Top 20 Anime of 2014 – #4. Space Dandy

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Full Playlist:
#6. Shirobako:
#5. Ping Pong:

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My video on the Cowboy Bebop diaspora:
Observations on Space Dandy S1:
Embracing the Unquantifiable:
Space Dandy: The Man Without A Past:

Watch this series on Hulu:

When big-name anime directors talk about the state of the anime industry, they often speak of stagnancy, over-reliance on appealing to niche consumers and investors, and the difficulty of getting original, high-quality projects off the ground. Space Dandy feels like what happened when Shinichiro Watanabe and studio Bones took a long look at the industry around them and said, “fuck this shit, I’m doing whatever I want; and all of my friends are coming with me.”

The creative staff of Space Dandy reads like a who’s who of noteworthy animators and directors, most of whom have worked with Watanabe and Bones in one place or another, as charted in my video on the lineage of Cowboy Bebop. What these massively creative and talented people were brought together to do is to go absolutely nuts with their ideas, unbound by the constraints of what’s popular, critically acclaimed, reasonable, or allowed. The product is something deeply charming and, at times, wholly gratifying.

Space Dandy is a show about a dandy guy in space, who gets into all manner of episodic adventures with his robot vacuum cleaner QT, and the tag-along otaku cat alien, Meow. As the series goes along, the storylines and styles grow increasingly unhinged and difficult to describe. Sometimes, an episode is a direct parody of this or that story tropes, while at other times it completely defies explanation. Sometimes it’s a goofy comedy, or an experimental art piece, or a big action adventure story, or a lazy slife-of-life show. Not every episode is equally amazing, and everyone is sure to have their personal favorites and least favorites, but Dandy is certainly never predictable, and never uninteresting.

So many creative individuals are given so much free reign in this series that it would be worth watching just to see all the different expressive animation styles–but there’s a lot more to Dandy than what catches the eye. Some episodes are meant to be more of a fun time, and some have themes specific to those episodes; but there are consistent underlying themes about the liberation of individualism and free speech, and the tiresome nature of a life spent doing the same things over and over again. In many ways, Space Dandy feels like it was made to cope with the stresses of working in a stagnant industry, while also tearing that dull reality to shreds in a colorful starburst. If Shirobako showed us tortured artists longing to live their dreams of artistic liberty, then Space Dandy is the product that those artists dream of producing.

More than anything though, Space Dandy is just a god damn good time. Its characters are the perfect ciphers for the huge variety of adventures that they encounter and are endlessly likable, with a surprising amount of hidden depth arising out of Dandy as the show progresses. Some of the episodes go in such unexpected and ridiculous directions that they’re hard not to smile at, while some are gut-bustingly funny, and others bring on torrents of FEELS. The second season in particular contains a lot of heartstring-pulling episodes, with the fourth episode in the season conveying not only a fantastic message, but some of the most stunning animation of the year.

A lot of people see Space Dandy as nothing but a good time, and I think it does a perfectly great job of being that, but there’s also a lot to sink your teeth into if you’re willing to engage it. I’ve made no less than three full videos about Space Dandy on this channel, and I have intentions of doing more in the future, as I continue to find nuggets of golden ideas the longer I mull over the series in my head. I really look forward to rewatching certain episodes long into the future, and there are scenes that I’ve found myself returning to for the powerful animation and music alone time and again.

I won’t be surprised if Space Dandy doesn’t engage everyone on the level that it did me, or if it does so for very different reasons. It’s a show that purposefully plays loose with its themes and script, leaving a lot up to what the viewer brings into the show with them. Having said that, I think it deserves a shot no matter who you are, and I assure you that even if you don’t get the point of it at first, there is definitely a point which will be made very clear by the final episode; and along the way there are no shortage of highly memorable and engaging stories. You can watch Space Dandy legally for free over on Hulu.

So, what did you think of Space Dandy? Let me know in the comments below, and in case you missed them, check out my videos on #5, Ping Pong, and #6, Shirobako, and stick around on my channel to see what my third-favorite anime of the year will be tomorrow!

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