Good times are ahead with Shinichiro Watanabe at the helm. The director of the critically-acclaimed Cowboy Bebop returns with a series that is the antithesis of that musically-infused sci-fi noir action drama. Space Dandy is raucous and nonsensical, nonlinear and absurd, unhesitatingly breaking the fourth wall for cheap jokes and putting the hero in fatal situations usually reserved for series finales and mid-season cliffhangers. Space Dandy bucks all expectations for a science fiction series—or any television series, for that matter—and saunters across its thirteen episodes to the beat of its own drum.
The entire premise of Space Dandy is such a departure from the norm that it grabs viewers and pulls them along on a thoroughly bizarre adventure. As captain of the Aloha Oe, Dandy—Space Dandy to everyone else—explores the universe as an alien hunter, a tracker who travels to different planets to catalog unknown lifeforms for cash rewards. With his spectacular pompadour, Dandy quickly proves himself a bumbling idiot, an egotistical buffoon who shoots first and doesn’t bother to ask questions at all. His quest for cash is fueled by his obsession with Boobies, an intergalactic chain of Hooters-like “breastaurants” operated by a staff of lovely ladies in skimpy outfits. His antics are suffered by QT, a small, outdated robot vacuum cleaner and frequent victim of Dandy’s reckless stupidity. They are joined by Meow, a cat-like alien from Betelguese who wastes the day playing on his phone, taking selfies, and joining in (sometimes unwillingly) on Dandy’s schemes. Our heroes enjoy strange adventures and odd happenstance, blissfully unaware that they are pursued by the malevolent Gogol Empire, led by the fiery, skull-faced Admiral Perry. Dandy’s capture is the mission of Doctor Gel, a humanoid simian dressed like a 1970s pimp who pilots a ship built from the head of the Statue of Liberty wearing a ball gag.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Space Dandy is wonderfully weird and endearingly stupid. The first season is made up of random, nonlinear adventures, like finding the universe’s best bowl of ramen, fighting off a zombie invasion, joining an intergalactic racing circuit, doing battle with a giant boob alien, and mediating a war between shirt and underwear enthusiasts. Dandy, QT, and Meow will often die in the pursuit of these objectives, but later episodes don’t recognize past exploits or fatal encounters. This cavalier method of storytelling allows the writers to come up with radically imaginative scenarios that let the characters go wild, free from any narrative constraints and strict continuity. Even the show’s narrator has some difficulty keeping up with Dandy and the crew. The dialog is top-notch and I love the role of the narrator in this series, offering exposition, colorful commentary, and insight on the myriad of alien races and cultures.
As a character, Dandy grew on me quickly. He may be an imbecile who constantly screws things up by doing more than is necessary to win the day, but I like that he carries himself as if he is the center the universe. His tenacious spirit and determination to see things through—even if it’s hopeless or means jeopardizing the lives of others—is both funny and endearing. Dandy does have a tender side, particularly when he escorts a young humanoid girl on a journey to find her grandfather. Towards the end of the season, his adventures also lead into some heady, existential territory with cerebral episodes backed by beautiful, surrealist alien landscapes.
FUNimation indicates that this series is intended for viewers ages 14 and older. There are no scenes of over-the-top violence, though the show plays to Dandy’s love for a woman’s bouncy bits with loads of clothed boob and butt shots.
Space Dandy can be cheeky and crass and its hero magnificently stupid, but it’s also one hell of a ride. The characters are wonderful, the writing is hysterical, and the series is packed with numerous references to science fiction films, classic television shows, game shows, and even Cowboy Bebop. The collection ends before the reason behind the Gogol Empire’s interest in Dandy can be revealed, an arc that is likely to be explored in season two. I’m completely OK with the omission because I’m not ready for a far-reaching plot just yet—I want more of its juicy non-sequitur panache instead.
Space Dandy, Season 1
directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, Shingo Natsume
325 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD/Blu-ray Combo Set
Company Age Rating: 14+