Space. The final frontier. If only we could read this blasted text, that is!

January marks the new year: a time for beginnings, especially here at Altair & Vega. More importantly though, with a new calendar year starts the winter season of anime.

One of the first series to start airing this season, with a much anticipated world premiere on Toonami, no less, is none other than Space Dandy. I for one thought the first episode was killer, but opinion seems mixed, at least on social media. But I’m not here to talk about how adorable QT’s voice is (it is so cute) or how great the opening and ending themes are (absolutely stellar, pun intended). No… we’re here to solve a mystery!

(Mild spoilers after the break? Maybe?)

Okay, I lied a bit. The mystery has been (for the most part) already solved, thanks to a joint effort on IRC between fellow Japanese cartoon connoisseur, franz, and me. Without further ado:


Click through for full-size. Updated 19 Jan.

Q and X are missing because they’re (some of) the least-likely letters to show up in romanized Japanese, and thus they don’t actually show up in the ciphertext, as far as we investigated. The ED has some tantalizing letter shapes in it, though!

All letters now present! If I’m wrong about that Q I’ll eat my hat.

The “alien script” used throughout Space Dandy is a fairly simple substitution cipher. The tricky part is that, for the most part, the encoded words are not in English, but in romanized Japanese (and inconsistently romanized Japanese at that. Looking at you, ~人 transliterated as both “-JINN” and “-ZINN”.)

So how did franz and I start? Well, the numerals were easy enough, thanks to a count-up sequence late in the episode, along with some photograph timestamps early on. Funnily enough, I started from a restroom sign which I guessed read either “TOILE” or “TOIRE,” from the Japanese loanword, トイレ (it turned out to be the latter). Then franz suggested “HAZURE” (ハズレ, ‘no match’), and it pretty much snowballed from there.


The cover reads “YAN・MAGA,” which the smaller text explains stands for “SPACE YOUNG・MAGAZINE.” (Dots added for clarity)

There’s a lot of flavor text sprinkled throughout just the first episode, most of it not terribly important. I’m not gonna post a translation of everything here because that’s a pain in the―I mean, because I leave it as an exercise to you, the reader.

Problem 1. Please decipher and translate the following passage. You have 30 minutes. Hand in your exam paper at the front when you’re finished.

If you have any other questions (or corrections, or if you found a Q or X), or would just like to request translations (since the resulting plaintext is still in romanized Japanese), ask away in the comments!


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