Space Dandy Season 2
by Miles Nelson,
When Space Dandy was first broadcast in January of this year, people didn't know what to expect from Shinichiro Watanabe's newest project. Was it a return to the space western genre that he helped define with 1998's Cowboy Bebop? We have since learned that the answer is both yes and no: Space Dandy is indeed a type of anime we've rarely seen in the last decade: it's a true anthology series. Much like Katsuhiro Otomo's Robot Carnival, each episode of Space Dandy is a stand-alone tale that allows a diverse sampling of directors, writers and animators to open their creative floodgates. All episodes involve the eponymous Space Dandy, his robot QT, and his crewmate Meow in some way, but other than that each episode is free to tell any kind of story possible. Season one of the series used this creative freedom to great effect, and I am happy to say that the first eight episodes of Space Dandy Season 2 continue this trend and then some.
Each of these eight episodes displays truly jaw-dropping diversity. In one, Dandy must infiltrate an intergalactic high school to capture a rare alien, only to get caught up in a 1980's movie-style battle between nerds and jocks (complete with cheesy training montage). Another episode finds Dandy & company hurtling through parallel universes, encountering alternate versions of themselves in what quickly becomes a crisis of infinite Dandies. Yet another puts Dandy in the middle of a Hayao Miyazaki-esque quest for a giant, mythical sea-creature. There is even an episode where Dandy must grapple with life, death and the meaning of his existence when marooned on a surreal, dreamlike planet. All these episodes feel extremely personal, and all succeed in what they are attempting to do, whether that be examaning deep philosophical questions or simply making the audience roar with laughter. Interestingly enough, no matter how different the writer's style, Dandy feels like the same character. A specific story may require Dandy to be cowardly or brave, inconsiderate or compassionate, foolish or wise, but rather than seeming like a contradiction, Dandy comes off as a man with infinite aspects to his personality. No matter what he does, he always feels like the "real" Dandy.
This consistency of character owes a great deal to Dandy's voice actor, Junichi Suwabe, who portrays the pompadoured alien hunter perfectly, no matter the circumstances. Uki Satake (QT) and Hiroyuki Yoshino (Meow) also deserve acclaim for completely selling their respective roles of endlessly put-upon vacuum cleaner and the laziest feline in the universe. Indeed, the entire cast in every episode does an exemplary job at making Space Dandy's setting feel like a universe full of distinct, fully-realized individuals. Every part, even ridiculous ones like the Fish Astronaut from episode 3, feels expertly cast. This high quality of the performances is complemented by the score, which is always appropriate to the story and never distracts from what's going on.
Not that it would be easy to distract the viewer, considering the mind-blowing insanity that is usually on screen. One area that Space Dandy Season 2 definitely exceeds season one in terms of imaginative and awe-inspiring visuals. The diversity of animation, both in artwork and cinematography, equals that of the stories this season. From the scribbly, super-fluid style of episode 3 to the strange and beautiful landscapes of episode 8, no episode looks the same; even the title cards for commercial breaks are each unique.
As much as these first eight episodes vary from one another, they all share a deep connection, and I don't just mean that they all star Dandy. Each episode feels like it was made by people who have fully unleashed their imaginations, with visions not limited or forced to conform in any way. If you love massive creativity, great writing, amazing visuals or just laughing so hard you pass out, then you owe it to yourself to check out Space Dandy Season 2.
Space Dandy Season 2 is currently streaming on Funimation.
Miles Nelson has been an anime fan since 1997, and has had several reviews published at My Geek Review.
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