Dandy—a dandy guy… in space!—is an intergalactic alien hunter with a coif as spectacular as his love for himself. Together with his partners QT and Meow, the egomaniacal Dandy travels through space looking for aliens to register and spends the cash rewards at BooBies, a lurid chain of friendly “breastauraunts.” Masafumi Harada and artists Sung-Woo Park and Red Ice offer two volumes of Dandy’s adventures based on the anime series by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop). It’s fun enough, but an overreliance on the original source material makes these volumes a bit of a stale read.
Harada’s Space Dandy manga is a straightforward adaptation of the show’s two seasons, though it leaves out notable episodes that explain the central story arc involving Dandy and the Gogol Empire, led by the skull-faced Admiral Perry. Without this story to give dimension to Dandy and the universe he occupies, these self-contained chapters simply highlight his buffoonery, love for sexy girls, and occasionally display his heart of gold. The thing is, I’ve already seen these chapters on TV, and I’d wager that a lot of other readers have, too. Maybe I’m an outlier, but I expect that manga adapted from television shows will strike a good balance between old and new content—and in a world like Dandy’s, there’s too much potential for new planets, aliens, and wacky adventures to keep retreading familiar ground.
Comparatively speaking, the first volume is the better read because it offers more new stories than the second book, which is largely a rehash. It’s too bad there isn’t more fresh content from Harada, whose original tales are really good; I especially enjoyed the chapter in which Scarlet, the put-upon employee who is always scanning Dandy’s alien specimens, breaks out from the role of background character and takes Dandy on a zany chase to recapture an important keepsake. Given the quality of Harada’s writing, I wish he’d had more chances to do his own thing, rather than being a slave to pre-existing content.
I enjoyed the Space Dandy anime series out of strong appreciation for Shinichiro Watanabe; it’s also funny, beautifully animated, and the soundtrack is spectacular. For obvious reasons, the visual and musical spectacle that breathes life into the series is absent from the manga, and this absence is notable. I mean, what would Cowboy Bebop be without Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts? Like its predecessor, Space Dandy is best viewed in motion because it dazzles the senses. Although Harada’s writing is good enough, and the artwork is fantastic and faithful to the source material, it lacks punch and pizzazz. Space Dandy doesn’t really work without its acid-laced jet fuel. In the end, the manga is a mostly flavorless attempt to recreate the spirit of the show—better watched than read.
by Masafumi Harada and BONES
Art by Sun-Woo Park and Red Ice
Vol 1 ISBN: 9780316272322
Vol 2 ISBN: 9780316276092
Yen Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 16+