A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a great space epic was unfolding. Heroes, villains, battles fought for the very survival of galactic peace and prosperity. Slightly to the left of that, a few eons in the future (I think), we fin yet another tale of heroes, villains and battles fought for the very survival of galactic peace and prosperity…not that anyone really cares about that. Taking all the wonder and majesty of the universe and cramming it in the path of the universes most notorious drifter, who not many people know, the saga of Space Dandy is one of…confusion. With every conceivable creature, planet and event a mere warp away, our champion of the stars throws reason to the ever expanding corners of the universe, spending countless hour pining after the fairer sex, yet somehow still planting his quaffed visage squarely in the path of oncoming adventure. It’s ludicrous, it’s nonsensical, but at the end of the universe all that really matters is that it’s dandy, baby.
Picking up where they left off, whatever that means in this week by week anarchic stew, Dandy, Meow and QT surprise no-one and everyone by finding increasingly bizarre ways to make ends meet. From fishing for a legendary catch, to infiltrating a musical high school, to pretending to be someones boyfriend, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility for the crew whose ship has an honest to goodness palm tree in it, because logic is for boring people and it really gives the lounging area a chill vibe, you know? Interior decoration aside, cat, robot and the pompadour tackle every situation with a bravado and overall lack of care that makes you forget about all of life’s nagging little problems. Admittedly this is more often than not because the looming threat of death overshadows these smaller issues, but still, it’s a nice thought. Now, whilst this may seem like a slightly meta interpretation of events transpired, this concept of perspective is one found throughout this series, albeit presented in a much simpler fashion. Dandy is Dandy. Dandy is dandy. Though homophonic, these two statements share as much dissimilarity as they do sameness. No matter what transpires, no matter what insanity may throw itself into the face of our hero, he never ceases to be himself. Not always well received I’ll admit, but Dandy is unmistakably himself through every challenge he faces. This refusal to be anyone but himself, in turn, allows him to remain dandy. Though gimmicky in its presentation, it is a truth held by the series in its most tender moments, and its goofiest. So whilst only Dandy can be Dandy, anyone can be dandy. Viva all, baby.
This thesis, if you will, is also supported strongly by the alternating visual styles that prevail within the series. Just as each episode varies in plot, structure and execution, the animation of each individual adventure varies from last to next. Whilst supporting which ever narrative happens to be unravelling, this visual choice also continues to inject new life into Space Dandy. This variance can quite often be jarring, especially when bulk viewing, but lends a certain power to each episode. wherein one episode draws from a frenetic peculiarity and onslaught of bizarrely designed set pieces, another draws from inherently traditional forms, subconsciously contrasting these adventures within the mind of the viewer. In this sense, the adventure of the week format that the series employs is prevented from becoming tiresome, granting it free passage to just do whatever it feels like from episode to episode. Combined with the overall vibe of the anime, Space Dandy is a peculiar series that is as much a coherent story as it is a collection of stories. Of course, the coherent story requires a touch more attention to discern, though the questions and answers buried within the veneer of insanity are certainly worth discovering.
Shifting the sensory spectrum, the audio of Space Dandy is yet another high point of this series. With a powerhouse English dub, the cast of Dandy paints just as colourful a picture as the aforementioned visuals. With a great deal of personal enjoyment from the script writers (or so I imagine) there are more than a few cultural references made throughout the series, ranging from (at the time) current television shows, well known movies, or just colloquial internet slang. Though this may not seem like such a large portion of the vocal performance, this more personable style of talking furthers the hectic fun of the series by blatantly showcasing the various products and productions that inspired aspects of the series. I mean, of course a universally recognised dancing competition occurs on Planet Grease, why wouldn’t it. A character based on Dragon Ball’s Goku? Of course he sounds like Michael Jackson. Why not? However, one of my personal favourite aspects of the English dub is the sheer fact that any and all in-universe songs were translated and sung in English. Apart from showing the degree of effort that went into this dub (especially impressive considering its original, simulcast release schedule), this prevents the sudden split that occurs when English vocals suddenly revert to the original Japanese, allowing your disbelief to remain suspended without interruption.
Space Dandy is a unique series. A peculiar equation that is greater than the sum of its already great parts. Should one episode not be your particular forte, the next shall provide a new adventure that is vastly different, yet also noticeably similar. I realise that this constant contradiction and oxymoronic language may seem like a cop out of sorts, but it is honestly the best way to describe this series. On its surface, it is a haphazard collection of whatever idea happened to be at the forefront of the production team’s minds that day. Looking closer however reveals an intrinsically vague and broad scoped plot that raises questions about the very nature of existence and the universe that both supports and is supported by it. Pretty deep stuff considering the most well trodden location in the Space Dandy universe is a place called Boobies. But therein lies its charm. Though it presents this deep, thought provoking plot, the series never relinquishes its desire to be fun, to keep the audience entertained in any and every way possible, which is something that not many series can do. So watch Dandy as you will. Be it a desire to witness fun for the sheer sake of it, or a longing to ponder the complex notion of what it means to exist, both may be found within each and every episode of this series. That being said, it is still your choice to focus on that which you desire and shape the adventures of Space Dandy for yourself. It’s complex and simple all at the same time, baby, and that is the true strength of Space Dandy.
Addendum: Whilst Marathon Play is a nifty little feature, its application may cause viewers to miss out on the true final scene of Space Dandy, as I assume it is classified as a credit sequence and thus skipped by the Marathon Play feature. So keep that in mind my binge watching brethren, I wouldn’t want you to miss any of what Space Dandy has to offer.
When the universe’s only sane person is an unequivocal Madman, you really have to question existence