Saturdays won’t be quite the same without Viva Namida or X-Dimension.
When I heard that Shinichiro Watanabe was going to directing yet another series, I was surprised that it involve the space setting once again. I was expecting something around the lines of his usual works that combined a setting and a musical theme to provide a contrasting world but either way, I was happy he was back into the industry.
I was puzzled though. Space Dandy’s premise seemed like nothing to brag about. It just simply read “A Dandy in space”. With this in mind, I had no idea what to expect. Thankfully enough, I got more than I expected.
First thing’s first: Dandy is a hard series for me to review. I usually don’t get the opportunity to review episodic shows and Dandy is the only one in recent memory that did this format of viewing. Thanks to not being “linear” or being cliche in terms of plot (or lack thereof) Dandy is something I will have to essentially address as a whole. That basically means me judging all the episodes at once and that alone can be just done by compiling the episodes and grading them 1 by 1 and see if the good episodes outdo the bad but from my memories, there were definitely good episodes than the bad. The only bad ones I can think of off the top of my head number around 5.
Another category of episodes are the mixed episodes. Mixed episodes are as they sound like, they’re normally boring episodes that pick up the pace near the end and vice versa. The episodes that comes to me vividly was the episode with the Pants and Shirt aliens that had the most uninteresting concept in my opinion but the episode was saved in its last few minutes with Dandy surfing to the Stardust Pipeline tune. An example of where a good episode turned sour was the essential dog episode that had a touching first half but left a bad taste in my mouth with the tiny aliens.
I still think it would be safe to consider that a majority of Dandy’s episodes are generally enjoyable while there definitely are a few that aren’t up to par. I mean, seeing some of the episodes in crisp Blu-ray quality right now really says something about the really good parts of the series. The boring parts are definitely boring but when it’s time to flip the switch to overdrive, Dandy knows exactly how to show it to you, and how to make it sound for you.
So that leads us to the actual content and to address a ever-shifting, episodic plot line, we’ll need to talk about its constants which are the characters. While I would usually go for the wall-0f-text style character lists, there’s a bit too many to address so I’ll just have to deal with them in a old-fashioned paragraph style. Dandy however will be tackled at the end. That leaves us with the regular crew of QT and Meow. Other than the testimony Dandy gave in the penultimate episode on how he ended up with QT, I honestly expected a bit more chemistry between the two. A sort of origin story that got the two defunct individuals stuck with each other. Thankfully, the QT centered episode was probably one of my favorites from Dandy and while QT doesn’t get to partake in the bigger episodes, I still found him enjoyable. Meow was, for me, a lesser QT. We already saw the circumstances to his introduction he’s not that much of a deep crewmember. Like QT, Meow his own episode with his family which i thought would be a bit more touching but I guess it got a nice message across on family expectations.
Then we have our other reoccurring members. The duo of Dr. Gel and Bea were always fun to watch and I lament the fact that Bea was not really who he was but nonetheless, the two make for an entertaining duo in most of their appearances. Then we have Scarlet and Honey who I kept thinking were not really deserving of being part of the main cast montage in the opening. S2 gave them a bit more spotlight so I guess my complaints are moot. Scarlet got herself a cliche but enjoyable episode while Honey’s Cloudian origin really didn’t make a difference at the end. Of all people, Johnny was the other reoccurring character. I loved his episode and I would have been highly disappointed if he didn’t show up for the final episode. Generally speaking, the side characters were likable.
Now we’re all about Dandy. The man, the legend. The titular character of the show that has the understandable majority of episode prominence to himself. Dandy has his life figured out. All that he devotes his life for is the restaurant chain Boobies and pretty much nothing else. It’s the simple way of life Dandy lives but only in the strangest job environment he could hope for. There’s nothing really too complex about Dandy, even though he gets the most amount of complex episodes. He has his priorities set like this: Getting job done = Money and Money = Boobies. Dandy does have some genuine kindness in him though. Nearly everyone’s favorite episode was the one with him helping Adelie and that showed Dandy’s good side and his heart. Other than that, Dandy’s near semi-proficiency in the things he does actually gets explained later. I hate to be spouting repetitive lines but I can’t help it. Dandy is literally a suave, adaptive, dandy guy in space.
Space Dandy like a handful of shows each season attempt to break the mold of the easy-money schemes of highschool anime. The episodes are not rarely ever connected and it does not hand us a plot until the very end where it surprises us that it had a rather semi-hidden plot playing in the background. If Dandy must be praised on anything however, it has to be the visuals and music. The glory of the space setting is that we still don’t know what’s out there and Dandy’s creative design of aliens, it’s vibrant colors, and the many unique settings the episodes takes place. The planet of plants, the galactic railways, the colorful lights of towns, even to the ramen shops, Space Dandy oozes color and style when you’re not peering into the vast sea of space.
Now I’m listening to the soundtrack at this very moment as I type these lines and I can tell you, Space Dandy does not hold back in its music. Much like the crazy visuals that accompany it, Dandy’s soundtrack is something I have to particularly mention. While Shinichiro Watanabe wasn’t exactly the maker of the tracks, his direction with combining multiple styles together is superb. Following Cowboy Bebop with Yoko Kanno, Samurai Champloo with Nujabes and co, Space Dandy has a multitude of artists that provide tracks that blend together Hawaiian resort tracks, techno, and generally funky tunes. I’m no expert when it comes to judging music but I will say that the soundtrack and its uses fit very well to the show.
Maybe Space Dandy came at the right time, but I find it hard to hate. The show is definitely for the Western audience and while some purists might go against that idea, Space Dandy decided to pull something different. It definitely isn’t the most deep show, sometimes it isn’t even the funniest. However, Dandy does what it wanted to do, bringing the wonder of space back again whereas everything else is confined to the walls of a highschool. Dandy is by no means an absolute masterpiece, it is however a visual and musical wonder. Space Dandy did not set itself up for anything grand, nor did it have a premise that promised great things. Space Dandy is just the regular adventures of a man, a cat, and a robot with glorious funk in the background spread across a tapestry of visual style. The fact that I’m using screenshots of the show instead fan-art should say something.
A big factor that I forgot to mention was the topic on either watching Space Dandy Subbed or Dubbed. Space Dandy is the rare case (and in my memory, the only case) where the anime aired in the West than in Japan first. Other than targeting the Western audience a bit more with the timing of episode release, I have to give it to the English dub for keeping a very high quality experience. This normally happens when not too many highschool girls are in the show since the U.S literally cannot do any of their voices correctly. So thanks to the setting of Space Dandy, the dub was very well done. The sub of course is great too but I felt like the dub captured the western style a bit more.
Maybe it’s because the highschool theme is seriously jading on me at this point in time. Maybe it’s because Space Dandy is the closest thing to Galaxy Angel with its reoccurring deaths, great music, and a charm all its own in space. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t know what to expect and I was blown away by the style and music. Dandy is one of those exceptions to my dislike towards series without a central “plot”. Stemming from my dislike towards slice-of-life moe, I can forgive Dandy. In lieu with that fact, Dandy at its core is not there to deliver a message, instead it’s there to fully entertain. Of course, not all of it is great but the parts that are great do not hold back. It is as a joyride through space in all its unexpected sounds and views.