The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Space Dandy

Jan 6th 2014

Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3.5  (out of 5)

Review:

Space Dandy is an alien hunter, but not in the sense that he hunts down aliens who have done wrong or out of any xenophobic motivation. No, Space Dandy, that king of 70s style cool, goes around space with his low-budget robot QT on the hunt for new species of alien, in the hopes of getting paid for the discovery. That way he can afford to go to his favorite restaurant chain, Boobies, a not-so-subtle spoof (homage?) of Hooters. It is while visiting such an establishment that he runs into a space ferret with an unpronounceable name, and then they all die. Sort of.

If nothing else, this is a show whose imagery sears itself onto your mind. Full of frenetic movement, cool poses, and creative alien life forms, there is a lot of visual fun to be had in Space Dandy's world. It is somehow reminiscent of the world created by Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Trilogy, with the same creative irreverence and goof ball logic, plus QT seems to owe a fair amount to Marvin from Adams' work. There is a lot of casual sexism, with the only speaking female this episode being a waitress from Boobies and the show opening with Dandy extolling the virtues of the female posterior, and I must say that I found that off-putting. At least all of the waitresses had different figures, with even a green alien lady in the bikini uniform thrown into the line up. The credits and the preview also indicate that a woman who does not wear a bikini will soon be introduced, so this angle bears keeping an eye on.

Regretfully, the images far outdo the story. To be fair, Space Dandy does not seem to try for anything beyond “eye-popping artwork and animation.” This is certainly a valid route to take, but without the stellar visuals, this would really just be about some schlub with an overinflated ego and a put-upon robot schlepping around in space. The first half, with its underwhelmed narrator and some fourth-wall breaking, is significantly more amusing than the second half, which introduces us to an inept villain flying around in a ship that looks like the statue of liberty with a ball gag. There are also a lot of insectoid monsters to be avoided, and while they are neat, they are nowhere near as visually interesting as the patrons of the restaurant.

Space Dandy is going to have to get it together and give me a good story to go with those awesome images if it is going to pull me in. Perhaps I was taken in by the hype, but this is somehow less than what I was hoping for. It isn't bad, but it also isn't captivating me.

Space Dandy is available streaming at Funimation and Hulu, and dubbed Saturday nights on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.


Bamboo Dong


Rating: 4

Review:
With a show as heavily hyped up as Space Dandy, it's hard not to go into the series without huge expectations. And while the series may not be the second coming of Cowboy Bebop, as many were hoping, it does have plenty going in its favor. For starters, the animation in Space Dandy is spectacular, rescuing viewers from the same old humdrum cookie cutter shows that get churned out by the bushel-full every season. From its colorful and kinetic explosions, to its dynamic character movements, it's a show that opens your eyes and forces you to the edge of your seat. There's a certain playfulness to the series, too, combining alien character designs that look like they were cooked up by a classroom full of eager kids, with imagery that can only be described as purposefully tacky. Palm trees and neon pollute the series, an ode to an American aesthetic that is somehow simultaneously homage and gentle mockery.

In fact, the series heavily lampoons American culture, starting with its brazen caricature of Hooters (which in the show is a busty lounge called BooBies) and its patrons, to interspersed shots of a bad guy's ship that can really only be described as the Statue of Liberty with a ball gag. What exactly the show is trying to say may have to wait a few more episode, as we learn more about Space Dandy (other than his declaration of being more of an ass guy) and the other characters that populate the series, but it's certainly amusing enough for the time being.

Overall, while the first episode is certainly entertaining and colorful, Space Dandy feels like a wait-and-see kind of show. It'll be interesting to see whether or not the type of zany-wacky-action-adventure formula can sustain itself, as well as what form any drama may take. It's difficult to really pinpoint what one might have expected from all the hype, but at the very least, Space Dandy hardly disappoints.

Space Dandy is available streaming subtitled at Funimation.com and Hulu, and dubbed Saturday nights on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.


Hope Chapman


Rating: 4

Review:
Long has mankind gazed up at the stars and wondered if intelligent life really exists beyond our own galaxy. Space Dandy promises us a universe teeming with alien life, but none of it intelligent. Dandy himself, an alien hunter, is an impulsive horndog who claims to “go with the flow” but has no problem busting out a laser gun and torching any problem that comes his way. His friends, good-natured cat-alien Meow and weary but optimistic robot QT, humor his antics as he hops from planet to planet searching out new forms of alien life, and making pit stops at his favorite Hooters-esque dining establishment “BooBies.”

From the very beginning, Space Dandy is, well, a dandy-looking show. The art is strong and inviting, boasting the bold roundness and pleasing color palette of Bones’ best-looking shows like Eureka Seven and Star Driver. Even during bouts of super-deformity and super-flatness played up for comedy, the world of Space Dandy has a cuddly fullness and dimension to it that makes all the silliness seem grand-scale. The action blowout of the episode's last five minutes has been talked up a lot for good reason. It's so nutty and fast-paced, it begs to be rewatched again right afterward just to see all the globby, crusty monsters and how the planet-collapsing mayhem is happening. Before the giant monsters even start fighting, there's fun to be had just scanning the background of the Boobies restaurant to see what the lesser denizens of space are doing while they wait for their slug sampler. Every shot is bursting with detail and ludicrosity, as BONES’ talented staff is let off their leashes. It's a shamelessly silly space adventure with an unexpected ending that promises tons of fun to be had in the future.

But fun and funny are two different words, and Space Dandy's claim to be a screwball comedy is the biggest sticking point in what is otherwise a terrific payoff to months of buildup for the Studio BONES and Shinichiro Watanabe collaboration. While few first anime episodes can claim to be as “FUN!!!” as Space Dandy's, the scripted comedy is a little old-hat. 4th wall jokes about a bored narrator, Dandy constantly trying to turn his idiocy into grand philosophical statements (many of them about boobies,) and some very stereotypical “straight man” dialogue out of QT and Meow make Space Dandy a little lame in the buildup, but by episode's end, the show already seems to be improving and refining its material and comic timing. Like past Watanabe series, Space Dandy is likely to be a gumbo of different visual styles and writers’ ideas, and chances are good there will be something to like for everyone along the way. There's a universe of potential ahead, and a few lame jokes aside, Space Dandy has put a very strong foot forward.

Space Dandy is available streaming subtitled at
Funimation.com and Hulu, and dubbed Saturday nights on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.

Zac Bertschy


Rating: 4.5

Review:
As per the narration, Space Dandy is a dandy guy in space. He traverses the wild cosmos with his deadpan robot sidekick QT hunting down new, unidentified species of aliens for a company that catalogues such things, which leads him to all manner of strange and exotic locations - in this episode, he heads to BooBies, a "breastaurant" (which is an actual thing) where aliens of all shapes and sizes come to ogle cleavage. There he meets Meow, a Betelgeusian alien cat who winds up joining him. There's also some nonsense about a bad guy in a gigantic battleship shaped like the Statue of Liberty wearing a ball gag who needs to hunt down Dandy because he's the key to something, but that's less important once he winds up on a planet full of gigantic space worms.

So here's what Space Dandy is: it's a lighthearted, willfully stupid sci-fi comedy that will doubtlessly (albeit vaguely - there isn't much direct inspiration from any of this stuff) remind American viewers of things like Spaceballs, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and maybe even Space Quest in execution and tone. The first half of this episode falls pretty flat - they really run the BooBies stuff into the ground and there are a bunch of super lame meta jokes about the narrator and breaking the fourth wall that just don't work either in the mostly-competent Funimation dub or the Japanese version. There's kind of an "oh no, this is going to suck, isn't it?" feeling at the get-go, considering the massive mountain of unbelievable talent that worked on this show. Frankly, if I could give this show two scores - one for the first half and one for the second - I'd give the first half a 2.

But then something magical happens at the commercial break and without warning the show 1. starts being funny thanks to a welcomed shift from hacky meta humor to character-driven comedy and 2. suddenly becomes this absolutely incredible eye-popping showcase for batshit crazy animation. It is a psychedelic tour-de-force that is instantly reminiscent of the really good parts of Heavy Metal, thrilling moment after thrilling moment that piles up in a breakneck fantasyland of fun imagery. Once they start screwing around with the gigantic grotesque alien goop monsters the episode goes from "eh" to "inspired" and I instantly wanted to see more while simultaneously dreading that they won't have the budget to give every episode a powerhouse segment like this one has.

This series is clearly - and I mean very, very obviously - intended to be a playhouse showcase for Shinichiro Watanabe and his pals to screw around, crack jokes and show off their animation prowess. At no point does the show ever ask you to take it seriously, but it doesn't fall into the same tryhard potholes that a lot of other look-at-us-aren't-we-zany madcap anime comedies do. The potential and point of Space Dandy is all in the second half of this episode, and I personally cannot wait to see what other crazy borderline-experimental stuff Watanabe has in store for us.

Space Dandy is available streaming subtitled at
Funimation.com and Hulu, and dubbed Saturday nights on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.

Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 2.5

Review: Hook Shinichiro Watanabe up with Studio BONES, reunite him with a goodly chunk of his Cowboy Bebop collaborators—including queen of anime music Yoko Kanno—and hype it all to hell with worldwide TV releases and a partnership with Adult Swim and this is what we get? THIS!? This feckless splotch of psychedelic nonsense-comedy? Excuse me while I go scream.

Now that that's out of my system, this might be the time to mention that, by most standards, Dandy is a reasonably decent space comedy. If you value visual imagination and hallucinogenic panache, it may even be considerably more than that. Especially if you value them more than you value, say, humor. The problem is that, given its lineage, it should be better than “decent.” Much better. Anyone following the show's rollout knew not to expect another Bebop, but it isn't unreasonable to expect something funny and substantial from a director of Watanabe's caliber. (And we know he can do humor; both Bebop and Samurai Champloo were screamingly funny at times).

Instead we are treated to the dubious adventures of Dandy, a lunkheaded explorer in search of new alien species. He has two partners—QT, a robot of suspect quality, and Meow, a cat-alien of suspect intelligence—and approximately as many brain cells. His favorite place is Boobies, a restaurant whose main attraction should be obvious, and his favorite pastime is wreaking accidental havoc on an epic scale. Which may sound funny but isn't. Not really. Just weird and deadpan and deeply nonsensical.

Now, to be fair, the show is a visual tour de force. It's a space opera as imagined by Tex Avery: anarchic and illogical; infinite in its multifarious strangeness and boundless in its mad imagination. But dig beneath that and you'll find… nothing. Just a giant sucking emptiness devoid even of compensatory laughs.


Space Dandy is available streaming subtitled at
Funimation.com and Hulu, and dubbed Saturday nights on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.

Theron Martin


Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Review: Space Dandy is a suave, pompadour-stylin’ guy whose job in a distant-future sci fi setting is to traverse the universe looking for new alien species to register. Of course that doesn't stop him from frequenting Boobies, a Hooters-like chain of restaurants which caters to an incredible diversity of aliens and humans alike, all of whom (whether humanoid or not) seem to get turned on by humanoid female breasts. It is at one such establishment that he and his obsolete robot sidekick QT encounter a catlike Betelgeusian they come to call Meow, whom they initially mistake for being a new species of alien. Meow shows them to a planet with all sorts of new aliens, albeit big ones intent on knocking the pair around. Oh, and some big-shouldered guy who's the servant of an evil skull-face overlord seeks out Space Dandy because he's the key to something or another of great importance.

As the brainchild of Shinichiro Watanabe, this title was highly-anticipated, and visually at least it does not disappoint. It looks every bit as bold, brassy, sexy, and completely ridiculous as one might expect, with colors that are bright to the point of garish being the norm. The problem is that the visuals alone are not enough – not thrilling enough (though they do try very hard) or fresh enough to compensate for random, generic storytelling. The series tries to be funny by regularly breaking the fourth wall, but only occasionally does the writing hit the mark there, either. In fact, the best thing about the first episode may actually be the English voice acting, which is perfectly-cast with Funimation regulars and well-performed.

Ultimately the problem is not that the first episode is bad, but that it is merely ordinary. 

Space Dandy is available streaming subtitled at
Funimation.com and Hulu, and dubbed Saturday nights on Cartoon Network's Toonami block.

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