So sometimes you get an all-out space musical with Space Dandy and other times you get a lethargic pit stop all about trying to catch a hell of a big fish. And just like the rare species that Dandy and the rest of the Aloha Oe are trying to track down, every episode is drenched in variety. So when an innocuous enough premise that sees a routine fishing trip turn into the crew searching for a rare moonagi (who only happens to appear once every 3600 years), it still has the potential to really go anywhere. It of course becomes all the sillier when instead of going and running with this, instead their ship immediately gets caught in a bed of space kelp (“Seriously?”), effectively slowing things down and keeping Meow and QT out of play this week for most of the episode.
What we’re left with is a much more down-to-Earth venture that’s more focused on showing you these one-off characters, Elderly and Esme, who feel like they’re right out of a Miyazaki film. This episode feels most reminiscent of the first season’s lonely ramen master planet detour, but while that journey was just as much a focal piece for Dandy, this time the spotlight wants to be pointed elsewhere.
The installment is interested in you just getting to know these characters and showing you what a day in their life looks like, rather than following Dandy around and watching him do his typical thing. There’s no Boobies this time around. Dr. Gel doesn’t make an appearance. Dandy’s attire even changes here into a cruder get-up more in tone with Elderly and Esme’s style. One of the episode’s highlights, the detached, fluid art direction this week, is also present right from the start of things. Immediately there’s a shift that has us looking at things in the fisherman planet, Kaiyu, sort of way. It’s also beyond appropriate that the artwork on display here is very much steeped in a watercolor design, as this adventure has water present in about 95% of the shots.
There’s also an interesting theme of piling on and excess coursing through everything, whether it’s the way Elderly and Esme’s house is designed with architecture haphazardly stacked on top of architecture, the multi-tentacled multi-eyed squid creature that seems to keep going on and on, the eel-ish monsters from Dandy’s dream, or even the absurd “tug line” that assembles from Kaiyu natives to take down this fish (sorry, moonagi). It’s a chaotic idea that such a simple (and this definitely is one of the simpler, if not the simplest Space Dandy to date) concept would be full of imagery of excess, but it works. By the time you see the sheer enormity of the famed moonagi, you’ve been appropriately eased in.
Fishing is all about patience and subtlety and no episode has better illustrated this than with the relaxed approach it takes with everything here, only to visually strike and attack you towards the end, like a fisherman yanking in their reel for the kill. And sure enough, the climax of the episode which sees Dandy getting tugged away by the moonagi is inspired, gorgeous stuff. The resolution too that the moonagi emergence every 3600 years is actually them trying to planet hop and move onto a nearby comet in order to escape planet Kaiyu, is pretty inspired.
With the episode very neatly returning to where it started, it’s nice that the Aloha Oe crew can have a simpler time out lost in some fishing, but the same thing can be said for us too and the comparable experience we’ve had. Because who knows, next week we’ll probably be sword fighting on the rings of Saturn with a vampire prince…in space. Enjoy the lazy while you can.