Well, like I said when I announced that this show was starting, I would probably write about it at some point. For those of you who don’t know, Space Dandy is the latest series from legendary anime director Shinichiro Watanabe, the genius behind both Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop. But for those of you expecting something similar to those two shows, you might be a little disappointed.
Space Dandy is, for one thing, purely a comedy. While Champloo and Bebop both had comedic episodes or comedic elements, they were, at their heart, rather dramatic stories. Samurai Champloo questioned the impact of Western culture in Japan with a story about the persecuted Christian sects that were beginning to form during the Edo period coupled with the music of the modern day Western culture invasion: hip hop. Cowboy Bebop is about a crew of people who are all struggling with traumatic past experiences that have come to define their lives and how they handle these experiences or how these experiences catch up to them. More than that, the show also explores a number of themes, many of them metaphysical or philosophical in nature. It also references a wide variety of films and tropes from Western culture, and it explores the connection of music and film in the way that each individual episode is characterized by different jazz or blues styles.
One of the main things I picked up on in Space Dandy, at least thus far, is that the music doesn’t play nearly as integral a role as it in the other two shows. The theme song and soundtrack is largely upbeat jazz music, but that almost seems to be more a tip of the hat to Bebop’s style rather being important to the show. Obviously any musical choice will have an impact on the feel of a show or movie, but Watanabe doesn’t seem to be exploring the importance of the connection between music, film, and story the way he has in the past.
As I said before, Space Dandy is also a full on comedy. On top of that it’s one of the more psychedelic and tripped out shows I’ve seen. The storylines in each episode can be pretty wild. For instance one features the search for the best Ramen noodles in the universe. Another chronicles a rather harmless zombie infestation that slowly starts to engulf everything. Watanabe clearly pays homage to a lot of popular Western films both through his plots and “shots” that he displays. For example, the zombie episode was very much a tribute to George A. Romero. A more recent episode featuring two warring races that have nearly exterminated each other shows spaceships that are very reminiscent of the Jawa sandcrawlers from Star Wars and introduces the aliens into the show when they ambush our heroes and strike a pose very similar to that of the Tusken raider who attacks Luke.
He also occasionally references Bebop with some of his imagery and the continued use of the Woolong currency, which first appeared in Bebop. But it seems that Space Dandy also pokes fun at the anime genre in a lot of ways, for instance satirizing the way over-the-top fan service way that female characters can be portrayed sometimes.
While this show continues to display Watanabe’s great knowledge and appreciation of film, especially from the Western world, it is currently unclear (to me at least) what the larger point of the show is. There hasn’t been a connecting thread between episodes that I’ve been able to pick up on yet, and as far as I know it has yet to be revealed. But in Watanabe we trust, and I feel that, much like Bebop and Champloo, there will be a greater theme that develops at some point.
Ultimately I find the show enjoyable, if a bit strange, and Watanabe has already proven that he is a true master in cinema. For that reason alone I’d be willing to see this show out, but so far it has been one crazy, fun ride and I definitely recommend it so long as you’re willing to just roll with the punches and enjoy what’s happening, no matter how weird.