Sunday, January 5, 2014

First Impression: Space Dandy

Space Dandy was produced by Bones.

There are few names in every genre that even very casual fans know.

In film it's names like Spielberg and Cameron while in writing there are names like Salinger or Tolkien. In anime one of those names has to be Watanabe.

With the boom of anime in the 90s and early 00s titles such as Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus became some of the go to titles for anime fans to watch with friends and love ones in order to convince them that anime is more than porn and Dragon Ball.

Like any good film director, his name has weight and when that person releases something new, people take notice.

Space Dandy is an anime series directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and Shingo Natsume (animation director of Welcome to the NHK) and produced by Bones.

As the show's trailer and intro explains Space Dandy is about a Dandy guy in space. However, if you need to know more, the basic plot revolves around Alien Hunter/Zap Brannigan fan club member Dandy and his auto-tuned robotic vacuum cleaner/assistant QT.

While other character's are soon introduced one important character is the shows narrator. While the idea of a narrator is nothing new, this show seems to have fun using him to break down the fourth wall much like the video game A Bard's Tale.

Within the opening seconds of the show it's clear its going to be a bit of a ride, with little time spent explaining things to the audience as the narrator only spends around 30 seconds setting up the story as a whole.

The group and the narrator explain that alien hunters must locate and capture undiscovered alien species in order for the alien registry to give them payment (a bit like bounty hunting from Bebop).

With this basic concept the first episode places the heroes in a bar called Boobies, one of the universes brestaurants that look like a cross between the Star Wars Cantina and a Hooters.

From there Dandy ogles the waitresses until the two meet Meow, a cat-like alien trying to take pictures of the waitresses without people noticing.

While Dandy first thinks he's a new type of alien he soon sees that he's just your run of the mill normal cat creature from space.

However, Meow tells the two that he knows where new undiscovered aliens are and the three fly in their ship and warp to another planet.

Our heroes from left to right: Dandy, Meow and QT

Unknown to the three, the evil Dr. Gel are on their trail in their own ship.

According to the doctor Dandy has the key to his master's universal domination.

The two parties don't even interact as Dandy warps away before the doctor can even twirl his evil facial hair.

The rest of the episode revolves around Meow and Dandy teleporting down to the planet and interacting with it's inhabitants. As you might expect it doesn't go well and high jinks ensue that leads to the episodes sudden ending.

Space Dandy is something of an oddity in the anime world.

While there are a lot of wacky over the top titles out there, few seem as crazy as this one.

The show seems to have a kind of whimsical joy about it's story and doesn't give the audience a lot of back story to work with before the action starts.

I think this promotional image might give you an idea as to what the show is like

We know pretty much what we need to know to understand the basic plot and the rest will be explained later through the narrator's forgetful exposition.

However, this only adds to the charm of Space Dandy.

Series writers Dai Sato (Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain), Keiko Nobumoto (Michiko to Hatchin, Macross Plus) and Kimiko Ueno (Shin Chan) help add end up writing the show as an almost space anime version of Adventure Time with the basic plot taking a backseat to the character's interactions with each other and the world around them.

While Watanabe had gone in silly directions with Samurai Champloo the action was based in a genre that had a number of set rules and traits. However, Sci Fi can be a fun adventure with over the top visuals and strange alien designs. Space Dandy uses these ideas and gets to play around with them like a child would with his toy collection, once again like Adventure Time.

Animation wise, Space Dandy seems to be in the middle between chaos and normality. While other Bones titles like Soul Eater had a more stylized look, at times Dandy looks a lot like most normal anime titles.

However, the show seemingly isn't afraid to move into over the top visuals and blurring speed lines in ridicules action scenes.

Backing up the visuals is the funky soundtrack organized by Yasuyuki Okamura. The music really starts to stick out during the shows final action pack minutes and it delivers the punch that the show needs to drive the visuals home.

The show's seemingly has two different themes one for each the English and Japanese versions happening at the same time.

The English version is strong and sets up the shows crazy pace. However, the Japanese theme better represents just how insane the show seemingly is.

Despite this is only being a first impression of what the show could be, the first episode is pretty solid overall.

While the show doesn't' have the depth of a Yamato-like Space Opera, it's not suppose to.

The show is a fun fluffy adventure in space with over the top visuals and story.

Space Dandy won't be for everyone and people who were hoping for another Cowboy Bebop will be disappointed with this space romp but once they get a feel for what the show is and where it could go you'll hardly be disappointed with it.

Space Dandy was produced by Bones. The show is currently being aired in Japan and is being simalcast on Funimation's Website, while the Cartoon Network is airing dubbed episodes on its Toonami block.
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