What Are You Watching? Space Dandy

EDITOR’S NOTE: What Are You Watching? is a feature series that dives deep into why we love the anime we love. You told us what you were watching, and now we’ll dig into why.

By Aedan Juvet

As a child, I spent countless weekend nights secluded away in my bedroom. With the lights off, huddled in front of my TV, I experienced the emotional gut punches of Shinichiro Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop for the first time.

It was my introduction into the world of anime. The series was heavy, heartwarming and action-packed all in one, providing me with an anime fascination that changed me. 

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Fast forward to 2014⁠—the debut of Space Dandy, the then-latest installment in Watanabe’s incredible portfolio.

I eagerly anticipated the series’ direction, and my nostalgic level of excitement combined with a viewing party I planned had me over the top!

Space Dandy instantly captured me with its excellent space backdrop and bounty hunter protagonist. And, as you likely know, nothing Watanabe creates can be compared to anything else, including his own work. 

In essence, Space Dandy is timeless⁠—a colorful kaleidoscope-like series that encompasses the magic of anime from start to finish. Though there are plenty of reasons to praise it, what makes Space Dandy so worth watching is that it takes something wild and unimaginable and makes it feel like home.

He’s a dandy guy in space

The anime protagonist is crucial to a structured narrative, and Space Dandy wastes no time introducing us to Dandy. The alien bounty hunter is a straightforward guy who almost feels like that friend who might not always know the audience for his jokes, but is genuinely lovable despite that troublesome tendency with words. 

Watanabe has proven to be a master in the art of character development. Time and time again, it only takes him an episode or two to sell you on someone’s story, regardless of if they’re an open book or totally shrouded in mystery.

In the case of Dandy, he’s a transparent lead in the best way possible, and that can be easily traced back to his love of the restaurant BooBies, or his inability to turn down any challenge.

These characteristics show us Dandy wears his heart on his sleeve, creating a fun dynamic and an assortment of opportunities for off-the-wall hijinks. Seriously, there’s an episode about the war between vests and underwear….

Of course, Dandy is faced throughout the series with plenty of turmoil that will shake his wackiness to its core. Yet through every bizarre obstacle, Dandy carries himself with strength and poise.

Just look at Episode 6, the perfect example of how challenging a viewers’ expectations can help build stronger characters.

That signature Watanabe flare 

If you look at the impressive work of Watanabe, each and every series has solidified itself as a classic, cult or otherwise.

Space Dandy led me to believe Watanabe was at a point in his career where he had accomplished so much, so this series could maybe serve as an avenue to explore his more niche comedic stylings.

We’ve witnessed his versatility in multiple genres, but keeping Space Dandy an eccentric space adventure shows impeccable range and an ability to explore almost any thematic tale he sets out to work on. 

As Space Dandy advances its zany story, we discover that the universal Watanabe atmosphere is showcased through a conveyor belt of supporting roles that we come across episodically.

There’s a trio of goofy characters at the core, sure, but their interactions with each life-form plants emotional seedlings that reach their full potential within just a quarter of an hour of runtime. Now that’s the Watanabe flare.

Artistry that covers all bases

When you watch a new series and disregard your own personal reality, you might find yourself with an entirely new outlook on things.

Space Dandy is the perfect combination of an unattainable reality and a bit of uncharted territory. It takes you to the far corners of the universe and gives you more than you could ask for as an anime fan. It would have been easy to write a space anime, but Space Dandy is so much more than that, efficiently playing with the unknown.

It’s a composite of blended colors, differing art styles and stunning framework, ultimately delivering a sci-fi dreamworld that’s plenty hard to replicate. Each scene in Space Dandy feels carefully curated without a single creative weak spot, so it’s easy to love from first watch.

As a medium, anime has the innate ability to captivate an audience through so many levels of entertainment, or even the potential to speak to us on a deeper level⁠—and somehow, with Space Dandy, Watanabe does it again.

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