Really, that’s all you need to know going into Space Dandy, the latest psychotrophic animated series from the brilliant minds behind Cowboy Bebop (Shinichiro Watanabe) and a host of other amazing shows. It’s an exploration of what’s possible in animation when you don’t have to worry (too much, at least) about a continuity or a plot. It’s one of the rarest instances of a show that was produced in Japan but aired first (by a matter of hours) in English-language in America. Is Space Dandy really that dandy, or is it a mess of missed opportunities?
Dandy is our starring lead, a man who’s got simple goals in life: get paid and go eat, all while flirting with some girls on the way. As long as they’re humanoid enough (and mature enough), Dandy will make passes at anything that passes by… and if they’re not a species he knows? Capture them and take them for processing, make a fair bounty, and go off to his restaurant of choice, BooBies. From there, he can stock up on hot breasts and chicken wings… or hot wings and woman thighs… or whatever semi-innuendo-esque parlance you’d like to roll with. On his adventures, he has two loafers with him, and they’re not on his feet. Meow, a Betelgeusian cat thing and QT, a robot vacuum cleaner, both mooch off Dandy and let him handle the hard work, but will help out in one way or another if need be… and the justification’s good enough. Naturally, beyond story reasons for them to be on Dandy’s aimless journey, they also manage to drive a few of the plots, such as Meow’s trip back home (that he’s desperately tried to escape) and what drove QT to drink coffee. Beyond them, you have the ill-defined Dr. Gel, the “adversary” of Dandy that’s more Dr. Weird from Aqua Teen Hunger Force than Dr. Wily of Megaman.
Honey and Scarlet feature as the two female supporting cast in recurring roles (assuming you don’t count nominally gender-neutral QT), while a host of episode-specific characters make an impact, ranging from a little girl that melts Dandy’s heart, QT’s love interest/cappuccino maker, Meow’s family, or even a monster that consists of nothing but human breasts. One character that manages to get into the fun is the Narrator, a vaguely-objective voice of God that will get bored with the dialogue and bail on it, turn into a zombie if that’s what everyone else is doing, or otherwise be a surprisingly-entertaining character that could be treated with all sorts of seriousness. If the Narrator isn’t along for the ride, he’ll just be the straight man while still being funny.
Space Dandy is a bit of an odd duck in the modern animation scene, since it doesn’t have dozens of cute girls to claim as your “waifu,” everyday adventures in daily life, any sort of marketable toy or mascot, or even a series of giant robots. The show’s nothing but the episodic adventures of a guy and his pals trying to hunt down exotic alien species that have never been found and cataloged before. Continuity is largely tossed to the wind, with such oddities as Meow joining the team in the first episode (that happens to get everyone killed). If you can’t get past the concept that continuity can be used when it works but discarded when it’s used up (something that DC Comics is actively tackling with their Convergence event of spring), you’ll struggle trying to figure out how the show “works.” You’re also probably one of the people debating if the Futurama crossover episode of The Simpsons “counts,” and are completely missing the big concept of the series. It’s fun, and it’s a showcase of directors and artists getting away with whatever they can.
As an aside, it’s not that the show is complete laughs. For example, there’s a somberness to the episode where Meow returns home (a place that’s never what you remember, but not always as bad as you thought) that will make you want to go visit your parents. Of course, this is balanced with an episode that’s a parody of Wacky Races and one where the entire galaxy dies. So… you have a nice balance.
Later episodes will actually show the connective tissue for the series that may seem missing early on, and some of the commentary makes a good pitch: if you’re showing somebody Space Dandy for the first time, don’t go with the first episode. While “pilots” are usually weaker than the rest of shows, this pilot is a bit out-there with the infamous “kill ‘em all” ending of the episode. It may set the precedent for anything and everything happening in the show, but it also is a bit jarring and may set up up the misconception that every episode might end the same way.
Visually the show is amazing. A variety of hands all lend their own unique viewpoint to the series. A quick look at the cover and designs tell you that the series is going to be something else, with Dandy’s retro-futuristic pompadour and sideburns, the hyper-sexualized and Americanized iteration of Hooters in the series, and the closets thing to a series villain flying around in a spaceship that looks like the Statue of Liberty in a spiked ballgag. Audio-wise, you’ve got some great music with a dub that is at least theoretically on a faster timetable than what would be ideal or desired, given the rush to get the series to actually premiere on Adult Swim’s Toonami instead of anywhere on Japanese television. Of our main three characters, Dandy is perfectly absurd and silly, QT is cute and well-modified digitally, and Meow finds that great balance between innocent and manipulative sad-sack.
There have been three versions of Season One released. The standard Blu-ray/DVD combo set contains nothing but discs. There’s also the Amazon-exclusive Aloha Oe boxed set and the FUNimation-exclusive BooBies boxed set. This review covers the BooBies set, which includes all sorts of BooBies promotional material, including a pendant, stickers, a Customer Loyalty card, a trucker cap, and a 2015 calendar. Admittedly, the set didn’t ship until the first two months of the calendar were done, but all of the included items are incredibly nice and thought out, representing an absurd commitment and brand design for a fictional breastaurant. Despite the titular (pun sorta intended?) name of the restaurant, it all comes in a shoebox-sized box filled with rough sketches on the inside, but the short shorts on the outside that are iconic of the future chain. Included in the all-purpose collection is an art box that collects a handful of exclusive art cards and can hold the upcoming Season Two. As with the recent Cowboy Bebop boxed set, FUNimation has really been amazing with their Blu-ray sets with optional physical extras. It’s up to you if you want to walk around with a hat that simply says “BooBies” or hang the pendant in your work cube, but they’re unique collectibles that are going purely to the fans that would want it.
On the discs, you have an enjoyable set of extras that you can finish in less than two hours. Two episodes feature commentary by the English crew, who also take part in the Dandy Guy In Space mini-documentary about the production of the English-language version. Promotional videos include the teaser trailer for volume 1; two Japanese promotional videos; a set of commercials for the TV airing; Blu-ray, and DVD releases in Japan; the textless opening and closing; and the US Trailer. Despite the show’s notoriety for premiering on Toonami before Japan, there’s nothing (outside of mentions by the cast) to note this, such as a commentary by the Adult Swim crew or any sort of promotional material from the airing. We don’t even get the odd intro that was exclusive to the airing of the first few episodes.
If you have any malaise about the current state of the Japanese animation industry, a lack of interest in seeing “the same old thing” or the latest in an ongoing franchise, or even if you just want a Japanese show that’s more influenced by American Saturday morning cartoons or late-night “mature” animation, you owe it to yourself to make it to BooBies… or at least, check out Space Dandy. The actual BooBies set is entertaining, but you might not be Dandy enough to wear a trucker hat, hang a calendar, and wave a pendant of such a uniquely-titled fictional restaurant. With such a quality series hidden in the box, though, you owe it to yourself to try something new.The thread view count is