When Space Dandy was first announced in late 2013, it instantly became a cause for excitement for reuniting two anime heavyweights. The critically beloved director Shinichiro Watanabe - who established his genre-blending style in the late 90s, fusing period pieces and striking soundtracks with the jazzy space western Cowboy Bebop – and production studio Bones.
When key members of Cowboy Bebop's original studio, Sunrise, left to form Bones, the brand new company worked with Watanabe on the Cowboy Bebop movie. This series laid the foundation for Watanabe’s conceptual identity; it also laid the foundation for Bones’ aesthetic style.
Since then, Bones’ crisp, imaginative action sequences interspersed between vibrant settings have become renowned. With characters whose magic could turn matter into anything they could visualise, Bones’ Fullmetal Alchemist features battles where a character might punch a boulder, shattering it into millions of rocks pristinely carved in the shape of that character’s face, or transform an enemy’s skin into a brittle substance before dismantling it. These sequences frequently feature elaborate but legible choreography that require repeat viewings to appreciate just how well Bones captured its fluidity.
Several popular series in the late aughts followed, most notably Darker Than Black and the critically troubled Soul Eater. They also explored quirkier fare. The screwball detective series Un-Go flew under the radar despite its delightful idiosyncrasies, however the comedic Noragami, which follows a minor god of war and the confused middle school girl who wants to be his friend, has been a critical and commercial success. This is where Space Dandy fits in.
Space Dandy bears some semblance to Cowboy Bebop, but it’s a Bones production that has lowered the age of its target demographic. Voice-over narration and the juvenile humour of its horndog main character mark Space Dandy as squarely for teenage boys. Writing aside, Space Dandy shows off some of Bones’ greatest virtues. The futuristic set pieces are bright and rubbery, characters’ faces are acutely expressive, and the action is dynamic. While some anime aims to capture real life, Bones’ greatest projects capture everything anime can do which live action cannot. Thanks to its alien set design and animation, Space Dandy looks and feels like something from out of this world.
Space Dandy will be airing on SBS 2 as part of Pop! Weekend, all Asian Entertainment, October 2-4.
SATURDAY October 3: 11:05pm - Space Dandy (double-eps)
SUNDAY October 4: 10:50pm: Space Dandy (double-eps)