Space Dandy Review

This is review number three hundred and sixteen. This anime is part of the Winter 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Space Dandy. It’s that show about Cowboy Bebop. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a guy in space with a robot and a cat. It’s good, I guess. Let’s read on.

Story

Space Dandy is a dandy in space.

He is a galaxy-wide alien hunter. In search of fresh alien prey, he lives a life full of adventure foraying into unexplored planets. These are the spectacular tales of these alien hunters.

                                                                                                                          -Narrator, opening sequence

Taking the Pants Off

From the creators of Cowboy Bebop…and then everyone foamed in the mouth. Space Dandy is the anticipated return of Shinichiro Watanabe doing another space sci fi shows that first brought him legendary acclaim. I think the main promotional tactic for Space Dandy is to constantly bring up the creators of Cowboy Bebop and how they’re making another anime. It’s probably a dumb move because this kinda set us up to expect Space Dandy as another Cowboy Bebop which really ruins this particular series. Then again, Space Dandy isn’t really all that good. I mean, I don’t really understand it. It’s a very simple show that doesn’t seem to have the same charm as any other Watanabe work. I consider Cowboy Bebop one f*cking overrated piece of show but it had elements that standout and the mashup of certain genres makes it unique. Cowboy Bebop is a western in space with jazz to wrap it all together. Shinichiro’s talent is being able to make mashups good and complex. His style looks experimental, since a lot of Cowboy Bebop episodes are just plain dull, but they’re still one of the best anime experiences you can ever have. Space Dandy is different. Shinichiro admitted it himself that he didn’t want a serious show and Space Dandy will be more about comedy. I’m actually fine with that. Even though the comedy genre is fickle, a man of his insane talent can make a weeping clown look like the best thing you can ever watch. Except, it’s not really that complex. Space Dandy doesn’t know that word. There is nothing complex about Space Dandy. I think Shinichiro actually wanted to go a different route and just stick with “simple”. Everything about Space Dandy is simple, and a bit pointless, so this makes it the most experimental show in Shinichiro Watanabe’s work. It’s a show about nothing deep but a guy in space hunting aliens. This simplicity is what a lot of the promotional stuff decided to left out. We didn’t expect it to be so gawddamn simple since Cowboy Bebop is ten levels deep of philosophical imagery. It should say that Space Dandy is from the creators of Cowboy Bebop but it’s a dumb, toned down, restrained, pointless and simple show so don’t expect f*cking much. This isn’t Cowboy Bebop part two, fan boys.

Anyways, Space Dandy is about a guy named Dandy. He is an alien hunter who travels the galaxy trying to find rare aliens. He’ll catch them alive then go to a register center to have them registered. If the alien is rare then the reward money is big. Dandy and his crew is a bunch of incompetent people though who would often get into some space related mishaps more than actually capturing rare monsters. Most of the episodes involve the crew being unaware of the capabilities of the alien they’re hunting and this comes biting them in the ass, sometimes in a literal sense. Since the show is non-episodic then every episode features a brand new story involving the crew. This is probably the biggest thing to note in this show. It does not care about continuity. The first episode ends with the characters dying and the second episode follows up as if nothing happens. The anime often kills off a lot of characters on certain episodes for no big reason other than to point out that this show doesn’t value plot at all. The show resets on every episode and just features another big misadventure the characters will be involved in. From the first episode alone, I think the show just wanted you to focus on having a good time with the anime. Plot doesn’t matter because it’s all about the anime experience. It’s all about the things you’ll see and hear in the episodes. It’s more about the surreal ride Space Dandy will present to you and the big explosion killing off the characters in the first episode is a big indication of that. It’s certainly a different show to me since I kinda like structure in my anime with plot points and more emphasis on development. I was honestly irritated with Space Dandy when I first saw it. There’s not much to review here if the plot is nonexistent and the show runs on a non-episodic format.

To make matters worse, everything is deadly simple in this anime. It’s a comedy anime but the thing it features is really very simplistic in its execution. I don’t really find the jokes funny because they’re pretty uninspired. It’ll have Dandy hitting on chicks and getting rejected, the crew overcomplicating capturing an alien because they’re all idiots and even have juvenile humor like a space restaurant called Boobies because it has um…boobs in it. I guess “simple” is a nice way to say it. I find the jokes bland and it’s frustrating because this is basically the only thing the show has. It just has bland jokes that you’ll either force yourself to laugh at or gradually just get used to the more you watch the anime. The comedy in this anime is as bland as that joke of a guy slipping on a banana. It used to be funny but it’s not anymore. As I said, the comedy genre is fickle so some people might still find it funny but I think majority of viewers would just shake their head in disappointment. That’s right. This is from the creators of Cowboy Bebop, kids.

spacedandy26

I think the problem is that even the characters are so painfully bland. They’re one note as in they never do anything meaningful in the show except be part of that frivolous nature of the anime. Dandy is a character you would have to force yourself to like. Even after finishing the show, I find him annoyingly bland. There’s really nothing bad about the character though. He is this clueless guy that doesn’t really do anything special yet acts like a cool character. His actions say otherwise though as he really does nothing remarkable and most of the things he accomplish is often by chance. There is no depth to the character, no background story or anything interesting to talk about. Seriously, he’s just the guy with the laser gun and it ends there. I personally was only able to tolerate him because I enjoyed seeing his miserable life unfold in each episode. He’s an untalented alien hunter that is often broke, likes to spend time boozing and hounding chicks and he fail a lot in the show. At least the anime itself understands that they have an unremarkable wanna be as their lead and it didn’t really try to be coy about. This is the best they got and they just go along with it so it’s best to just go along with the show as well. Take nothing seriously and just enjoy the ride.

The biggest problem I have with the show though would have to be the lack of continuity. It’s that one crucial element they killed off in the first episode that really irks me. Part of the reason why Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo are great is because it has continuity. It has a base to make sure it just doesn’t go rabidly ape sh*t on us and sour the experience. Part of the reason why Cowboy Bebop is memorable is because of the ending that could only have happened because the later episodes focused on a bad guy that Spike must kill. Amidst all the outlaw gimmick related episodes, it also contains growth to some degree that can only be achieved through continuity. You worry for Spike because the series has basically found a way to make him an enjoyable character. The same goes for Samurai Champloo. They were on a journey to find Mu’s father or something and it’s the continuity that made the show sane despite having an episode about a baseball team with a squirrel as a player. Its continuity, actually, that makes Shinichiro Watanabe’s experimental style work. Without it, you can tell that the whole thing is just a mess. Just a touch of continuity can help Dandy grow as a character. We’re not asking for much. Even a trippy acid induced show like FLCL is amazing because it doesn’t just throw random things out there. There is continuity and I think it’s a solid foundation for any anime. Space Dandy lacks it and so the bland-ness of the characters and the jokes is painfully felt rather than become part of that mashup Shinichiro is aiming for which, I think, is space opera and a slight jab at western sci fi space show.

I always admire anime for having this continuity that most western cartoon doesn’t have. Older cartoons like to play with the reset button a lot of times as well and I think Space Dandy was aiming for that kind of show. Most of the ending title cards of Space Dandy looks like a Looney Tunes logo with the “to be continued” placed in the center. To some degree this approach is effective because they are catering more to western audiences than the typical Japanese audience that doesn’t get sick of wish fulfillment shows. I believe this anime aired simulcast on Toonami or something so it’s an anime that the entire world enjoyed upon its actual airing. The Looney Tunes format of the show is effective in introducing new fans to this thing called “anime”. Space Dandy is a non-serious anime with a whacky cartoonish format that appeals to a certain demographic. As an avid anime fan, I do appreciate the way it reaches out to the rest of the world. A lot of Japanese anime are often westernized to appeal to their audiences so I think Space Dandy took this into consideration and created a non-episodic show with a simple comedic charm to it. I do think Space Dandy has converted some fans into trying out this thing called anime so there is a method to this madness. Part of the reason why Cowboy Bebop is so popular, despite most episodes being dull, is because it appeals to western audiences more. If a lot of people started claiming something is great (even though I would seriously only rate the damn show a 7) then it persists and becomes the truth. I think that’s what happened to Cowboy Bebop. It’s what I hope happens to Steins Gate as well. Of course, Cowboy Bebop is considered a masterpiece though because it didn’t looked down on its audience and Space Dandy felt like it was doing just that.  The bland comedy feels insulting and the lack of effort on other aspects of the show is annoying.

Despite the show constantly pushing its comedy, there are some aspects of the show that I do really like and they’re often the ones not intended to come off as funny. There are some episodes that just feel more uniquely honest and character driven than anything else. It doesn’t possess the usual stupid comedy of the show. Instead, it just features characters in a story that actually has purpose. I love that episode where Dandy was transporting this girl to the register center until they bonded and something else happened. My favorite episode is the last one where the robot vacuum cleaner learned to drink coffee among other things. I particularly like these episodes mainly because it just feels like a regular anime episode with no silly stuff. It’s just honest and straight forward that I particularly gravitate to them. It reminds me of those cute honest episodes in Cowboy Bebop. Remember that video tape of a younger Valentine sending a message to herself? It was charming and you can tell the same charm is in those few Space Dandy episodes.

Really though, the only reason those episodes stand out is because the rest is just a big acid experience. Have you ever get plastered so hard to feel the ground waving and the car passing by looks like a majestic unicorn? Don’t ask. Majority of the Space Dandy episodes are really just that. Aside from being utterly comedic and pointless, they also cross the point of no return for no strange reason. There are trippy episodes that just goes off on their own and it’s alienating as f*ck mainly because you just don’t understand what the f*ck is going on. I remember a racing episode that ended with Dandy meeting Buddha on the ethereal plain. There was that weird zombie episode that follows the characters as a zombie. I guess it does have a purpose like an under the table social commentary or a jab at western media for the most part but I’m not entirely sure. Some episodes are just trippy for the sake of it but some of them are just derailed as f*ck making it harder to really appreciate Space Dandy. Or maybe that was the whole point of it? People who over think this anime would just be caught in this trap the creators intentionally put in to mess with them. The show has no purpose so I guess it also has no limitations as well. I guess it’s really just an anime with a big focus on the anime experience than anything else. Still, these episodes are insane and even I’m fazed by it. I’m a fan of Masaaki Yuasa, damn it. I’ve seen insane in its gawd awful form but the one in Space Dandy still throws me off. It is one heck of an experience though if you just let your mind wander and enjoy the episodes as is.

I like the crew members of Aloha Oe as well. QT is this outdated vacuum robot that assists Dandy in hunting down aliens. I’m going to refer to him as a guy now. He is the voice of reason in this anime. As the show derails into the unknown, you can always expect QT to be the most sane character here. He does have his quirks but I mainly like this character because of his voice. It has more personality than anything else in the show and I’m a big fan of characters like this. He doesn’t do much in the show though. Like Dandy, he is one dimensional often just being the sidekick when Dandy goes alien hunting. The show’s mascot would then be Meow. He is this cat-like alien that is very adorable because he mostly behaves like a cat. He is a slob and he is lazy. He often provides some tips on new aliens for Dandy but he rarely does that often just being as clueless as Dandy doing random lazy sh*t. I do love his chemistry with Dandy. When they yell over each other, it is entertaining to a small degree. The trio also grows on you in time but the lack of any value in the show really does affect the enjoyment. It’s great to like the small stuff because the overall appeal of the show is one gooey mess on purpose. There is also this pair of bad guys that constantly tracks down Dandy’s location. It was implied that he is a crucial piece in the war between two groups trying to control the universe or something. It’s a gorilla in a frilly space opera outfit and his scientist sidekick that has the face of an eggplant. This is probably the cruelest part of the show because it is implied this show has a story. It has continuity but we never see it developed. These two characters, despite trying to chase down Dandy in a hurried fashion, reset with the rest of the show as well. So every time we see them, they are tracking down Dandy but they don’t really catch him and they often ended caught in the crossfires of whatever the hell Dandy is doing. They serve more as a running gag in the show that does get tiresome since their novelty runs out quickly. I also don’t think the show will ever explain why they need Dandy. In some episodes, they would even send a squad to go after Dandy either to kill him or to capture him. Things got a bit murky in the end. It doesn’t matter anyway, this show is just stupid.

The show is easy to watch and it’s not intimidating or alienating like most anime but damn, this was supposed to be the return of Cowboy Bebop or something grand like that. What the hell is this sh*t? When you are trying to force yourself to like something then you just know it’s not worth it. There are a lot of things I don’t like about this anime but I just find it baffling that it’s not even on the same field as Cowboy Bebop or even Samurai Champloo. I know other people like it though. There is a charm to the show that might appeal to some people but still, I think it’s not worth it. It would’ve been much better to just give us a Cowboy Bebop sequel and disappoint us than give us Space Dandy, convince us it’s as good as Cowboy Bebop and then choke the life out of us. Some magic happened in Cowboy Bebop though that I find interesting because Shinichiro Watanabe can no longer recreate it. I’ve seen him try to get his magic back when he gave us Kids on the Slope. It was a pretty decent anime but nothing quite as good as his early works. I think he just gave up capturing the magic when he gave us Space Dandy and went on a different direction. I think Cowboy Bebop’s success is a matter of right timing though. Sunrise, Shinichiro, the western jazz space combo and a transition era since Yugi Oh aired in the same year all contributed to the anime’s success. This is something I don’t think Shinichiro can ever do again.

Plus, the guy is full of himself. This is something I can tell after watching Space Dandy. He has a vision that I think attribute him as a great director but he lacks the ability to execute them. Attempting to pass off a western style anime is one thing but getting away with it having no story is just insane. Now, I don’t like this anime. I think its pretentious hiding the fact that it’s pointless but I know a lot of people think otherwise. I would love to have a reason to not hate this anime so please share your thoughts in the comments. There is another director named Shingo Natsume and I think this is his first series directorial debut. He mostly do key animation so it’s weird he got a chance to direct this show. He also worked on Tatami Galaxy so I guess it makes sense why there is a touch of Masaaki Yuasa in the show. Some episodes feels like a Shinichiro episode while some feels like it’s not so I guess having two directors for this anime makes sense. His time as key animator also served him well since this show’s one true positive aspect is the animation. It is beyond outstanding and I think Bones did a good job with it. The last Bones anime I saw is Captain Earth so thank gawd this show is good. Bones is also a pretty experimental studio so I think Shinichiro’s experimental vision melds well with their unconventional style. I’m glad they had a hand at a decent Original Screenplay for once. Bones is a pretty great studio right now and they’re pushing out more work. I better catch up with the lineups soon and see their latest works since I think they are turning out good shows lately.

Sight and Sound

Space Dandy’s visuals remind me of two anime.

Redline and Kaiba.

Have you seen these shows? Red Line is this racing anime movie where the characters resemble those of graphic novels. There are a lot of outrageous designs with the characters just standing out in their own cool way while the graphics is filled with single based color surrounded by a lot shadows and dark spaces. I think it’s a combination of cyber punk and sort of like an urban graffiti style that makes the visual unique. It also features a slew of weird alien characters racing and commentating in the movie. I’ve personally never seen in it but I have heard countless people recommending the damn thing to me. The same designs are pretty prominent in Space Dandy as well. We have whacky characters with an insane bright color palette in outfits that resemble cyber punk meeting street graffiti but in space. The character design itself is pretty western as we have a main character with a whacky hairdo and an alien in a colorful jumper. It doesn’t really stand out that well though. While the designs are sound, the colors and the non-uniform style of the design is what mostly stand out. I do love the lack uniformity though because it reminds me of the insane design for Kaiba. This is a Masaaki Yuasa series that has some rather unusual design somewhat inspired by Osamu Tezuka. I’m the one mainly making that assertion though. Anyways, the designs in Kaiba usually have a softer color palette though as we see different alien races in space. This style somewhat resembles that in Space Dandy as well. Some episodes look sharp and fierce like Redline while others look like its Kaiba. Some of the designs also have a soft style to it that is different from the usual style of the show like the little girl Dandy travels with. It’s the general aura of these two shows that somehow make up Space Dandy and it’s really the best way to describe the visuals of Space Dandy. I am a big fan of the alien designs though. They’re imaginative and insane that really brightens up the show from time to time.

The animation is outstanding. This is probably the best thing in the series. The movements are fluid. The characters are often running and just acting stupid a lot of times which demands some high quality animation that show proudly provides. Dandy is a show off in the most upsetting way and the animation does nicely capture this annoying wanna be attitude of his. The animation goes wild though when the characters chase after their alien targets. The camera work is beautiful and the motions aren’t just on the movements, the characters changes shape as well indicating the high amount of detail in the animation. The camera view goes from overhead to side view to fish eye in often running sequences and it’s made more complex when the surrounding ground collapses and other fun sh*t happens. There are lasers firing while Dandy’s long limbs extends while he runs and next to him is Meow running on all four which looks really cool. I think a lot of the episodes just exude awesomeness in the animation. The content of the episodes might be dull itself but the animation really makes the anime experience worth it. Some episodes just flaunt amazing animation and there is a wide range of style in this anime. There is a soft toned Masaaki Yuasa-esque presentation with those uniform-less movement that looks outstanding while the next episode would be a black and white sketch-like presentation that is pretty surreal. The animation is really the highest point of the show because you’ll never know what to expect from it. It’s flashy and artistic in a nice balanced way that will make you comeback despite the bland content of the actual show. My favorite part would have to be the movements of the aliens. Some of the aliens slither, others look grotesque while some just looks awesome and it’s so imaginative in its concept that it’s inviting to watch. I love how Bones handled the animation. The high quality animation is really incredible and it captured this experimental vision I think the show was aiming for.

The soundtrack of this show also helped in the experience. Most moments are fun to watch because of the blazing background music that goes along with it. Combined with the animation, I think it really make the anime experience really superb. Anyways, the anime’s OP is “Viva Namida” by Yasuyuki Okamura. It’s a trippy song. It’s cool because of the funky beat and the bright lyrics. I think it’s a positive song about just letting it all out and then picking yourself right backup. It’s a really catchy song as well. The chorus with those constant “tears” in the lyrics is pretty fun to listen to. The OP sequence is like a great riff on a cool space opera anime. It has all the basics with the flashy setting in space, the villains looking all menacing and the characters crying and acting cool in the same scene. It is also reminiscent pf that Cowboy Bebop OP where the characters are dancing to the song. It’s nostalgic and funny in a good way the actual show never really captures. It also features the stunning OP so I wish I could just f*cking review the OP instead, damn it.

The anime’s ED is “X Jigen e Youkoso” by Etsuko Yakushimaru. Etsuko’s voice is so fun to the ears. Her voice is instantly recognizable as she does some songs for a lot of weird shows as well. I’m actually sensing a pattern. Her voice sounds like a cross between a murmur and a whisper that sounds cute as you listen to it. She adds her own style to it and it’s just not to keep on listening. The actual song sounds pretty random though. I think it’s someone thinking about random stuff but the lyrics are mangled in a way that the lyrics is just fun to listen to. It doesn’t bother me because the rhythm is awesome combined with Etsuko’s voice. The ED sequence actually reminds me of the one in Tatami Galaxy. She also sung the ED in that one and I think this is a homage from one of the directors. It’s a trippy ED with a lot of colorful bits that is the same for a lot of episodes in the anime.

Overall Score

7/10 “It’s flashy, cool and unique but bland and painfully simple at the same time.”

There are a lot of negative aspects that made it really hard for me to enjoy the show. It does have some good positives like the wild animation that is worth seeing but the lack of story, continuity, growth for the characters and everything else, that some would consider pretty basic elements for even a decent anime, is not in this show. The approach of the anime is to be different and it’s debatable whether it worked or not. I think it didn’t. Simple is one thing but I think the show is really lacking. It does have some cool things to it once the show grow on you but I think the experience is just half of the awesomeness the show could’ve been if it just didn’t try too hard to be unique. If you’re a fan of Cowboy Bebop though then I think you really need to see this to realize that there can never be a show as awesome as Cowboy Bebop. Even the creator of the damn show cannot replicate its awesomeness so watch Space Dandy and be happy you’ve experience magic back in 1998. If you’re unsure about anime though I think Space Dandy is a great gateway anime for new fans. This show isn’t alienatingly Japanese and its simple-ness is inviting to watch. This is a good show but, gawd damn it, it could’ve so much better. I reluctantly recommend this.

2 thoughts on “Space Dandy Review

  1. As someone who’s seen this series in its entirety, I’m looking at your grievances, and I just have this to say:

    Watch. Season. Two.

    Seriously, go on MAL and look at the ratings between the two seasons. Season 1? 7.79. Season 2? 8.23. Go on Anime-Planet. Season 1? 3.81 (out of 5). Season 2? 4.22. From thousands of votes, a 0.5 increase is actually pretty impressive, IMO.

    Season 2 is different from Season 1 in that S2 pretty much becomes a writer’s/director’s showcase, meaning that every episode is different and distinctive. Dandy is slightly more likable, the worlds are even more creative, and it’s a lot funnier (Then again, as you said, comedy is HIGHLY subjective, so take that last bit with a grain of salt. XD).

    I’m not gonna go into further detail because I’d be spoiling, but IMHO, S2 is MILES better than S1. Don’t write this series off just yet. 😉

    • I read your explanation and not once did the “story” ever come up meaning its the same show but with much better non episodic content. I will watch the second season but I doubt it’d be any better. Of course, that’s just my opinion.
      and lol, MAL stats? Most users rate shows a 10 for the dumbest reason. I can’t trust that.

Thoughts~

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