Space Dandy: he’s a dandy guy… in space! Combing the galaxy for runaway aliens on his spaceship – the Aloha Oe – Dandy’s robot assistant QT and a freeloading cat named Meow join him on his many bounty hunts and wacky adventures. Dandy just wants to enjoy the finer things in life: good food, money, and beautiful women. Aside from visiting his favorite restaurant Boobies, Dandy’s journey across space takes him to faraway planets, new encounters of the strange kind, and bump-ins with familiar friends. All the while, he’s being pursued by the enigmatic Dr. Gel and his assistant Bea. What nefarious purpose do they have in store for Dandy and crew?
Plot and Story
I love Space Dandy. I absolutely adore this anime and wholeheartedly recommend it to those who aren’t even into anime. If Cowboy Bebop was the subdued, sci-fi action drama anime, Space Dandy is its more open and funnier Space Western cousin. This is arguably the most fun Watanabe anime and he enlists some brilliant directors and writers to help him. Frequent writing collaborators Dai Sato and Keiko Nobumoto return to write some episodes, along with guest directors like Sayo Yamamoto, Masaaki Yuasa, and Shingo Natsume among others. Much like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, episodes are formatted without much continuity, so you don’t necessarily need to watch it in chronological order. Such a format invites the opportunity for more diverse storytelling and experimental art styles, with each episode having their own flare to them. It takes place in space after all, so the narrative possibilities are endless.
So, what about the story then? Well, there’s only one thing to keep in mind and that’s Dandy. He’s the focal character of the entire series for a reason (which I won’t reveal), so expect stories to involve him and his crew trying to capitalize on an opportunity. It’s also funny seeing the interactions of Dr. Gel and Bea, as they appear in most episodes chasing after Dandy, only to be screwed over by various circumstances. It isn’t until the last two episodes where we see why they’re tracking him down, but I’ll leave that up to you to find out.
Space Dandy takes itself to many different places and I appreciate its outside-the-box-thinking. Stories range from Dandy and his crew rocking and dancing with superstars, turning into zombies, discovering hostile aliens and abandoned planets, repeating the same day in the style of Groundhog Day, and so much more. No ground is left uncovered in this anime and we’re introduced to a variety of colorful characters. Such narrative gimmicks are similar to Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, but Space Dandy goes above and beyond its episodic nature and takes advantage of it to craft an interesting series. It’s funny, touching, bizarre, and just plain dandy.
If you’re still not convinced, my favorite episode involves Dandy and the Aloha Oe crew getting roped into a high school musical (no I’m not kidding). In search of a rare alien, Dandy finds himself on Planet Clipon and transfers in as a student at Baberly Hills High. There, he encounters the mean popular kids getting ready for the annual prom and befriends a nerdy girl named Freckles. In order to outshine everyone at the prom, Dandy decides to make Freckles his prom date and trains her to shed the nerdy image. This episode was a joy to watch because of all the musical numbers Dandy and the other characters break out into. Both the sub and dub versions of the episode manage to pull it off effectively and the featured songs are pretty catchy. It makes for a nice parody episode overall and I really wish more anime did this the way Space Dandy does.
Art & Animation
The art and animation is reminiscent of retro sci-fi pulp space stories in the style of Flash Gordon and Silver Age comics. The use of the superb funk and disco music by the Space Dandy Band goes along well with Yasuyuki Okamura’s theme song for the anime ‘Viva Namida.’ The music complements the ever-changing art style and the tone the anime establishes. This is demonstrated in the Yuasa directed episode ‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Baby.’ Although there are very colorful characters presented within imaginative settings in space, Space Dandy isn’t afraid to head into more serious territory. One of the most sombre episodes ‘The Lonely Pooch Planet, Baby’ balances a dour storyline while also maintaining some humor in the end. I appreciate how flexible anthology series like this can be in the stories they tell.
While most episodes focus on Dandy, his crewmates QT and Meow also get dedicated episodes of their own. To balance Dandy’s free and hedonistic lifestyle, QT is usually the one with a level head and rational decision making (because he’s a robot and all). However, you can’t really dislike him because you do sympathize with him trying to make everything make sense. He also has a bittersweet love story worth watching later on. Meow’s really funny too, playing the slacking freeloader on the ship. He definitely acts like more of the comic relief in the series, but that’s probably because he usually ends up in situations out of his control. Overall, these three core characters keep the series intact by giving us enough charm to make us stick around.
You’ll have a grand fun time watching Space Dandy. Every episode keeps you entertained in some way or another because of their uniqueness and you’ll grow attached to Dandy, QT, and Meow. I recommend trying to watch episodes out of order and experiencing the different art styles and stories by themselves. If not, you’ll enjoy the journey you’ll take with Dandy and the many friends and foes along the way. After all, isn’t that what anime’s all about, baby?