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Space Dandy: The Complete First Season
If you've never heard of Space Dandy, it's been kind of a big deal in the anime world for the past year or so. In late 2013, FUNimation announced plans to simulcast Dandy on the anime block Toonami, fully translated into English language, before it even aired in Japan. For anime fans, that was a historical achievement, as it was something never done before. On top of that, it was conceived by acclaimed anime legend, Shinichiro Watanabe, the masterful force behind two of the best anime ever made, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, so it kind of has a lot to live up to. The question is does it live up to the mountainous expectations?
Space Dandy revolves around the life and adventures of Dandy (voiced by the superb, Ian Sinclair), who is a... "Dandy guy in space"... get it? Ok moving on. Dandy roams the galaxy on his ship, the Aloha Oe, with his trusty sidekick, QT (voiced by Alison Viktorin), an out of date robot that doesn't have an updated CPU, and a straggler named Meow, a common cat-like alien they mistook for a rare species.
Don't go into this show expecting some amazing overarching storyline, there are a few intricate details that tie together the episodes, but for the most each episode stands alone and pretty much follows the same exact formula wherein Dandy, QT and Meow go to a new planet to hunt a rare alien species, or they'll just inadvertently get caught up in some kind of trouble on their way to see their favorite "breastaurant" waitress, Honey (voiced by Alexis Tipton), at a Hooters ripoff called "Boobies" (seriously?? Nice one Watanabe...), then they stumble upon the alien, and hilarity ensues.
Occasionally we also have an overarching supporting cast of villains that pop in and out of the show. While the lead villain is Admiral Perry (voiced by Kent Williams), a skull figure who only relays his messages through a hologram and is currently the leader of the Gogol Empire which is currently at war with an opposing faction, the primary focus is that of Dr. Gel (voiced by J. Michael Tatum), a gorilla-esque villain, and his assistant, Bea (voiced by Micah Solusod), both of whom are hell bent on catching Dandy for unknown reasons, despite Dandy not even being aware of their existence.
If you're looking for some kind of deep and layered show, or came into Space Dandy with the hopes of another Bebop/Champloo, then keep looking. As I settled onto the couch in hopes of an amazing story, and to be perfectly honest, I was thrown off in a jarring way. The first episode immediately takes place almost exclusively at the aforementioned restaurant, as Dandy tracks down a "new" species that turns out to be the equivalent of a common cat, but it ends with a beautiful and over the top action sequence, subsequently followed by Japan trolling the audience when the entire crew, planet they're on, and the galaxy in general, is wiped out of existence in the blink of an eye.
Due to its episodic nature, you can pretty much jump into the show at any time, watch a random episode, and be able to follow the show. Despite being a primarily comedic show in nature, the strongest episodes on the set, ironically, are the couple of times they decide to do drama, with the standout of the entire set being "A Merry Companion is a Wagon in Space, Baby", where Dandy takes in a young orphaned girl named Adelie. It's the first time you really see Dandy at his core, and we get some much needed character development. On the comedic side of things, I'd say the standouts are episodes 4, 10 and 12. Episode 4 has the crew trying to survive the zombie apocalypse in hilarious fashion. 10 has the crew being unaware that they're stuck in a time loop, and my personal favorite, episode 12, finds Dandy being impersonated by a chameleon species. While there are certainly a lot of hits in this box set, there are definitely some misses too. The first half of the pilot was a bit jarring, and the wholes of episode 9 and 11, where Dandy travels to a Plant and Library planet, respectively, were both boring.
1. "Live with the Flow, Baby" - Dandy and QT hunt down Meow, a common cat-like alien who they mistake for a new species.
2. "The Search for the Phantom Space Ramen, Baby" - Dandy and Meow comb the galaxy searching for the "Phantom Ramen", a ramen rumored to be made by an undiscovered alien species.
3. "Occasionally Even the Deceiver Is Deceived, Baby" - Dandy and crew crash land on a mysterious planet where they meet a beautiful young woman who claims to have also crash landed on the planet. Though as they delve deeper into the planet, they discover everything may not be as it seems.
4. "Sometimes You Can't Live with Dying, Baby" - Dandy, Meow and QT must fight for their lives as a zombie pandemic sweeps the galaxy.
5. "A Merry Companion Is a Wagon in Space, Baby" - Space Dandy tries its hand at drama when Dandy takes in an orphaned girl, Adelie.
6. "The War of the Undies and Vests, Baby" - Dandy and Meow are attacked in a no fly zone, causing them to crash land on a baron planet, encountering only an alien wearing only underwear, and another alien wearing only a vest. The pair find out that the 2 have been at war for 10,000 years and must pick a side in order to survive.
7. "A Race in Space Is Dangerous, Baby" - In order to impress his favorite Boobies hostess, Honey, Dandy joins an intergalactic grand prix, going up against the world renowned champion, Prince.
8. "The Lonely Pooch Planet, Baby" - On a trip to a deserted planet in hopes to find an unregistered alien species, Dandy and the crew come across a lonely dog.
9. "Plants Are Living Things, Too, Baby" - QT beams Dandy and Meow onto Planta, a planet inhabited solely by sentient plants, in search of a rumored rare alien known as "Code D".
10. "There's Always Tomorrow, Baby" - After the Aloha Oe is damaged, the crew are forced to make a landing on the nearest planet, Meow's home world. Meow's family decides to take them in for the night while waiting for the part they need to fix the ship, though that day may never come as the crew find themselves stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over, unbeknownst to them.
11. "I'm Never Remembering You, Baby" - The Aloha Oe crew bring a red box to the alien registration center, believing it to contain a rare alien, but having no real memory of how they acquired it. Inside is only a voucher for a free meal on the library planet Lagado, the crew make the trip to try and fill the blanks on their forgotten memory.
12. "Nobody Knows the Chameleon Alien, Baby" - Dandy gets the find of a lifetime! The chameleonean. Trouble is abound though when it runs amok aboard the Aloha Oe.
13. "Even Vacuum Cleaners Fall in Love, Baby" - While Dandy and the crew are stranded on a planet, QT begins a star-crossed relationship with a coffee maker.
+ An ambitious, well directed series.
+ An excellent dub that is far superior to the Japanese track, something that doesn't happen often.
+ One of the hardest things to translate well to American audiences is comedy that is done right in Anime, and for the most part, Dandy knocks it out of the park.
+ Each episode is a fresh and unique concept.
- Some of the episodes are hit or miss, I personally found myself bored throughout the pilot, Plant and Library episodes.
- The fan service can drag the show down at times.
- I have yet to see Terror on Resonance, but thus far, this is probably Watanabe at his weakest.
Video and Audio:
One thing I absolutely loved about Space Dandy was the fact that each episode had a different animator (among other things), making each episode stand out as distinct and unique. Personally I found the animation to be quite striking, with a strong and bold color (though a bit inconsistent) palette. I personally didn't find too many problems with the video quality, though there was the occasional grain. An excellent presentation overall.
As per usual with FUNimation releases, there are two audio options for Space Dandy, one is an excellent English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and the other is a Japanese 2.0 stereo Dolby TrueHD with English subtitles. With Space Dandy, I watched the 13 episodes with the FUNi dub and sampled 3 in Japanese audio, and for me personally, the dub really brings the show to life, with Ian Sinclair nailing every side of Dandy and really bringing the character to life. The score is solid as well, and it even has some involvement by the legendary Yoko Kanno, who while nowhere near the level of her work on either Cowboy Bebop or Wolf's Rain, still proves why she's the best in the business with her artistic range. There were no audio drop outs nor any distortions throughout the box set.
- Episode 1 commentary with Zach Bolton, Alison Viktorin, Joel McDonald, and Ian Sinclair.
- Episode 10 commentary Joel McDonald, David Wald, Marcus D. Stimac.
- A Dandy Guy in Space: Part One. A 35 minute documentary discussing the show with the cast and crew.
- Textless Opening and closing themes.
- Volume one teaser trailer.
- Space Dandy promotional videos.
- Blu-ray and DVD commercials.
- Trailers for other FUNi titles like
Since the copy I received was the Aloha Oe premium edition, it also came with the following...
- A nifty belt buckle in the same style that Dandy wears in the series.
- An Aloha Oe crew trucker hat.
- 5 exclusive art cards.
- A pendant that Dandy wears in the show.
- A decal of the ship.
Since this is the "Premium edition", the box set comes with the limitied edition copy of the series, which at the end of the day, is just a nice looking chipboard art box. Everything comes housed in a cheaply made cardboard box that has been made up to look like the crew's ship.
Is the show a lot of fun? Yes. Is it worth $130 bucks for the show, a few trinkets and a cardboard box? Hell no. Unless you're a huge sucker for the extras, I'd say stick to the limited edition, which you can find for about $40 dollars.
The rating I gave the first season of the series may be a bit controversial, but I loved every episode. Each one was unique in it's story telling and it's art, delivered the laughs, and helped the characters grow. I wouldn't say it's as good as Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo, but I still find the show to be of a high quality. Highly Recommended