Episode 4 – Sometimes, You Can’t Live With Dying, Baby
The Western zombie phenomena is something that has fascinated Japan ever since George A. Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead. Somewhere along the way, that fascination trickled down into anime and manga and in the last decade there have been some extremely notable and, in all honesty, very good titles based on that idea. Highschool of the Dead made the biggest impact on western anime fans of any anime in years, other than 3 big shōnens. Kore wa Zombie desu ka, Sankarea, and Zombie Loan were also excellent anime in their own right and did a good job of bringing the dull, rotting zombie genre into the new age. With all of this success, why wouldn’t Space Dandy have a zombie episode? Why not indeed…
Episode 4 began with our heroes Dandy, QT, and Meow, gathered around their latest catch, an alien that looked similar to one that had been previously discovered, but lacked its markings and friendly nature. This was demonstrated when Meow reached into his cage and had his hand bitten by the otherwise lifeless creature. Convinced that they had found something never seen before, they headed back to the depot to collect their bounty, but on the way Meow started acting out of character. His eyes turned dark, his skin as pale as death, and his vocabulary became limited to monotonous groans and grunts. They stopped off at a hospital after eventually conceding that something must be wrong with him, but then things got out of hand. Dandy came back the next day to engage in his new favourite hobby of flirting with the nursing staff, only to find that everyone in the hospital had been turned into horrific, flesh-eating zombies! In an attempt to save Meow, he fought off the zombies using QT’s body, but somehow QT turned as well, leaving Dandy alone in a hospital full of ghouls, including half of the Gogol Empire it seems! After a valiant effort, Dandy eventually fell prey to a zombie helicopter pilot and that is when the real struggle began. Now, he and his crew are faced with the despair-ridden day to day life of zombies. How will they make ends meet? Will they ever go back to being human? Only time will tell…
Going into this episode after episode 3, I fully expected it to be awful considering how poorly animated some of the more close up, person-on-alien fight scenes have been thus far. You would think that reducing the 3 funniest characters in the show to useless, groaning husks would make it impossible for the show to be amusing. However, what ended up happening was quite the opposite. All of the time that Dandy was still alive, the episode was actually very dull. As I expected, all of the zombie combat was uneventful and slow, the jokes were mostly sexual, and it didn’t really have a lot going for it. When the whole cast got turned into zombies though, it suddenly became surprisingly good! Rather than the normal, mindless zombies we are used to in the media, Space Dandy actually did something fresh with the idea and gave them a limited degree of awareness.
The latter half of the episode ended up being almost a documentary on the daily life of a zombie alien hunting crew and the dangers and challenges that they face. This was far from what I expected the episode to be about and I was pleasantly surprised with just how funny the whole affair was. Never before have I seen something focus on how zombies struggle to pay for food and fuel, or their attempts to turn back into a human by talking to their zombie-sempai. Showing that there is at least one intelligent and creative mind somewhere in the production staff at Bones, episode 4 did a brilliant job of breaking down the zombie genre into its base elements and giving them the silly flair that Space Dandy is becoming known for.
What really sold me on episode 4 was how the pace settled down for a little while and gave the audience a chance to catch their breath and enjoy some genuinely hilarious writing that didn’t rely solely on lewd puns. Without Dandy spouting idiocy at every opportunity, there was a lot more time to focus on an actual narrative for once which was a welcome getaway from the breakneck ridiculousness that kicked off the series. Being zombies among aliens they didn’t stand out and that is why the infection was allowed to spread so much and why they were able to live out relatively normal lives despite being dead. However, when everyone became a zombie and they all realised that they could claim on their life insurance policies, the insurance companies came after them and hired snipers to kill off all of the zombie moochers. I loved this idea! If they made a comedy about those snipers trying to kill off all the zombies that were costing their employers millions, I would watch the hell out of it! Just don’t let Bones produce it, alright?
We’re 4 episodes into Space Dandy now and normally this is the time at which people can start giving fair assessments about whether a show is worth continuing or not. Being brutally honest, after watching and giving my impressions on episodes 1-4, I can’t recommend that people stick with this anime, especially in a season this strong. It is easy watching, silly, and at times, like the latter half of this episode, funny on the sort of scale of Gintama. Unfortunately, it is poorly animated with the exception of a few moments of flair, its characters are unengaging at the best of times, and that is not even the worst part. Where Space Dandy falls flat is that there is no single audience that it appeals to. Kids can’t watch it because it is too rude, adults won’t watch it because it is too childish. It only targets a very specific group of people that find sex jokes funny enough to carry an otherwise lifeless plot and anyone that is looking for that is probably already watching Seitokai Yakuindomo season 2, a show which I would rate much higher than Space Dandy. I will try, to the best of my ability, to soldier on with these episode impressions just in case it begins to pick up, but if there is no sign of improvement then I’m afraid I’m going to have to write this off as one of Watanabe’s greatest calamities.
Space Dandy is simulcasting in both subbed and dubbed formats and can be found airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami block or streaming on FUNimation in the US. UK viewers can catch it streaming on Wakanim and Australian viewers can catch it streaming on Madman with new episodes – both subbed and dubbed – up on the Madman Screening Room each Monday, at 1am AEDT.
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