Wednesday 8 October 2014

Anime REVIEW: Space Dandy

Space Dandy

There have been quite a few extremely popular anime shows that have aired in the past year, but I don't think any have sparked off as much interesting conversation as Space Dandy. One of the latest ventures from prolific studio Bones, this show also features famed Cowboy Bebop (plus others) director ShinichirĊ Watanabe at the helm. But on top of those already pretty impressive credentials, Space Dandy is also part of that very exclusive club of shows that has received a simuldub. That's right - as the Japanese language version was being released, we Westerners were also getting a full English version via Funimation and Adult Swim. Now I'm usually a sub man myself, but considering this rather impressive venture I thought it obligatory I checked out the dub. And rather unexpectedly, that's also the version I ended up sticking with.

Space Dandy is a show that, funnily enough, follows a man that goes by the name of Space Dandy. And as the narrator tells us at the beginning of each episode, he's a dandy space. Dandy is an alien hunter, and along with his near-obsolete vacuum cleaner of a robot QT he combs the galaxy in search of rare aliens to take to the Alien Registration Centre. Rounding off their motley crew is Meow, a cat-like Betelguesian alien mistaken for being rare who ended up just sticking around on their ship - the Aloha Oe.

Dandy and co travel the universe in search of rare aliens getting in all sorts of misadventures along the way. From being blown to pieces to entering high speed races, infiltrating high schools and more. However one place you'll always find them is Boobies - a self-proclaimed "Breastaurant" which Dandy is a particular fan of. However Dandy is also a wanted man - hunted down by the giant gorilla scientist Dr. Gel on behalf of the Gogol Empire. Why exactly they want him is a reason even unknown to Dandy himself.

Meow & QT
Meow and QT

With the first episode ending on the rather surprising note of our heroes being blown to smithereens, it's immediately clear that Space Dandy isn't your usual ongoing anime series. In fact, continuity seems to be the last thing it has on its mind. Rules are completely thrown out of the window, and there's nothing here stopping characters from dying or having irreversible changes made in one episode only to have them reappear perfectly fine and back to normal in the next. If you're adamant that you want strict continuity in your anime then you'll probably have a hard time getting to grips with Space Dandy, even if I promise you that it all makes sense in the end. There IS an overall story lost in the myriad of craziness that makes up Space Dandy, but its more of a reward for making your way through the entire thing than something viewers should forever be holding out for.

The popular zombie episode
Death stops nothing

The series ran for a total of 26 episodes, with each episode taking on very different styles and tones. Its as if each episode's staff was simply given the list of characters from Watanabe and then just told to go nuts with them. So naturally it can sometimes feel like your watching a different anime each episode just from the huge range the show has. There's comedy episodes, there's serious episodes, there's romance episode, there's though-provoking ones and so on and so forth. The upside to this is that you never know quite what to expect from Space Dandy, but the downside is that it's unlikely you'll coming out loving them all. You can't really place a label on which episodes are bad and which are good because it's all going to be down to the viewer's individual tastes, but there are ones that are just instant classics. The other downside being the aforementioned continuity issue - if you really like the ending of one episode and hope to see it expanded on in the future, be prepared to have it never brought up in the future again. You could count the additional things that have a recurring appearance in this show on one-hand.

Dr Gel
Good to see Mojo Jojo still getting work

The experimental story-telling style is what makes Space Dandy such a unique viewing experience, but it's the characters that really make you stick around for the whole thing. Make no mistake, Dandy is a loser - but it is undoubtedly one of the coolest losers you will ever come across. The man just oozes personality, and steals every scene he's in. QT plays the straight-man role to Dandy's outlandishness but proves to be equally incompetent, while Meow is pretty much content with his life of loafing around the Aloha Oe (apart from when they have no money to eat). The three work brilliantly together so its not wonder a lot of the show's best moments are built around their interactions and reactions to things, and you'll keep rooting for them even if you know they'll ultimately fail. The secondary cast are just as enjoyable, even if you lament how Dandy will never get with Scarlet or not quite understand why Dr. Gel is there half the time.

With Bones handling animation duties it was already a pretty good guarantee that the show was going to look great, but the studio really went all out with the range of different styles each episode utilises. Some of the imagination is simply captured in the weird and wonderful aliens that populate the universe of Space Dandy, while other episodes are just clearly there to be pure art porn. This is accompanied by a pretty kickass soundtrack too, courtesy of the appropriately named Space Dandy Band.

The disco episode
Disco baby

Space Dandy is a never-ending roller coaster of craziness, laughs and wonderful characters that has something for nearly everyone. Want zombies? Space Dandy has you covered. High school romance? No problem. Giant robots? There's a few surprises waiting for you. Some of the episodes may be misses, but you can't fault the show for having such huge scope and imagination. It's sad that it had to end, because it could have easily gone on for much longer and continued to be just as enjoyable. Space has never been so dandy.

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