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Space Dandy

Entry updated 6 February 2023. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2014). Bones. Directed by Shingo Natsume and Shinichirō Watanabe. Writers include Toh Enjoe, Keiko Nobumoto, Dai Sato, Kimiko Ueno and Shinichiro Watanabe. Voice cast includes Unshou Ishizuka, Uki Satake, Junichi Suwabe, Masaaki Yajima and Hiroyuki Yoshino. 26 24-minute episodes. Colour.

Bequiffed letch Space Dandy (Suwabe) and his long-suffering companion, the AI vacuum cleaner QT (Satake), tour the Galaxy hoping to discover new Alien species: the reward paid for registration of such species is their main source of income. Latterly they have been joined by the Cat-like Alien Meow (Yoshino), whose befuddled amiability adds little to their capabilities. Meanwhile, the Gogol Empire – currently fighting the Jaicro Empire for control of the Universe (see Galactic Empires; Space Opera) – considers Dandy a person of interest and has tasked ape Scientist Dr Gel (Ishizuka) with capturing him.

Stories include an alien species who can temporarily transfer a creature's consciousness into a toy puppet (see Identity Transfer); Dandy's ship turning into a Mecha; doomed fish civilizations (see Disaster); alien Shapeshifters; trips to Parallel Worlds and the meeting of alternate selves; Time Distortion; giant Robot battles; and eccentric topographies, the latter including an encroaching 2-D universe, as well as 4-D beings and Dr Gel going from 3-D to Zero-D (see Dimensions).

Not all adventures are light-hearted: following the arrival of a meteorite, a planet's vegetation evolves sentience, creating civilizations – but reverts when Dandy removes the meteorite, evoking a melancholy Sense of Wonder. A dead Dandy undergoes a psychedelic trek on a Limbo world. On Meow's home planet the trio is caught in a 24-hour Time Loop; though they comically interpret their foreknowledge of events as Superpowers, the ennui of repetition hints at Meow's life had he followed in his factory-worker father's footsteps.

Continuity seems to be ignored: for example, Dandy sets off a planet-destroying Weapon whilst on the planet; or the entire population of the Universe becomes zombified (see Zombies) – yet the status quo is apparently restored the following week. But in the series finale an epic space battle results in all universes being destroyed. The Narrator (Yajima) – now revealed to be God (see Gods and Demons) – explains to Dandy that he has been shifting between parallel universes: each episode has taken place in a different one. The Narrator goes on to say that a new Multiverse will shortly be born and our protagonist can be its God: the hedonistic Dandy refuses. The final scene, set in one of the new universes, suggests a deity's absence changes little.

Made by the same team that produced the acclaimed Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999), this Absurdist SF Anime, though popular, received some criticism for being less ambitious. However, despite Dandy's ego being wearying at times, its animation is vivid and imaginative. The stories cover different styles and moods, and – particularly in season 2 – do not usually focus on simply getting laughs; those that do tend to be the weakest. [SP]


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