Space Dandy’s moments of clarity and brilliance carved out a little niche of piqued interest when I reviewed the first season back in December. With season two shining its way onto Blu-Ray I figured it was a good opportunity to see where this delightful space opera could go as it wraps up its seemingly frivolous storyline.
The second season wastes no time taking us back along the same formula that made up the bulk of the first season, with Dandy, QT and Meow trying to earn their living despite how rubbish they are at their alien-hunting day job. In fact, that’s the premise of the opening episode, with Dandy floating across parallel universes to discover that his ineptitude is rather unique to his world. The familiar monster-of-the-week formula as a result dominates the first chunk of episodes. Highlights include Dandy forming a band with a secret galactic ruler that smacks of Abarenbou’s electric bass inanity from DiGi Charat and, continuing the musical theme, Dandy’s adventure going back to high school which liberally tips its hat to Western pop culture’s exploration of high school through productions like Grease, High School Musical or Glee. Ultimately though, the episodes are a bit mixed and feel like padding rather than focused story telling.
Or at least, so it seems. Series director and Cowboy Bebop alumnus Shinichiro Watanabe crushes the formula on the 21st episode with a sombre tale reflecting on the meaning of life that extends the writing to visual and aural aesthetics, and we see both Honey and Scarlet given some amazing focused episodes that give them surprising depth. As the final push continues, we get a bomb dropped on us that puts the entire series into perspective before finishing on a fantastic conclusion that wraps up plenty of loose ends and really leaves you satisfied by the time the end credits roll.
Space Dandy’s flexibility, something I noted when reviewing the first season, is surprisingly subtle yet tactile. Individual stand-out episodes keep the momentum coming, but it was ultimately those key episodes that challanged the formula and drove the ending that demonstrated the show’s strengths. I’m still impressed that these allowed for characters otherwise vapid to come off as having levels of depth that the directors and writer’s potentially deliberately portrayed as such in order to juxtapose where they knew the series would end. In fact, on one level perhaps that’s the whole reason behind much of the unfocused storytelling in many of the episodes – perhaps it was designed to challenge perceptions and create a more dramatic contrast when the big episodes hit.
… or perhaps I’ve been drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid. Who cares though, because the trip was worth it.
What helped push along Space Dandy’s universe was the production values. Bones once again brings a solid production to the second season, with great direction, animation and audio. It’s the kind of pop-punch approach that suits the material perfectly, and displayed surprising malleability where required. This is particularly noticeable with the episode written by Watanabe as the screenplay relied on a distinctive look and feel to the episode. There’s also an amazing blend of interpretative pixel art in the episode exploring the 2D multiverse that is reminiscent of retro video games, while the final episode leans heavily on lush, action-packed visuals to push the rapid conclusion to the series. Varied, but executed very, very well.
The Blu-Ray package for this release is nothing to be sniffed at either. In addition at a rock-solid encode on the audio and video, the second disc features commentaries, mini docos/shorts, commercials and textless versions of the ops and eds. Like the first season, the Japanese track is in 2.0 while the English dub gets some extra aural shinies in the form of a 5.1 mix.
For some anime, it is the constant delivery of engaging content that makes for enjoyable, even fervent viewing. In other cases, it is the swing of the pendulum between good and brilliant episodes that engages you as it creates a memorable journey. Space Dandy definitely falls into the latter, rewarding those who have lost themselves in the ride and the shift between loose and focused storytelling. With a fantastic conclusion that delights in exploring the metaphysical, all the more interesting as this juxtaposes its outward appearance as a fan service/action space opera series, I have to say it was great fun hanging out with the dandiest guy in space. Recommended.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.