‘Space Dandy’ first impressions

SPACE_DANDY“Space Dandy” is a new space-themed comedy anime series by director Shinichiro Watanabe and studio Bones that premiered Jan. 4 on Toonami.

The protagonist, Dandy, is an alien-hunting womanizer who travels across galaxies to harvest rare specimens of alien life.

The first three episodes are a departure from tone of past works by Watanabe, such as “Cowboy Bebop” (1998), “Samurai Champoo” (2004) and “Kids on the Slope” (2012).

Watanabe’s strength as a director and screenwriter are characters whose motivation and relationships with one another have been drawn out in small, subtle ways. “Cowboy Bebop” blended film noir, cowboy western and jazz influences against the backdrop of an interplanetary spacefaring civilization. “Cowboy Bebop” and “Samurai Champloo” have characters grounded in an emotional realism that transcends setting.

“Space Dandy” turns that nuanced approach on its head with a protagonist obsessed with owning a chain of Hooters-like “breastraunts.”

That’s not to say the show isn’t sufficiently humorous. Dandy is reminiscent of Zapp Brannigan from the show “Futurama.” He captains the ship Aloha Oe “Hunting Aliens” with two hapless companions. Humorous situations arise from his lack of awareness and inflated self-image. It’s a premise that I hope doesn’t fatigue as the series continues.

Dandy’s shipmates, a cat-like alien named Meow and a capricious robot dubbed QT, leave some room for humor but don’t really work as well as the creators intended, leaving the viewers unconnected with the characters. For three episodes Meow has simply been a lazier, introverted facsimile of Dandy.

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Space Dandy is still just funny enough to keep watching. The three episodes that have aired remind me of the schtick perpetrated by the space captain Brannigan in Futurama.

The show has not deviated from the opening line, “Space Dandy is a Dandy in Space.” What I’ve seen has challenged my expectation of Watanabe’s direction.

New episodes come on 11:30 p.m. Saturday nights on Adult Swim’s Toonami.