In space there is no up or down, backwards or forwards. There is only the seemingly endless void which affronts even as it allures. A dark blankness for man to fill up with whatever he may please. It is truly a blank canvas, a void with no context attached. It is this absence of the very concept of context that Shinichiro Watanabe tackles in his brand new work, Space Dandy. Unlike his previous space opera, Cowboy Bebop, where the protagonist hurtles towards his inevitable date with destiny taking his crew and audience along with him, Space Dandy comes with no strings attached. It is an unconstrained, unending drift in space. There is no order, no momentum save Dandy, the hero’s, insatiable urge to keep visiting a space breastaurant called ‘Boobies’.
Although some might deem this a vulgar and trite premise for any kind of artistic work, let them rest assured that Space Dandy is objectively more profound and beautiful than any “serious” TV show to come out of Netflix, for instance (discounting Chef’s Table- a marvelous sensuous delight). If we are to dig deeper into Dandy’s obsession, let us start at the beginning of the show- a monologue wherein the hero pontificates whether breasts are more desirable than buttocks (of a woman, of course). What significance does this debate over breasts and buttocks hold in the context of the show, or even in its absence? Does it have anything to do with evolutionary biology perhaps? A smirk at the fact that the female breasts which evolved to mimic the shape and tumescence of the buttocks now have superseded their inspirations in the eyes of the perverted aesthete? We can only posit more questions with not a single answer in sight.
That is how Space Dandy rolls, as it were. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the big deal about breasts is. As far as the viewer can make out they serve no higher function than to motivate Dandy. He himself is seemingly satisfied with just looking. This phantom urge, almost traditional, a tradition of licentiousness that along with other customary drives fuels the show. In a sense, it is Cowboy Bebop replayed as a comedy, as a sort of B-side to its tragedy, or its ghost. To really make a point about what kind of show he’s making, Watanabe kills off our heroes in the very first episode: do you want to keep watching? Do you want to see their ghosts?
The animation itself is quirky and zany, congruent with the light-hearted tone of the show. The show is in the form of an anthology where Dandy and his crew, comprising of a talking vacuum cleaner and a space cat(the parallels with a Murakamian protagonist draw themselves) set off on a new adventure in each episode.The music goes pleasantly with the stunning animation and the characters. Watanabe masterfully navigates the vast panoply of human emotions that such a setting offers, and to delve into the philosophical musings of each episode could be the subject for an episode of the show. It is often said that art requires no plot, no linearity or adherence to convention. Art only requires to be experienced. If this is true, then Space Dandy is right up there with the best.