Review for Space Dandy - Season 2 Collector's Edition
I remember when Space Dandy was being streamed, enjoying the first season of the show, and then having to wait several months for the second season. You can understand why when you look at the sheer variety of the episodes, the quality of the writing, and standard of the animation. This isn’t a show that you can quickly run off a production line. That doesn’t quite explain why the home video releases are emulating that format though. It’s been seven months since Space Dandy Season 1 was released here on Blu-ray and DVD, and as mentioned in another recent anime review, that length of time is just about enough for a show to slip from the memory. Fortunately that’s never a problem with a show as good as Space Dandy. Last time I had some pre-production discs to review, but this time I have discs approaching the final release product. The French language assets are here, and I needn’t have worried last time; the extra language track has no effect on the image quality.
Space Dandy is the coolest alien hunter around, baby, and on his spaceship the Aloha Oe, with his trusty (read sarcastic) robot QT, he scours the universe for unregistered, rare aliens to register and make a living. That money goes to fulfilling his obsession with the Boobies Breastaurant chain. That is where the delectable Honey works as a waitress, and it’s where he finds Meow, a Betelgeusian who claims to know where some unregistered aliens are, and becomes a trusty (read deadbeat moocher) member of the Aloha Oe crew thereafter. All of Dandy’s efforts are in service of the strict civil servant Scarlet, who judges the rareness of unregistered aliens, and who takes a dim view of the specimens that Dandy usually brings in. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the universe, the Gogol Empire is at war with the Jaicro Empire. Admiral Perry of the Gogol Empire directs the evolved simian Dr Gel, and his minion Bea to hunt down and capture the one man who can guarantee the Gogol Empire’s dominion over the universe, a man named Space Dandy.
And most of that is just salad dressing, as with each new mission that the crew of Aloha Oe take on, you never know just what you’re going to get...
The Collector’s Edition coming out now has rigid packaging, these discs in an Amaray, a collector’s book, and character art cards. There will be a standard edition release with just the discs in due course, just as there was for Season 1. The thirteen episodes of Space Dandy Season 2 are presented across two dual layer Blu-ray discs as follows by Anime Limited.
14. I Can’t Be The Only One, Baby
15. There’s Music in the Darkness, Baby
16. Slow and Steady Wins The Race, Baby
17. The Transfer Student is Dandy, Baby
18. The Big Fish is Huge, Baby
19. The Gallant Space Gentleman, Baby
20. Rock n’ Roll Dandy, Baby
21. A World With no Sadness, Baby
22. We’re All Fools, So Let’s All Dance Baby
23. Lovers are Trendy, Baby
24. An Other-Dimensional Tale, Baby
25. Dandy’s Day in Court, Baby
26. Never-ending Dandy, Baby
Space Dandy gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p. Spreading the episodes evenly across two dual layer Blu-rays have worked wonders, delivering crisp, colourful, smooth and fluid animation, with no visible artefacts or compression. Space Dandy certainly gets a worthy transfer here. That’s all the more fitting given the imagination and variety of design that goes into the episodes, from the infinity of alien characters, to the fantastic world designs. There is the very occasional smidge of digital banding, mostly in darker scenes, but it’s a minor flaw that only stands out due to the absence of digital banding elsewhere in the release.
The images used in this review have been kindly supplied by Anime Limited.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English, French and Japanese, with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate audio track. I went with the original Japanese audio with subtitles, and was very happy with the experience. The actors really do create vivid and memorable characters, while the subtitle translation really does flow well, capturing the style and quirkiness of the show. The show does make the best of the stereo and of course one of the big selling points of the show is the music, really the star of this release.
I dipped my toe into the English dub once more, for episode 17, and was once again impressed by the quality of the voice actor performances. I was also hit in quick succession by four references to eighties brat-pack movies and the like, indicative of a lot more than the usual thought put into an adaptation, and pretty much confirming that the next time I watch Space Dandy, it will be with the dub.
In the review for season 1, I did express some concern that the songs didn’t receive translated subtitles for the lyrics. It was less of an issue in Season 1, but season 2 is where the musical episodes are, particularly episodes 17 and 20. It’s a bit of a compromise here, as once again, the theme songs aren’t subtitled. When it comes to the musical episodes, when the characters on screen are singing, then the lyrics are translated. But the insert songs still aren’t translated. In episode 17, that means the song that plays over the training montage doesn’t get lyrics. I have to admit that I’m disappointed at this. Otherwise the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typographical error.
The discs present their contents with animated menus. The digital extras are on disc 2, and we finally get the textless credit sequences after missing out on them in Season 1. There are also 3:22 of trailers for season 2, and there are no subtitles, not even for the French one. That’s on the first page. I made the mistake of thinking that it was the only page, and I have since deleted a paragraph of whinge about missing extras. When you click right through the first page of extras, keep going right and you’ll find two more pages, on which you’ll see a 24:54 Digital Art Gallery slideshow, offering concept art, pencil sketches and more, hundreds of images. You’ll also find the all important textless endings to episodes 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, and 26.
I didn’t get a look at the packaging, the art cards, or the artbook, so someone else will have to wax lyrical about those.
I like Season 2 of Space Dandy quite a bit more than Season 1, and it’s not just because it has my favourite episode of the lot, The Transfer Student is Dandy, Baby. That’s the one where searching for a rare alien, Dandy winds up enrolling in a high school, but one where success is measured by rhythm, musical ability and performance. It’s Fame crossed with Grease, a musical episode, and it’s fantastic, worth the price of the collection alone. The real reason I prefer Season 2 is that having established the characters and the tone of the show in Season 1, they threw caution to the wind for Season 2 and just let rip with the wildest ideas, strangest fantasies that they could come up with. It’s still the unrestrained comic hilarity as before, but there’s some serious sci-fi and philosophy underlying many of the episodes here, stories that get the grey matter whirring away, even while your gut hurts from laughing too much.
However, the roll of the dice on the episodes, the greater chances taken with the stories means that they vary greatly in how well they come across. The good ones are fantastic, inspired, thrilling in their ambition, while the ones that fail don’t just fail quietly and whimper in the corner, they fail spectacularly, leaving a lasting impression of how bad they were. Fortunately the good really does outweigh the bad here, but I doubt I’ll be watching the one with the creepy skeleton collecting perfect smiles again, while the penultimate episode, Dandy’s Day in Court is one drawn out and tedious joke, whose sole purpose is to set up the final episode with its last scene. Also the Gallant Space Gentleman, which expands on Honey’s back-story, is somewhat lacklustre and aimless.
Strangely, my favourite episodes in the collection are the conventionally odd, the musical episodes certainly, with Dandy doing his best John Travolta when he goes to high school, turning the mousey quiet girl into the prom queen. There’s the Rock and Roll episode, where the crew starts a band with the leader of the Jaicro Empire, who’s moonlighting as a musician. The band starts off with musical differences and works their down from there. There’s also the disco episode (This one has Ton Jravolta in), the search for the dance-aliens getting Dandy to strut his stuff, and it all going a little weird, timey-wimey and other dimensional when he buys a certain record. I also like the Lovers are Trendy episode, which sees the strict Scarlet hiring Dandy to be her pretend boyfriend to shake off her stalker ex. It’s a sweet episode loaded with what-ifs.
The really weird concept episodes are a whole lot of fun too, if a little mind-bending. Dandy gets a teleporter torch, and beams his head (just his head) to a world where he meets a sentient fish astronaut. Dandy explores the afterlife in one episode, which is a profusion of visual ideas, imaginative animation and confusing philosophy (it’s like the sentient amoeba planet from season 1 but weirder). There’s also the love triangle between a 4 dimensional girl hypercube, the 3-D Dandy, and a 2-D jealous prince, who brings his whole 2-D universe (looking a lot like an 8-bit game), into the 3-D one to get his 4-D girlfriend back. With episodes like these, I can’t help but love the sheer ambition of Space Dandy Season 2.
There’s also the multi-dimensionality that underlies the whole Space Dandy concept, which in episodes 14 and 24 go some way to explaining how we see multiple Dandy episodes over the run with characters meeting bad ends, only to be hale and hearty the next week. In episode 14, Dandy pulls on a cosmic string, and eventually winds up pulling a multiverse worth of Dandys, Meows and QTs into his universe, and distorts reality as a result. I can live with the episodes that I didn’t like in this run, as I can still appreciate the ambition, but I’m not at all fond of the final episode, which attempts to tie everything together with some sort of cohesive storyline, which boils down to the multi-verse theory.
It involves Dr Gel and Bea of course, who over the course of the series have been trying and comically failing to capture Dandy for the Gogol Empire. It was funny as a running joke, these two characters eternally chasing the Flying Dandy Dutchman, never to encounter him, let alone capture him. I would have been happy if it had just stayed this way, the equivalent of the inevitability of Kenny dying in every episode of South Park. But the Gogol Empire finally get their man, which leaves QT, Meow, Scarlet and Honey coming together to heroically mount a rescue mission. In a show that’s relentlessly daft and unpredictable as Space Dandy has been up to this point, the conclusion is disappointingly mundane, even though they push the boat out in terms of animation budget.
In terms of comedy, sci-fi anthology shows, Space Dandy is unique in my experience. The ambition in its writing is stupendous; it plays with fantastic ideas and concepts that you might find in hard sci-fi, but it always plays it for laughs. The risk is that it can be hit and miss, and even I find a few of Space Dandy’s stories tiresome and unimpressive. But the hits outweigh the misses by a big margin, and there’s probably something for everyone here. The end of the series offers potential hope of a second series, which I wouldn’t be averse to, although finding another 26 weird and wacky ideas might be a big ask. But a Space Dandy movie... now that I could get behind.