Watanabe creates new series
Published: Sunday, February 16, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 16, 2014 20:02
Nearly 15 years ago, Shinichiro Watanabe created a series called “Cowboy Bebop,” one of the most popular anime series in the United States and Europe. Despite a tepid reception in the show’s native Japan, Watanabe has gone on to direct other well-received international projects including “Samurai Champloo,” “Mitchiko & Hatchin” and “Kids on the Slope.” Now, he’s once again writing a love letter to western culture with “Space Dandy.” Similarly to Watanabe’s previous works, “Space Dandy” will run for a robust 26 episodes. Though not even a quarter of the series has aired so far, I wanted to give my first impressions.
This series follows a devil-may-care, lazy, perverted jerk who calls himself Space Dandy. Our pompadour-sporting hero is joined by two companions: a robot named QT who literally cleans up after Dandy’s messes, and a cat-like alien who Dandy uncreatively dubs “Meow.” The trio are on a journey across the universe to search for and capture undiscovered aliens so they can receive cash rewards from a bespectacled, no-nonsense woman named Scarlet. This exchange humorously takes place at a facility reminiscent of a DMV, only in space. Much to the chagrin of QT and Meow, their payments usually fund Dandy’s unhealthy obsession with a Hooters-esque restaurant called Boobies. QT, Meow and occasionally the narrator himself mock Dandy’s recklessness and blatant disrespect for others, with Dandy usually escaping danger by pure chance.
Thus far, the series itself is still greatly entertaining due to incredible art direction, creature design and shameless self-awareness; this results in frequent breakage of the alleged “fourth wall,” making the show’s narrator a character in itself. The opening and closing themes are also very catchy and fun to listen to, with the ending theme in particular utilizing a relaxing style reminiscent of the bossa nova genre.
In the staff credits, two names that resonated were Yoko Kanno and the famed Katsuhiro Otomo. Kanno had previously worked with Watanabe when she composed the soundtrack for “Cowboy Bebop,” including the phenomenal intro theme. She went on to work on the soundtracks for “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and then once again worked with Watanabe when he directed “Kids on the Slope.” Meanwhile, Katsuhiro Otomo is the incredible writer and designer behind the Japanese graphic novel epic “Akira,” winning numerous awards for his work, including one from Japanese Emperor Akihito. Undoubtedly, I look forward to Otomo’s design additions to the series, especially with Otomo’s penchant for mechanical designs, including fictional military vehicles, facilities or weapons.
“Space Dandy” can be seen on Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” block every Saturday at 11:30 p.m., or legally streamed on the website for Funimation. With a confirmed 26 episode run-time, it’s unknown if “Space Dandy” will follow its predecessor, “Cowboy Bebop,” and develop a more serious, over-arcing story or will maintain its comedic, episodic structure. Nevertheless, it seems that so far “Space Dandy” has an impressive level of style, and with a director like Watanabe, it could soon be a major hit in the United States.