A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.
Space Dandy! He’s a dandy guy…in space.
I’ve mentioned in the past, or meant to at least, that I’m not hugely into anime at this point in my life, and that’s true. It’s nothing against the genre (or is it a medium?) it’s just a matter of circumstance. Right now Anime moves so fast and there’s so much to see, that I usually just have to pick one or two series to focus on.
And for much of 2014, the series I was focusing on was Space Dandy. I mean, it was a comedy (good comedy animes are some of my favorites) from director Shinichiro Watanabe, late of the pretty damned good Samurai Champloo and the genre defining Cowboy Bebop (which I previously reviewed for this site). That’s a good enough pedigree to get me interested.
The plot is devoted to the aforementioned Dandy, who is indeed a dandy guy who lives in space. He combs the galaxy like his pompadour (Editor’s Note: Okay, stop quoting the intro). Ahem. Anyway, Dandy is what is known as an alien hunter. The jist is he wanders the galaxy looking for undiscovered alien species to bring in and register them.
He is joined on his mission by QT, a robot who seems to be the most intelligent and competent member of the crew and so naturally get ignored at every turn, and Meow a cat-like alien who…doesn’t actually seem to do much. He is pursued by the minions of the Gogol Empire for reasons the show doesn’t feel like being upfront about. The DVD set I got covers the first 13 episodes.
The most important thing you need to know about Space Dandy‘s humor is that the first episode opens with the leads complaining about the narrator and ends with all of the characters dying in a planetary sized explosion. The next episode begins like nothing ever happened, with only a couple of nods to the fact that all of the characters just died. If that kind of humor doesn’t appeal to you, you should probably avoid this show.
Luckily, it appeals to me. Admittedly, this kind of self aware humor is a very fine line to walk; It can very easily wind up either unfunny or insufferable. Space Dandy walks that line pretty well. The sarcastic, semi-involved narrator reminds me a lot of Arrested Development in a good way. It helps that the writing is extremely funny, allowing the character’s personalities bounce off each other and the increasingly bizarre situations.
I actually set aside this paragraph, in my first draft, to talk about those situations: what they are, why they’re funny, what I think they take inspiration from (I sense a lot of Hitchhiker’s Guide) but I can’t. The thing is, a lot of the humor of the show derives from the humorous situations, and since my psychic powers indicate I’m going to recommend this show (Editor’s Note: You need psychic powers to get insight into your own opinions?) I wouldn’t want to spoil, as then they won’t be funny.
The animation looks pretty good, maybe not quite the same level as Cowboy Bebop but it looks pretty damned good. There are a lot of interesting alien designs on display, visually paying homage to everything from Star Wars to Flash Gordon. I especially like the character design on Dandy, in how much it tells you about his character just by the way he dresses and styles himself.
The DVDs comes with a modest number of special features: a couple of episode commentaries, a making of feature; it’s all pretty solid stuff. The box set I got also came with a hat, a bunch of art cards, and (kind of weirdly) a belt buckle. Of course since the DVD I got only came with the first half of the series, the box of art cards seems to be intended to hold space for the 2nd DVD set. That’s a packaging technique I’ve not seen since Digital Devil Saga in 2005, but it’s one I like.
If I had to come up with something to whine about with regards to Space Dandy (Editor’s Note: You do) they would mostly be things that seem to be inherent in the concept. For instance, it doesn’t seem that Space Dandy is about much of anything. That’s not much an issue for a lighthearted comedy (and I’m given to understand it begins to get some more going on under the hood in the second half) but for now it’s mostly just about the laughs.
I’ll also spend a brief moment whinging about the rather overt and constant fanservice. I know, I know, it’s kind of a regular thing in anime (especially since Space Dandy seems to be going out of it’s way to parody anime tropes), but it does get a little tiring eventually. Of course part of it might just be because I spent so much time trying to figure out if it was being ironic or not.
Regardless of those minor quibbles, Space Dandy is still an excellent little show. It’s well paced, engaging and highly entertaining. I’m not sure it’s going to be a timeless classic like Cowboy Bebop, but I’m not sure it needs to be. If you’re looking for a good comedy anime, hell just a good comedy TV show, Space Dandy comes highly recommended.
Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and that reference was the first time he’d thought about Digital Devil Saga in years…maybe he should replay that.
– hilarious overall
– great characters and situations
– good animation and story
– not a lot of depth
– fanservice can be kind of overwhelming