Get out your big-breasted aliens and laser blasters, we’re reviewing Space Dandy!
It’s the far flung future and humans are exploring the galaxy, making contact with all kinds of strange alien life forms! Dandy and his crew set out to find and register said new alien life forms to make a quick buck.
This is brought to us by the same studio that did Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo which you should probably not try to compare it to those because there’s NO WAY it can be as good. But considering they advertised this as “brought to you by the same studio as Cowboy Bebop” they have no one but themselves to blame if that’s all anyone does.
If it’s made by the same people you’d expect it to at least feel like it was made by the same people. I didn’t think Samurai Champloo was as good as Cowboy Bebop, but it was still a pretty good show in its own right. But Space Dandy is just dumb. It took me a good 4 or 5 episodes to decide whether this is “so dumb it’s good” or “dumb to prove something” or “just dumb” and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it’s entirely just dumb.
That’s not to say it’s entirely detestable or unwatchable. There are a lot of parts I think are ok or fun to watch. I like how nearly every episode ends with them dying or on a cliffhanger that never gets resolved, leading to a brand new episode next week. The narrator has some great lines, and often sounds like a tired old man who’s exhausted or fed up with Dandy’s antics. And at times, the show embraces the more ridiculous aspects full force. “These are the stories of Space Dandy and his space crew, having space adventures…in space.”
It’s interesting that the show always ends on a cliffhanger and only uses self-contained stories. You could argue that they’re using a more ridiculous version of the approach to Cowboy Bebop. The problem is that if those characters aren’t going to change or grow and only go through self-contained stories, then they have to be really good characters and really good stories. The main characters of Space Dandy are not interesting enough for me to care about and the stories are not that entertaining that I can remember any of them distinctly. Space Dandy tries to have a worthwhile story in some episodes, subverting the one-time sappy story characters most other animes have, but every time it is only half as good as any other anime story NOT trying to be subversive.
There are two main problems I have with the show and one of them is Dandy himself. Dandy is a dumb guy. In a lot of ways, he’s exactly like Andy from that one episode of Cowboy Bebop. But unlike Andy, he’s not just a one-episode character used to parallel the main character in a silly way. Dandy, like the show, is both too dumb and not dumb enough. He is a dumb guy making silly dumb decisions, but he’s not acting dumb or outrageous enough for people to look at him and think he’s doing wrong. And he’s the main character with barely any dissenting voices or other opinions. He’s an idiot, but not in a fun, “oh wow I can’t wait to see how he screws up” Peter Griffin/Homer Simpson kind of way, he’s just really annoying to the point you wonder why he’s the main character.
The other main problem is the rampant misogyny. In the first episode, Dandy goes to his favorite restaurant Boobies (a ‘breastaurant’ as the narrator calls it), and goes on a tirade about how great butts are (which he contradicts the next episode when he talks about boobs). And it’s just…what is the point? It’s so weird. They have all different kinds of aliens as male customers but most of the girls are the exact same light skinned, big bosomed, big butted girls you’d expect at a human restaurant (they have one girl that looks like a female monster from the black lagoon, but we only see her once). Why does that make sense? There’s no reason given why human females are still the top beauty standard in the galaxy, and it’s not like Futurama where there are a multitude of varying life-forms and body types for people to call beautiful. This persists through the episodes I’ve seen so far and I can’t see any good reason they’re doing it or see what they’re trying to say. I want to believe that they’re trying to say something about sexism and misogyny and the way women are treated, but without any explanation or subversion it’s exactly the same as every other terrible sexist thing on TV or movies or games. Ugh.
The animation is still as good as ever, but honestly, you could just watch the opening and closing credits and it’ll be more enjoyable than any given episode while still getting that animation thrill (and some pretty catchy tunes).
Having a dumb silly show is fine. But after watching Space Dandy, it is not the kind of dumb you want. It’s the kind of dumb you ask yourself right after watching, “What’s the point? Why am I watching this?” If you wanted to watch something dumb with good animation involving spaceships and aliens, there are a myriad of other animes better suited. If you want to watch a great anime from the people who brought you Cowboy Bebop, just go back and watch Cowboy Bebop again.
THE GOOD: Great animation, great opening and closing credits, can get ridiculous at times, they die nearly every episode.
THE BAD: Show is dumb, Dandy is dumb, show is misogynist for no good reason, hard to care about the show or characters when they’re terrible and there’s no development from episode to episode, story’s not interesting.
THE VERDICT: $$ I would say don’t bother. Watch the opening and closing credits and that is all you need to see of Space Dandy. You want good space adventure, go watch Captain Harlock or Outlaw Star or Tenshi Muyo. If you want something like Cowboy Bebop, go watch Cowboy Bebop.
SHOWS LIKE IT: Tenshi Muyo, Outlaw Star, Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Captain Harlock
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: There is one scene in one episode where an awesome female character is eating then takes out like 20 evil guys. The animation is great and the character is a badass woman. She walks out and we never see her again. WHY ISN’T THE SHOW ABOUT HER???