Space Dandy (Ep. 1-5)

Space Dandy

The weakest parts of Space Dandy are the boob jokes. That’s unfortunate, because the show leads with the titular character ranting about being more of a butt man than a breast man, then makes a beeline for the intergalactic version of Hooters, appropriately called “Boobies.” Sadly, thats not the only monologue within the pilot episode that could be described as rambling and stupid. But viewers who stick with it are rewarded with a monster-fighting action sequence that is remarkably well-staged, especially for a television series. Already five episodes in, its almost feature-film production values have hardly wavered. And that’s an impressive achievement.

There were a lot of unrealistic expectations heaped upon Space Dandy because its director Shinichiro Watanabe also worked on the acclaimed Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. All three series are about a small band of drifters surviving from paycheck to paycheck performing the most odd and dangerous jobs. That’s were the similarity ends. Unlike those earlier efforts, Space Dandy is aggressively upbeat. Not to mention light on continuity. The cast actually dies in the pilot episode, and things don’t get any easier for them from there. But this is an affectionate parody of those classic swashbuckling space adventures, so killing his cast, only to resurrect them in the next episode is just all part of the gag. Space Dandy the protagonist is a doofus, not to mention a sexist jerk. And that’s the point. It’s not a particularly profound point to make, but does it have to be? As the show itself exhorts, “Go with the flow, baby.”

And Space Dandy is a candy-colored visual treat. This is not the dystopian or post-apocalyptic future that currently pervades much of today’s sci-fi. The show's setting is a bit closer to yesteryear's shining world of tomorrow. It glides from one gorgeously-drawn set piece to the next. And there are almost always a bevy of aliens crowding the background, as if it’s constantly trying to outdo the cantina scene from Star Wars. To call it world-building would be way too generous, but there is plenty of stuff to marvel at - the endless variety of space ramen being consumed, a futuristic version of Twitter, Hawaiian-themed mecha, hideous transmogrifying monsters, or a hospital infested by space zombies. Every episode satirizes/pays homage to one particular theme (Episode five recalls Cowboy Bebop), and the one important plot point that carries over is a running gag about a villain who is hounding the oblivious Dandy for us yet unexplained reasons. The writing for this narrative structure is naturally uneven, but there haven’t been any horrible episodes yet. And Space Dandy can even be clever, such as when it subverts itself during the zombie episode.

Animax is currently airing the english language dub, which I don’t feel the need to complain about. I’ve gotten a lot less snooty about the whole dub vs. sub issue after years of reading poorly worded and overly-literal fansubs and scanlations. In this particular case, the anime’s producers have been targeting the foreign market from the very beginning, and they’ve done a better than average job matching the voice quality to the carefree tone of the series. So unless they’re trying to disguise the fact that Space Dandy is a serious existential drama in Japan, I’m down with that.