 am , 697 words, 3521 views     Categories: TV, Space Dandy

Space Dandy #5

Dandy begrudgingly plays babysitter to a little girl alien and turns out to be a softie after all.

Mappa produced this episode as well as ep 3, but this one is very different in that it doesn't scream Madhouse pedigree at all. Instead it's headed by Akemi Hayashi. Ichiro Okochi writes. I associate Akemi Hayashi mostly with Gainax although she's done lots of other stuff. The reason for using Mappa is obvious, since Watanabe produced his previous TV show there, and it's nice to see them getting to do more creative work, as Kids on the Slope was nice but hardly a showcase of outlandish creative ideas. That's one nice thing about Space Dandy: it gives animators a whole new set of designs/situations in each episode to be creative with, even if the base characters are the same.

This ep is different from what came before because, for good or ill, it bears the strong imprint of its director. The good thing about Space Dandy is that it clearly offers its episode directors a little more freedom than usual in doing their thing, but the downside is that sometimes a director's style will just not be your cup of tea. That was the case for me here. This was hands down my least favorite ep so far. I appreciated the Paris, Texas vibe it had going, but overall it just didn't work for me. The wit and unpredictability of the previous scripts was replaced with a sequence of predictable setups of the two goofing off and bonding in an that attempts to tug at the heartstrings, but I just found it rote and empty. I didn't find it moving or cute at all, mostly because the kid just seemed like an empty cipher without any real personality. It's ironic because I was just starting to think the show needed to inject some heart and feelings into the proceedings. The action scene at the end was also weak and unconvincing.

The animation was decent, but never stood out as extraordinary. The sakkan was Tomohiro Kishi. It looked different from the previous episodes, as if there was more of an emphasis on line and contour and folds. The animation felt like it had a more Gainax-derived style of acting and deformation. It wasn't badly done, and had considerable effort put in to bring the different shots alive, but personally I preferred the Telecom-school acting of ep 2. Takeshi Honda was the only notable animator involved. I suppose he did the part in the train station where the girl throws the doll and gets accosted by the bounty hunters, as movement of the girl walking away has that distinctive Honda swagger and bounce. The side shot of Dandy walking looking at the piece of paper was nice. It was one of the better animated shots of Dandy I've seen because, like the Ryan Larkin short, it conveyed personality entirely through gait. But other than that, most of the animation didn't do anything for me. I didn't know any of the names in the credits aside from Honda, so perhaps this was a Mappa young animator training episode, in which case I don't mind cutting them some slack.

Takuhito Kusanagi's Dune-inspired trench digger was the most interesting part of the episode for me - or it should have been, but it got literally one shot of animation, and you could barely see the design at all in that shot. Pretty disappointing, and a waste of good design work. It's great to get all these people to come up with interesting alien designs, but also somewhat disappointing that most of them just pass by in a single quick crowd shot without getting any kind of animation whatsoever. There are some fun designs in the crowd pictured above. I certainly would have preferred seeing how these characters might move than seeing the boring, cutesy alien girl in this episode for 20 minutes straight. One thing that got me wondering was: What are those things on the tips of her fingers for? The designer must have thought about it. It seems sloppy not to give the paraphernalia a semblance of usefulness if you're going to have it there.

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7 comments

camario
camario [Member]

Interesting comments.

There are those who feel this episode was their favorite, even a few weeks after the fact, which is to be expected since with so many different setups and creative teams not everyone is going to always react the same way to every single episode.

Conversely, there are certainly those who like it the least. Episode 6 also tends to be a bit divisive, I’ve found, though most people liked the ending of that one anyway.

I honestly liked episode 5 a fair amount myself, despite being relatively standard content underneath everything else. Sometimes you don’t need to break new ground.

I felt the direction managed to effectively transmit enough of a feeling of warmth and cuteness. The animation wasn’t spectacular yet supported that sensation a couple of times, including but not limited to the girl’s crying sequence near the end. The space penguin stuff also caused me a bit of a chuckle, though I suppose humor is also a personal matter.

Other than that…well, I thought the character wasn’t too developed but came across as surprisingly tolerable. That said, like with a couple of other episodes in my opinion, this one might have been better off as a two-parter to give the story and the characters a little more room.

02/16/14 @ 01:37
neshru
neshru [Visitor]

I loved the look of this episode. It was extremely well drawn in a way very different from all the other episodes, looking much more unique and stylized. I’m not familiar with this episode’s AD, but I think he did a great job.

02/16/14 @ 05:18
Ben [Member]  

Camario -

I can see why people would like it, and it wasn’t badly done at all. In this case it’s largely a question of personal taste. I would rather see a well done episode like this that just isn’t my cup of tea than a flat-out badly done episode. I might have liked the episode better if it didn’t feel like it was trying so hard to play the cuteness card and let the story play out a little more deadpan. I’m less surprised that episode 6 would be divisive. That crying sequence was well animated. I wonder if that was also part of Honda’s bit? Reminded me of the crying in the first Digimon movie by Hideki Hamasu.

neshru -

The drawings were definitely cartoonishly stylized in a way that was effective in its own way, I agree. It’s always cool to see how a different sakkan will approach the characters.

02/16/14 @ 12:39
melchizedek
melchizedek [Visitor]

Contrast this with episode 2 on handling drama. Looking back on my other comment, it’s kind of hard for me to say that anything feels “right” for such a chameleon-esque show. That said, I still don’t like this episode.

It’s very hard to make me like orphan-looking-for family stories, and gluing the front and back with two montage pretty much sunk the episode for me. The girl had hints of mischievousness at the beginning, but that diffuses because it’s more important to the writers for her to be cute and vulnerable. Any real contention or fire is traded in favour of hitting the same beats.

And that pretty much describes the whole thing. It’s polished and uniform, soft gradients and unvarying lines. As a standard of quality, it’s not a bad place to be. It’s just all so staid. Even the train chase sequence feels (to me) like it has no steam. Something about the timing of the cuts and poses that feel like it lacks the necessary urgency and snappiness of a better action scene. Or maybe it’s the focus on Dandy in his fat, stuffed penguin body trying to catch up with the bad guys that makes it feel slow. Which is kind of funny, now that I think about it. Like some antithesis to action.

On a more positive note, this episode reminded me of that Amazing Nuts! short, Global Astroliner.

02/16/14 @ 12:47
Ben [Member]  

melchizedek -

Well said. I think that they had their priorities wrong. To make us root for her, they would have been better off developing her and giving her personality rather than just stringing together all the cliched montage sequences they could. The animation of the crying was nice and all, but it felt like it was there just to hit a beat, like everything else, and wasn’t affecting at all. The whole ep just felt like reruns of cutesy scenes I’ve seen before in other shows. The plot was trite and a blatant play for sympathy in a way that would require some kind of subversive or smart touch to make it actually interesting.

The train sequence felt like it was there only by necessity, and felt lacking in the rhythm and tension needed to make it work. I suppose it was meant to be ironic, combining comedy with action with the slo-mo shot of the fat Dandy penguin floating there for an interminably long time until he suddenly launches into the train, but it just felt awkward, like lazy action choreography.

02/16/14 @ 13:18
shergal
shergal [Visitor]

“I wonder if that was also part of Honda’s bit? Reminded me of the crying in the first Digimon movie by Hideki Hamasu.”

Ha, I thought the same. It’s those cheek lines! I’d say Honda is the only one from the KA list that jumps out as someone who might draw crying like that, and in the medium shot of her face when she starts crying she looks just like some character from the latest EVA movie.
Personally it was one of the nicest animation moments so far in the series, and since I did enjoy the episode it fit right in. I guess it comes down to how much the ’safeness’ of the episode bothers you. I revel in those montages set to poppy songs and Hayashi’s style of cutting, even if it’s not something daring or trying to break new ground. It simply pleases me at an aesthetic level and provides for an entertaining episode. And highly produced entertainment is what Dandy presents itself as from the beginning, after all.

02/16/14 @ 16:43
Neil
Neil [Visitor]

I actually liked this episode, though am well aware of its flaws. I guess what I liked about it was it really felt like a Watanabe show, it could have easily been a Cowboy Bebop episode. The road trip scenes were really nicely paced and good direction turned what could have been a overbearingly sappy moe story into something pretty well made. I guess what I liked the most were the long montages - I think the chief director is pretty good at this kind of stuff.

I still have major reservations about how they handle Dandy himself, he’s like Zap Brannagan from Futurama, but they try to make him likable, when if you were to meet someone like him he’d be completely unlikable - the character doesn’t work.

02/17/14 @ 11:30