Space Dandy || Episodes 1-4
Produced by: Cartoon Network/Toonami
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz
The most notable thing about this cartoon to me was that it was from Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of Cowboy Bebop, a show that I always think of as a good starting point for anyone unfamiliar with anime — anime that even people outside of nerdom can easily get into. Because of this, the big question that I had going in with Space Dandy was, “Is this going to be the kind of anime that people who don’t normally watch Japanese animation could get into?” The answer is more complicated than I thought but is basically no. Does that mean it’s bad? Absolutely not.
Space Dandy is the tale of Dandy, a space adventurer who commands the space ship The Aloha Oe. Not quite a bounty hunter, Dandy gets paid by finding new species of alien life and bringing them to some kind of galactic center to be identified and catalogued. He only gets paid when he brings in a new species. Aside from this, Dandy is a galactic Johnny Bravo for a more perverted audience. His mission, aside from capturing new aliens, is to visit every Boobies restaurant in the galaxy (it’s basically Hooters in space). Dandy opens the cartoon with a beautiful monologue about how men who love boobs are infantile, because the ass is where it’s at, which brings me to the most grating aspect of Space Dandy: when it gets perverted, it gets really dumb, and it gets perverted a lot.
Whereas Cowboy Bebop was deeper than its competitors and mixed humor with a serious storyline, Space Dandy has little continuity between episodes. I mean, Dandy dies at the beginning of the first episode and it is never explained. As with many anime shows, however, it takes a couple of episodes to really get into. The animation by Bones studio is simply gorgeous. If you are having trouble liking the show, just stare at the monsters; their design is unique, and you can appreciate all the work put into them, even when they are only on screen for a second.
Aside from Dandy and his Eva, resembling computer assistant QT, we have another character who joins up with him in the first episode — Meow, a Betelgeusian (spelled it right on the first try, whew) who looks like a cat with some squid parts on his head and a cute little hat. They meet in a Boobies restaurant when Dandy tries to nab him, thinking he's a member of a new species. This is really the only important thing that happens in the first episode, besides establishing that this cartoon aims for the lowbrow, and that when monster battles happen, funk comes on, which is played by the Space Dandy Band.
It isn’t until the second episode that we really get an interesting storyline that shows us that Space Dandy’s haphazard and frantic approach to storytelling may yet reveal some gems. In episode two, Dandy and Meow are on the hunt for Space Ramen, the best tasting ramen in the galaxy, made by an unidentified alien. This leads them to ramen shops across the galaxy and eventually to a wormhole in space that spews out this special ramen to restaurants. Weirdness like this and the hot cannibal-alien in the third episode reveal a Star Trek-kind of approach to the storyline and keeps this show worth watching.
The other highlight is the monster battles themselves. They are as epic as Dragon Ball Z without all of the powering up. There isn’t a battle in every episode, but when there is a battle, it is huge, and I mean that in every way. The monsters are taller than buildings and animated with a flair for originality and excess, weird sideways mouths and infinite tentacles. Fans of kaiju will be quite pleased.
I should also mention that there is one single story arc presented; it has to do with a gorilla-man who wears a weird golden G over his eye named Dr. Gel (short for Jelly?). His relationship to Dandy is a comedy of errors in which Dandy constantly bumbles into situations that make him look powerful and smart to Dr. Gel, who because of this is trying to hunt Dandy down. You’ll get him next time, Gel.
A lot of early reviews are going to trash Space Dandy for being sexist and aiming for the lowest kind of humor, but I won’t do that. I think that this show deserves a fighting chance; it has a lot of promise and will either hang itself on its nonsensical episodic nature or succeed because of it. Give it a try, but not just one episode; be smart and marathon the first four. Space Dandy doesn’t break any ground, but it certainly has a lot of fun playing in the dirt.
Space Dandy || Episodes 1-4