When we made a countdown podcast hyping the upcoming season, we offhandedly decided not to note that our three top series were coming out on the same day, joining an excellent pair of sports series in what has classically been the first or second most stacked day of the week. Straight dope, the past 24 hours had the potential to be pretty great. The keyword there is always “potential”; rarely does the entire slate of shows with upside pan out, and even those with very favorable preseason outlooks can disappoint. However, this time, things went on a bit different bent than usual. Seitokai Yakuindomo Confirmed Using Steroids got straight-up obnoxious with Suzu’s head. Robot Girls Z was twice as long as we previously thought. And Ian Sinclair was, in fact, Space Dandy. Which is now a 2-cour project. Since Arpeggio’s v1 sales numbers neatly edged out 10k, I’ve got an unbreakable three-way tie for favorite news of the weekend. Let’s break it down.
In terms of sheer visual acumen, SYD See Appendix A was easily triple-hype Saturday’s number one. While the first half of the episode was built around reintroducing the cast, it was a stark contrast to the slow, “check the boxes and have the one main character meet everybody” approach used by many sequels, notably Infinite Stratos 2, instead framing the whole series of intros within a school commute where everybody followed their own routes to school and some bumped into others along the way. It wasn’t a high-stakes scene, but it was dynamic, and there were plenty of little events that kept it interesting and let the comedy be its juvenile self. The overall effect was about as good as that of any intro episode since Tiger and Bunny popped off one of the best chase scenes in anime history 30 months ago. One thing I mentioned in our preview podcast, the Suzu’s head/suzuheddo gag, where the show makes fun of the short character by plugging in text and an arrow pointing to where she’s standing while the rest of the cast talks. That joke got retooled for the sequel; in addition to the classic black text version, the gag came in both 3D screensaver and shimmering rainbow versions for added flair. Taking a semi-subtle background joke and ramping up the emphasis is a strong sign that the staff are getting ready to blow the nuke on their Transam for one more small boost before their race is over.* But it’s also an indicator that if the series is to peak, it will do so in the very near future. I don’t plan on missing it.
Robot Girls Z’s surprise full-episode length could have been a curse as well as a blessing; I’ve seen plenty of series trip over their own feet by using slow pacing to drag out a 5-minute joke for 20 of them. Fortunately, warrior god of stacked resumes Hiroshi Ikehata played it smart, and the core of the show was broken up into 3 smaller skits, variations on the theme of “team Z beats up Baron Ashura and co. while doing mad collateral damage”. Each skit was different enough that that theme never got old, mainly thanks to Baron Ashura doing their best harried kindergarten teacher impression, but also thanks to each villain squad having their own quirks. And you know what’s scary impressive about that? The biggest payoff is yet to come. Arguably, the main goal of this episode was really just to introduce about 6 new villains beyond the core Garadoublas/Baron Ashura squad introduced in episode 0. Right now they’re just a decent series of one-quirk gags, but that’s how Khanmenman and Medallion got their start, and that turned out with the latter riding eternal shotgun in the former’s car.** In episodic comedies, it’s a lot more important at the beginning to have the characters around and distinct. The development and richness that brings out legit A-list humor will come, given time and a side cast large enough that one statistical show-stealer like Peeled Shrimp or Madao pops out. This’ll get a minimum 3 or 9 more episodes from me, depending on just how those skits count.
If RGZ was the Mike Trout of the day (the rookie packing both limitless potential and contemporary door-busting skills), Space Dandy was the Papi Ortiz. Shinichiro Watanabe’s return didn’t see him establish his rhythm right away, but it looked damn good in hindsight. The dialogue and voice acting were only halfway there to open things off in both the Ian Sinclair and Junichi Sawabe versions, with Dandy showing a personality that was 90% those three guys from Green Green and 0% Sweet JP.*** But experience won out, and the show hit a solid rhythm by the time the visuals were ready to show some action in the second half. I dug the combination of full-motion animation and understated bed-wetting response the main trio had while they were being chased by/blowing up a planet full of deadly aliens. I worry the tiniest little bit about how off the first twelve minutes were, but it was the kind of show it sold itself as, with a combination of clever and ridiculous that showed up when it counted. It’s earned the right to be watched until episode 4.
*A little early for a Redline plug? Maybe, but read on.
**I’ll stop comparing this show to Sunred when never, because is RGZ to Giant Robots is as close as anything was to being what Sunred was to Tokusatsu. The only thing it’s missing is the pinch of realism.
***That’s more like it.