Space Dandy, as the opening to nearly every episode informs us, is a dandy guy in space. In many ways, that’s about all you need to know going into the show even as it begins its second season, though there are of course wider details. Dandy resides in a familiar anime vision of the future space frontier, surrounded by advanced technology and exotic aliens. Finding yet unknown aliens is Dandy’s chosen profession, questing with his miniature robot friend QT and the slacker cat-like alien Meow to achieve this. Hijinks inevitably ensue.
Coming from visionary director Shinichiro Watanabe, it’s perhaps unavoidable that comparisons are made to his much more seriously minded sci-fi drama Cowboy Bebop. Some of that may be justified as an intentional motif of the director (Watanabe has commented his works tend to deal with characters dealing with the divide between this world and the next, with Dandy himself occasionally channeling the same kind of melancholy that helped define Spike) but the show isn’t a case of trying to retread an already beaten path. Episodic stories are certainly a shared factor but here it is more thoroughly used to be fun and imaginative. Anime has produced some classic screwball comedies that nod to pop culture while sending up the industry and while Space Dandy might be more measured in its approach, it makes up a lack of insanity with clever, unique ideas. Parody has arguably become a lost art, but the show does it in such a unique way that it’s very difficult not to appreciate.
The set makes this clear from the start with an episode where the main trio encounters countless alternate versions of themselves across the multiverse. Every single Dandy, QT and Meow is its own unique creation. Also amusing, though going after more well worn material, is a parody of hierarchy-driven American high-school musicals. I’d be remiss to ignore the episode in which secondary character Scarlett hires Dandy as a fake boyfriend to ward off a UC Gundam homaging stalker, which ends up being humorous and heartbreaking in equal measure.
Although the first season was no stranger to variety, it certainly feels that this time around there’s more of a focus on introspective, darker episodes, often with minimal appearances from QT and Meow. Many of these exist to hint at the larger plot that the show has quietly been building up to, but even taken by themselves they’re wonderful vignettes. In the hands of a less capable director and staff these shifts would feel awkward and unpleasant but instead it highlights what an engaged kaleidoscope the series is. It works to reward the thinking viewer without wandering into self-indulgent pretentiousness. In fact the finale itself is clearly tipping its hat to a few of the more famous high stakes metaphysical anime conclusions.
The show boasts a number of episode directors and combined with the Blu-ray transfer, the result is simply sublime with visuals themselves often enough to stir emotion. Long abandoned residences, galactic disco dance-offs, enemy space fortresses…all this and more is designed and rendered with the greatest of care.
Episodes are presented in a choice of Japanese, English and French. I’ve mentioned before that Cowboy Bebop is often considered an anime title arguably better in English than Japanese. While I don’t think that necessarily applies to Space Dandy, the dub is incredibly strong. Much was made of the show premiering in this format, and it’s a triumphant effort from FUNimation. I was especially skeptical since many of their other dubs of comedy titles seem to throw out the original script and resort to tasteless jokes, but Space Dandy gets a respectfully produced dub with minimal changes, such as QT’s voice receiving an auto-tune filter. One element that is present in both versions but seems especially accented by the dub is the narrator’s similarity to that in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, calmly and authoritatively providing exposition on the wonders and horrors of the universe.
Being a Watanabe production, the other audio factor to discuss is music. Various styles are presented and utilised to great effect, especially in ‘Rock N Roll Dandy, Baby’ where the crew and a new friend form an underground band with chart aspirations. Most anime have strong soundtracks, but here Watanabe’s love for music and all the different styles it can take is lovingly apparent. Nothing quite stirs the soul as a production that can so clearly communicate the creator’s love of life.
Each of the special musically-focused end credits receive text free versions in the extras, along with the funky opening. Aside from this you’ll also get a production art reel that’s just under half an hour, and a collection of Japanese trailers for the show. The actual retail release will also contain case artwork exclusively created by character designer Yoshiyuki Ito, a 148-page art book, and twenty (count ’em) art cards.
Space Dandy highlights exactly why Shinichiro Watanabe is acclaimed the world over. The man knows not only how to generate and communicate ideas but also how to cultivate teams of talent that can best realise these ideas. If you’re tired of some of the more cliché plots floating around the anime sinkhole then Space Dandy is certainly the change you’ve been looking for. Clever, funny and drawing from pop culture without just lazily citing it, Space Dandy has got the moves, baby! All killer and no filler.The thread view count is