Anime review: Space Dandy

In the vein of Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star, Space Dandy is the most recent anime to see a small crew scour the stars for the purposes of both work and adventure, though this series places emphasis on wacky comedic scenarios more so than its predecessors. Within the first episode, viewers are familiarized with Dandy’s line of work (an alien hunter seeking out new and rare species to cash in at registration), his crew mates (the cat-like alien Meow and vacuum cleaner/multipurpose robot QT), and the general nature of the show. As Dandy and Meow head planetside to search for unusual creatures, they find themselves swept up in the chaotic food chain of the world, and ultimately are pronounced dead by the time the credits roll. But when episode two begins, Dandy and Meow are back at it, as if nothing had gone awry in the first episode.

Such is the nature of Space Dandy – characters turn into zombies, spend weeks chasing down sentient life forms that have the ability to alter a person’s memories, and even find themselves transported to an alternate dimension via a wormhole within one ramen noodle restaurant. In between their misadventures, Dandy, Meow, and QT frequently pay visits to Honey and the other servers at the Boobies restaurant chain, an interstellar parody of Hooters. Space Dandy plays out more like a western animated work than a typical anime, due to the fact that viewers could theoretically jump into the series with any given episode and still be able to grasp the story just as well as if they had started with the premiere.

While Dandy and crew are scouring the stars, the mad scientist gorilla Dr. Gel is ever-vigilant in his pursuit of the titular hero, albeit for unknown reasons. Gel oversees the completion of one invention or superweapon after another, and – as it is revealed during the second half of this first season – does so for the sake of military purposes, as two factions have been at odds with each other for an unspecified amount of time. Much to the disappointment of Gel’s superior, a flaming skeleton with the most underwhelming name of Admiral Perry, Dandy, Meow, QT, and the aliens they cross paths with often inadvertently cause the destruction of these inventions.

Space Dandy’s comedic stylings provide a well-balanced blend of zany scenarios, pop culture references, dimwitted plans, a bit of crude, and a few instances of characters breaking the fourth wall. Yes, there are exciting action segments, an intense race across the galaxy, and even a few philosophical questions presented (most of which fly right over Dandy’s head), but the series never strays too far from its comedic core. That said, there are a few episodes that opt for slower pacing in order to better flesh out an alien culture, and these episodes typically prove a bit less fun to watch than the rest.

The animation styles vary slightly from one episode to another, namely when Dandy and gang are traveling to stranger locations in space and time, though the majority of the series is handled with animation that is pretty typical of contemporary anime. Dandy’s hairdo may be a bit exaggerated, but aside from that, the most standout elements of this anime’s presentation factor come from its bright and psychedelic color palettes, as well as its upbeat and jazzy soundtrack. Space Dandy proves a quick and easy watch, though it does well to craft an identity of its own while still paying small tributes to its sources of inspiration.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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