Note: This was originally written on January 28, 2014, before my WordPress page was created. It was later reposted here, unedited.
So, Bones is making a new space opera with Shinichiro Watanabe taking the director’s chair. Great, is it any good? Well, time will tell, but here’s my first impression.
If Kill la Kill, and its studio and staff was enough to get anime fans praising something before they’d even seen it, then this may as well have been give the title “greatest anime ever” before the first episode was even written. Studio Bones, most famous for their premiere work Cowboy Bebop, is know for basically making most of the best anime in the last decade and a half, with Bebop often being considered the best of the best.
I’ve brought up our favorite space cowboy twice now because he’s undeniably linked to our new space hunter, Space Dandy. Both shows are Bones produced, Watanabe directed, sci-fi fun, where the main character is cosmos exploring hunter looking for a little luck (though very different kinds of luck). Maybe it isn’t fair to take that into account while responding to the show, but this isn’t a proper review it’s a reaction, and seeing how far Bones has fallen affected my viewing experience, so lets get into it.
The episode opens with the kind of philosophical debate you only ever see at a high school lunch table, tits or ass? I get that this is supposed to be part of the draw of the show, the cheesy chauvinism of Dandy, but three solid minutes of T&A is just blatant fan service. Right off the bat I’ve got no respect for the show; no plot, no character introduction, just fan service. This is how you start a hentai, not something that’s supposed to be good; seriously, throw it in later if you want, once the show’s properly hooked people, opening with this just makes me want to close the video and watch something else.
All right, maybe I’m over-reacting; let’s just see where… Oh come on! Space Hooters! The first half of the first episode is set in a breastaurant, subtly named “Boobies”. This is why “the normals” think we’re so weird. Thankfully though, the plot suddenly kicks in, and we learn that our pervy protagonist is not just hunting for waitresses, but also aliens. It’s his job to locate and document yet undiscovered alien creatures, and he came to Boobies to find a big talking rat who can give him some information. Oh good, a “cute” animal mascot. Always a trendsetter, aren’t you Bones.
With the help of pervert-rat, Dandy and his robot (who I haven’t mentioned yet because he serves no purpose) go into hyper drive, unravel a cosmic string, wrap through space-time, and somehow end up where they want to be. Dandy and rat beam down to a planet covered with alien monsters, complete their research with the grace, and leave as if they were never even there. Nah, just kidding, they all explode.
As for the animation, again I must clarify, had it been another studio it would have gotten top marks. But since it’s Bones I just can’t say it impressed me much. The characters don’t seem to have much weight most of the time, and the simple subtle movements Bones does so well are nonexistent. Instead the focus seems to be directed towards the action, which means a couple corners get cut throughout the bulk of the episode to deliver a burst of visual majesty at the end. The last scene of this episode is one of the greatest spectacles animation has ever delivered.
Space Dandy doesn’t look like a bad show; hell, in spite of the unbearable first half of the episode, the second half makes me believe it’s going to be a great series. What irks me isn’t anything about the show itself, but who made it. Bones is the best thing to happen to anime in the 21st century; they changed the standards with Cowboy Bebop, showed how smart anime can be with Wolf’s Rain, and entertained and moved people from one end of the map to the other with two Full Metal Alchemist series. So to bring back Watanabe for an intergalactic space bounty-hunting story… this is their best foot forward. And now that it’s here, I’m worried that their best isn’t as good as it used to be. Hopefully they prove me wrong.