Friday, January 10, 2014

Space Dandy - A Dandy Guy in Space

It's unusual to see a show come out swinging with the force Space Dandy has; to have it come out so soon after KILL la KILL could be a coincidence, or just a sign of trends in the anime industry at the moment. The confidence on display isn't the only common ground, either - both Bones and Trigger are unfazed by fanservice, although Dandy doesn't seem to be making any attempt, yet, at building a case for nudity-as-metaphor the way KlK is.

The opening half of this first episode seemed weaker on my second viewing; I'm not sure if it's that the dub script didn't capture the same spark as the Japanese (which I saw first), or because it was technically the third time I'd seen the first ten minutes. There's a lot of dialogue and setup in the opening act, while the second half's action focus is much more immediately engaging.

It's hard to dissect this first installment having seen it in both languages, though. While most of the dialogue is essentially the same (a small furore over one joke aside), there's a much more knowing tone to the English version. The narrator in Japanese is over-the-top and unnecessarily serious despite his ridiculous exposition (when he can be bothered to finish it), but in English he's seemingly aware of how dumb his lines (intentionally) are.

Notably, Space Dandy was broadcast in America before the Japanese premiere, on Cartoon Network's [adult swim] block. If this isn't the first time such a thing has happened, it's certainly the most high-profile; it normally takes months or years for an anime show to get licenced, translated, dubbed and released in the West, and with Shinichiro "Cowboy Bebop" Watanabe's name attached, I would normally have expected a lot of distributors clamouring for the rights.

I'm not sure if this earlier-than-usual US broadcast meant the dub had to be done more quickly than the usual process, but the script does feel unwieldy in places. It's the first time I've ever really appreciated how difficult comedy is to get across in translation - and in addition to making the joke work at all, there are timing and animation considerations that further limit your options.

I think I found the jokes in the Japanese script marginally funnier, but the delivery is something that the English version managed to edge out. The sideways remarks and reactions seemed more natural, though that's possibly just as a result of my own native language.

Given the ludicrous and excessive finale to the episode, it's anybody's guess how they're going to get even one more episode out of the plot - let alone a 24-episode series. But it feels like a while since I watched a show that's so singularly colourful, both the visuals and the story, and which doesn't take itself at all seriously, so I'm in for the long haul. This season seems like it's going to be a low-profile one generally, and Space Dandy is definitely a cure for that.

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