Genre: Sci-fi, Comedy, (occasionally) Drama
Creators: Watanabe Shinichirō and Natsume Shingo
Length: 26 episodes, Baby
Highlights: Adventure, comedy, and pompadours... IN SPACE!
From the mind of Watanabe Shinichirō, the man who brought us the science-fiction epic Cowboy Bebop, comes a new and decidedly less serious science-fiction adventure. Where Cowboy Bebop was frequently melancholy and tear-inducing, Space Dandy is a careless romp through space featuring everything from a search for the best space ramen in the galaxy to a comedic take on the zombie apocalypse. The show is very self-aware, with the narrator frequently addressing the viewer directly and sometimes even exchanging insults with the cast due to their frequent failures. The show lacks pretty much any continuity, cheerfully killing off characters in one episode only for them to reappear completely fine in the next.
Space Dandy is a highly episodic series, and (almost) completely lacks a cohesive plot. Furthermore, while the series is a comedy for the most part, the tone and style of each episode can vary greatly; this is mostly due to each episode having a different director while Watanabe acted as the overall director. Many episodes stick to a comedic and light-hearted style, such as “I Can’t Be the Only One, Baby”, where Dandy and crew meet versions of themselves from a series of alternate dimensions, many of which are references to other anime series. Others can occasionally become serious; “Even Vacuum Cleaners Fall in Love, Baby” details how QT comes to fall in love with a coffeemaker. A few are highly surreal; “A World With No Sadness, Baby” is the story of Dandy’s adventures in the afterlife. The series is also fond of referencing and parodying other series and movies; “A Race in Space is Dangerous, Baby” is an homage to the anime film Redline, “The Transfer Student is Dandy, Baby” is a parody of Glee, and “A Merry Companion is a Wagon in Space, Baby” is a whole-plot reference to the 1973 film Paper Moon.
The visual style of Space Dandy is a throwback to the Raygun Gothic look popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Space ships are shiny, robots are rounded and as unrealistic as possible, and everyone has ray guns (of course). The series also takes many elements from classic Space Operas such as Star Wars, but also gleefully subverts many of its common tropes. There is an epic war going on between two immensely powerful interstellar empires… but it takes place almost entirely in the background and hardly ever effects the main characters. Dandy is being hunted by evil scientist Dr. Gel because he is supposedly “The Chosen One”… but through a combination of his own and Dandy’s incompetence the two of them never seem to actually encounter each other. This stacks with the series’ lack of continuity and frequent breaking of the fourth wall to create a show that is both a parody of and love-letter to classic science fiction.
So if you need an expert alien hunter to track down that super-rare Alpha-Centauri blue wolf-beetle… honestly, you probably should call somebody else. But if you want a cool, suave, and utterly incompetent idiot whose bizarre misadventures are sure to bring a smile to your face… then Space Dandy is your man.