Space Dandy: The Complete Second Season
Every so often, you come across a show that you just need to hand the reins over to and trust that it’s going to take you somewhere enjoyable. Space Dandy is just such a show. It’s over the top, at times crass, nonsensical, and seeing as it comes from the creative team behind Cowboy Bebop, not without its fair share of great music.
The titular character of the show, Space Dandy is helpfully described in the show’s intro as a dandy in space. He pilots the Aloha Oe, a spaceship with a heavy Hawaiian motif, keeps his hair in a ridiculous pomp that would put The King to shame, and frequents an interstellar bar called Boobies in between jobs (even though he’s an ass man, as one episode points out). His two crewmates are an obsolete robot named QT and a cat-like alien named Meow who spends his time eating fish and reminding us that he’s not actually a cat. The exchanges between the three protagonists make for a fantastic snark-based friendship. On paper, the crew of the Aloha Oe work as bounty hunters, bringing in unregistered aliens for rewards. Their actual activities are a good deal more varied, and never seem to end with them actually completing any jobs.
Universe of the Unexpected
Dandy and his crew never finish jobs, sure, but their escapades are a blast to watch. There’s not much over-arching narrative for the season, and episodes are their own self-contained storylets, but the formula works perfectly, letting Space Dandy mess around with a bunch of different ideas while never straying too far from its strong comedy backbone. One episode has the crew barreling through alternate universes and meeting different versions of themselves (while causing massive damage to the space-time continuum of course), another is quite literally a high school musical, one takes the form of a documentary chronicling the rise and fall of Dandy’s ill-fated rock band, and yet another pits Dandy against an alien “smile collector” and dares to venture into slightly darker territory. Each episode is visually distinct, with subtle changes in the already-gorgeous animation and art style to evoke the feel for a given story. Die hard anime fans will catch style callouts to Panty & Stocking, JoJo, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and the Monogatari shows, to name just a few. There are quite a few nods to other aspects of pop culture too, my personal favorite being a room full of telepods identical to the ones used by Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle in The Fly, complete with fly-headed professor urging students to volunteer for an experiment. The animation is top-notch, and while there is of course some quality disparity between the Blu-ray and DVD versions included in this box, they both look phenomenal.
Rock On, Baby
The music of Space Dandy, while not quite at the levels of the jazzy tunes of Cowboy Bebop, holds its own by keeping things interesting. The opening and ending themes are both a blast to listen to, and the songs within the episodes themselves are performed with a good deal of skill. This is one of the few Funimation titles where I can actually say with certainty that it doesn’t really matter if you go for the dubbed or subbed version, since both voice casts give great performances. Sometimes the dub ends up sounding a bit awkward because of characters trying to catch up to lip flaps or fill empty space, but other than those occasional stumbling blocks, it’s not hampered in any big way.
If you’re looking for a show that you can let run in the background, then come back to completely bewildered after having paid various degrees of attention, then give Space Dandy your time. Binge-watching it won’t help clarify many plot elements, but it does help highlight the artistic differences between episodes. If you loved Cowboy Bebop, then give Space Dandy a try. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and in today’s anime climate of gritty realism and gut-wrenching drama, it’s a breath of…well, not fresh air, but maybe a breath of air that’s filled with hair spray, cheap cologne, and the smell of grease from retro diner food.