Why I Am Unable To Enjoy Space Dandy

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

A few weeks back, I asked our readers about what they thought was the best anime of Q2 2014 is. Hands down, the answer was the latest anime from the creators of Cowboy Bebop: Space Dandy. Unfortunately, it is an anime I am completely unable to enjoy.

I am aware that I am far from the only person out there not entertained by Space Dandy -- though it seems that the most common complaint the series gets is that it isn't Cowboy Bebop. However, my reasons for not enjoying Space Dandy are different from that. After all, I am apparently the only person on the planet that found Cowboy Bebop so boring I dropped it on the sixth episode. (However, as that was when I was in high school more than a decade ago, I do hope to revisit it one of these days and see if my opinion will change.) No, my reason has to do with the anime's humour.

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

But before we get into that, there's one thing we need to cover first: the end of the first episode of the series. In it, the entire main cast dies. Of course, this is immediately lampshaded in the next episode preview -- basically telling the viewer that anything can happen in Space Dandy. Unfortunately, this also means that all avenues for dramatic action with life-threatening dangers are effectively curtailed right out of the gate. If Dandy and his companions are empowered by a magic reset button, there can be no real threats or lasting consequences. Even if they die, they will be fine by the next episode. So with neither drama nor gripping action to work with, Space Dandy is a show that lives or dies on its comedy alone.

Over the two-and-a-half hours of Space Dandy that has aired so far, I have actually laughed only once. This is because the humour of the anime is painfully simplistic. To explain what I mean by that, let's talk a bit about humour.

When it comes down to it, humour is all about subverting expectations. Take this piece of stand-up from Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss:

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

Broken down, it's funny because we expect ministers to give out wise-sounding quotes from the Bible, but we don't expect random people to give out wise-sounding quotes from Harry Potter. What we expect is overturned and the surprise of it all makes us laugh.

Want a simpler example? Your friend is walking down the street; suddenly he trips and falls flat on his face. You laugh. Why? Because you expected him to be able to walk normally and safely. When he didn't, your expectations were abruptly subverted. It's as simple as that.

But of course, subverting expectations is the start of humour, not the be-all and end-all of it. Humour can become quite complex -- joke built upon joke, punch line built upon punch line. Unfortunately, the humour of Space Dandy is simple at best as it relies heavily on sight-gags for its humour.

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

Take Dandy's favourite hangout in space: "Boobies." It's Hooters in space.

(That's the joke.)

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

There are monstrous-looking alien girls in skimpy outfits.

(That's the joke.)

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

The entire restaurant is shaped like boobs.

(That's the joke.)

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

The characters are similarly one-note in their humour. We expect Dandy to be a suave, pulp-fiction space hero based on his character design, but he's just an incompetent loser who thinks he's far cooler than he really is. QT is a robot -- thus we expect it to be incredibly knowledgeable and intelligent -- but due to outdated hardware/software, it's barely better off than Dandy. We expect Meow -- as an alien -- to act alien, but instead he acts like your average lazy human. Yes, all of these characters subvert our expectations when they are first introduced, but unfortunately that's it. Once we know Dandy is incompetent, it's hardly surprising when he accidentally throws away his gun while trying to holster it; or when he decides that eating at ramen shops across the galaxy is the best way to find an undiscovered alien life form.

Now don't get me wrong. If you think Space Dandy is hilarious, that's great. It just means we have different tastes in humour. I just happen to enjoy humour more complex than what Space Dandy has to offer.

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

Take last season's My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering with my School Romantic Comedy, for example. In it, the main character is plagued by sudden multiple choice quizzes -- often perverted ones -- in which none of the answers are desirable. However, if he does not choose and act upon one of the offered choices, he is racked by crippling pain until he does. Thus, much of the comedy in the show follows this pattern of layered humour: The first layer is when the quizzes appear -- as they come suddenly and often at the worst possible moment. The second layer displays the choices themselves -- i.e., what shocking things he will be forced to choose from. The third layer is his reaction to the choices. The fourth layer is him choosing and acting upon the choice. The final layer is how the people around him react to his outlandish behaviour -- and this is often by far the funniest bit as it is never the standard anime response we're conditioned to expect from other anime. In other words, the structure of the humour in My Mental Choices are Completely Interfering with my School Romantic Comedy basically builds to a comedic crescendo over and over again.

Why I am Unable to Enjoy Space Dandy

And for those wondering, the only time I laughed while watching Space Dandy was in the second episode. In it, Dandy meets an alien who was once in a Japanese style biker gang during his reckless youth. While relating his story, he explains how he quit the gang because his girlfriend died in an accident. This is a common trope in such stories and often either a girlfriend or brother dies in a crash while street racing. Expecting that the joke was simply a sight gag about "an alien in a cliché biker gang story," I was caught completely off guard when it was revealed that her death came not from a motorcycle crash but from the alien accidentally breathing fire on her. Expectation subverted indeed.

In closing, let me be completely clear once again. There is nothing wrong with enjoying Space Dandy. It is beautifully animated and spectacularly imaginative. And if its style of humour makes you laugh, I am sure it will be one of the best anime the season has to offer you. But as for me, its humour falls continuously flat and without lasting consequences or developing characters, there is nothing to keep me invested and entertained.

Space Dandy airs on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be seen for free and with English subtitles on Funimation, Animax (Asia), Madman (AU) and Wakanim (UK).


Comments

    "Space Dandy is a show that lives or dies on its comedy alone"
    No not at all, episode 5 wasn't a comedy and it was a great story. I feel sad that you can't enjoy this because your focusing on and expecting a hilarious comedy with continuity instead of the campy sci-fi that it is.

    Last edited 22/02/14 2:21 pm

    Yeah its been up and down for me. I really enjoy some of the episodes and others kinda feel meh. I do like how each episode can stand alone and can be an entertaining story and doesn't have to be building towards a final conclusion like most anime series.

    I enjoy it to a certain extent, The lack of a broader storyline gets me, at times they hint at a more in depth story line with Dr Gel hunting Dandy for whatever reason, but then they never go into it or even take it semi-seriously. Some episodes are great fun and awesome, The space race was one very good ep, but the zombie outbreak episode was down right terrible

      The problem with the show is that currently it doesn't seem to know what kind of show it wants to be. A comedy or serious drama? Since it's doing both (kinda), it's just sending mixed signals in a bad way. I'm just watching it with the expectations of "random episode of the week" and it's bearable. Barely.

      The story does explain the reason why Dr Gel is hunting Dandy.. they go over the reason in the first episode: they say that dandy holds the key to the entire universe, and by catching him, they gain ultimate control over the universe.

    I've dropped this show. It's trying too hard to be Earthworm Jim, and failing miserably.

    I think you might be confused about how sight gags work, Richard. All the examples you listed above where you said 'that's the joke' are sight gags. Sight gags are meant to be immediately recognisable and simple; if they required explanation, they wouldn't work. You compared a few sight gags from the series with a spoken bit by a comedian, then you wonder why the one that involves verbally explaining the story is more complex?

    Watching Space Dandy is like watching the parts of Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop that made me cringe. Most of the humour is stupid, but Dandy's had a couple of gold one liners.

    Unfortunately, this also means that all avenues for dramatic action with life-threatening dangers are effectively curtailed right out of the gate.

    But that's not really what any of the stories hinges on. You don't say Road Runner doesn't work because Wile E Coyote can't be permanently harmed. I'm not saying Space Dandy is the greatest show ever but it is what it is. If it doesn't make you laugh that's fine but over analysing it like this just reeks of comedy snobbery.

    Watched 2 episodes, gave it away. It wasn't funny and it was over the top/ridiculous/stupid. A lot of anime falls into the latter category but it has to be funny to make it work.

    On the other hand Cowboy Bebop is one of my all time favourites.

    Honestly I have a feeling that the fact that they can die at the end of the episode and it doesn't even matter might become important later on.

    I can answer the headline for you
    "why I can't enjoy space dandy" Because its absolute shit.

    Most anime's I can at least understand why OTHERS might like it but this anime is so bad, so repulsive in almost every imaginable aspect that I almost condemn those that like it. It is without a doubt the worst anime I've ever watched.

    Spoiler alert on the end of the first episode would have been nice... Dick Holster.

    I have mixed feelings about this show. A lot of the things that are obviously meant to be funny don't make me laugh, and some of the episodes have been a bit hit and miss, but the soundtrack is great and episode 5 (by far the best episode of the series so far) took me completely by surprise. Also great visuals are always a plus.

    Not quite the worst anime I've watched, but I wanted to drop it after the first, decided to give it two more after people raved about it. It was still shit so it's dumped.

    I'm loving it so far, the whole thing's packed with humor (Both obvious gags such as the ones our incredibly observant columnist pointed out, as well as much more complex skits and humor) as well as a funky soundtrack and wonderfully vibrant artwork.

    Also for those who didn't notice, the first episode sets up why each episode is either independent (when it ends with END) or a continuation of the series (ends with TO BE CONTINUED). If you don't understand what I'm talking about, have a look at the general theme of the wonderful ED, or the scene where they open the cosmic string in the first episode. As someone else stated, I'm sure this will become important later in the series, along with the whole 'Dandy constantly being hunted because he holds the key to victory in the inter-galactic war' arc thing they have going. You know, just food for thought.

    I stopped reading when you said you stopped at episode six of bebop.

    If you didn't like Cowboy Bebop then it was going to be impossible from the beginning for Space Dandy to impress you. I recommend you stop writing reviews on anime and actually stop watching anime all together since apparently all your taste is in your mouth.

    It's funny the author gets the impression this anise is for the stupid, yet is incapable of understanding why there are inconsistencies. String theory. It's blatantly stated in the first episode. There may be something up with his warp drive that not only warps him through space, it breaks through one of 11 dimensions speculated in string theory. Also, I don't know where people get the impression it's all comedy. After this week's dog episode, I don't think that's supposed to be. It also further established dimensions with the dog from 20th century Earth.

    The end credit theme song makes reference to Hugh Everett III, the physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics. It appears Dandy messing with the cosmic string will come into play later.

    I find it odd giving up on Cowboy Bebop after 6 episodes. It would be like a film critic blasting Seven Samurai after only watching the fist 30 minutes.

    You may not like Cowboy Bebop, which is a perfectly reasonable position to take.

    I would of expected one to have watched the series, if only to try to understand why Bebop has been so influential on the rest of the genre.

    "Now don’t get me wrong. If you think Space Dandy is hilarious, that’s great. It just means we have different tastes in humour. I just happen to enjoy humour more complex than what Space Dandy has to offer."

    The above smuggery exemplifies why I am unable to enjoy articles of this nature. Now don't get me wrong. If you think this article has anything interesting to say, or is worth your time, that's great. It just means we have different tastes in things to read. I just happen to enjoy reading things more complex than what this author has to offer.

    It's because you don't understand Japanese and watch the Subbed or even worse, the Dubbed Version.

    This article reads like a post on /a/.

    'When it comes down to it, humour is all about subverting expectations.'

    So you just decided to cherry pick things from the first episode? Subverting expectations is exactly what the seventh episode did.

    Who even ARE you??

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