「幻の宇宙ラーメンを探すじゃんよ」 (Maboroshi no Uchū Rāmen o Sagasu jan yo)
“The Search for the Phantom Space Ramen, Baby”

It finally feels as if the anime season has started, thanks to this week’s Space Dandy.

We finally have the “wow” premiere that I’ve been waiting for since this carbuncle of an anime season started – except it wasn’t a premiere. I’ll reiterate what a shame it was that BONES chose the first half of the first episode as the teaser for Space Dandy, because so far it’s been the only segment that hasn’t been very funny. It was my hope that the second half of the premiere was going to be representative of what the series will be, but so far it’s not – this episode was way better even than that.

Here’s the weird thing though – there was probably just as much “Japan specific” humor in this episode as there was in the premiere of Hoozuki no Reitetsu. Ironic, considering the scorn being heaped on BONES for pandering to an American audience with this series. I mean, the entire joke with the old alien with the “other-dimensional flavor” ramen was built around the fact that it was actually Ramen Jiro. In fact that old dude’s whole story was pretty much an affectionate satire on Japanese TV do-ramas about “ronin” in the 60’s and 70’s. How in the world does all that play on Cartoon Network?

Well… Fortunately, this episode had plenty of stuff that should appeal in any language, to anyone who loves animation. Animation, to start with – sakuga animation out the ying-yang, in fact, from the glorious alien ramen porn to the fight scenes in the ramen-ya to being sucked into other dimensions. It also had a red-hot femme fatale, Scarlett (the legendary Kuwashima Houko). She’s the broad from the alien registration office who blasts Dandy and Meow into space when they prove uninteresting, and she shows up later when Dr. Gel’s stormtroopers arrive at the “Ramen Galaxy” – itself a parody of Ramen Street at Tokyo Station – to kick some alien ass in glorious fashion. I’m certain we’ll be seeing more of her.

The whole ramen setup was pure win for me, because I fully understand the quasi-religious quest for the “other-dimensional” bowl. The sorts of ramen collectives that Tokyo Ramen Street pioneered are starting to show up around Japan now, as ramen has become hip among more than college students and drunk salarymen. Nominally Dandy and the gang are searching ramen-ya (including the hilariously-named “-men in Black”) because Meow has dangled the prospect of an unregistered alien being behind the unusual flavor, but it’s really just an excuse to portray the ramen experience and keep our heroes on the move as Dr. Gel chases them down.

The notion of Dandy being chased by a gorilla space-pimp who travels the universe in a bondage-gear Statue of Liberty who works for “Admiral Perry” is wild enough as is, but you have to love the fact that Gel uses “Gogol Street View” to try and find him – and fails utterly. It’s Bee who actually tracks the trio down, because Meow is using his smartphone to tag all the locations of the selfies he’s tweeting his followers. All this eventually leads to the aforementioned Ramen Jiro – though it’s renamed Ramen Saboru for legal reasons – and the old alien (Nagai Ichirou, Netero himself) who’s the secret behind it all.

As I said, a little – well a lot – of insider knowledge would seem to really give this sequence more firepower. Jiro is legendary here, a love/hate iconclast in the world of ramen (true devotees like to say “It’s not ramen – it’s Jiro!”). The “stale noodles, garlic, grease and heaps of vegetables” Dandy describes is very much the experience in a nutshell – I call it the “waterfall purification ramen” because I feel like I need to go to a Buddhist retreat to cleanse myself after eating it. And yes, there is an original – in the hinterlands of Mita at the southern tip of Tokyo, where the old gent who started it all still runs the original Jiro ramen-ya (complete with the yellow awning, which all his knock-offs – licensed and otherwise – also sport). The alien ojii-san’s story is actually almost emotional, and right down to his tears being the secret ingredient, it’s as if taken from a story about a delinquent in the Shouwa Era who got on the wrong side of the law and now lives a lonely life, carrying the weight of his past on his back. But how the heck anyone watching this on Adult Swim is supposed to know that, I’m not sure – hopefully all of this is universal enough that it works anyway.

As to why everyone is alive after the ending of the premiere? I guess it’s just Watanabe’s way of telling us this isn’t the sort of show that cares about stuff like that – clearly, we’re in for an episodic ride here, with the reset button being hit more or less every time. Frankly if Space Dandy is as wildly entertaining as it was this week I couldn’t care a whit – this episode (Yamamoto Sayo directed and Satou Dai wrote) fired on all cylinders, delivering the visually stunning and hilarious overload of insanity I hoped we’d get when the first previews started airing. It’s taken a little longer than I hoped it would, but I finally have a new series to be excited about this season, and it was the one I expected all along – and it’s damn straight better late than never.




  1. I didn’t comment on this last week, but I really like how the OP somehow gives me Cowboy Bebop vibes… Of course, that probably wasn’t intentional, and it might just be the Watanabe fanboy in me saying this, but i gathered this impression from Dandy’s dancing silhouette and the crazy spaceship chase sequence. I don’t want to force comparison between the two shows just because the director is the same (it would be stupidly self referential), but, personally, it’s funny to think of Space Dandy as the whackier and crazier side of sci-fi, just like Cowboy Bebop was the serious and cool one.

  2. Everyone being perfectly okay after being blown up with an entire planet might be just a reference to how in Western cartoons, the consequences in one episode are completely unseen in any of the following episodes. Like, the earth might explode or everyone might turn into snails or something, but by the next episode everything is back to normal with no explanation. Or at least, that’s what I think it is.

    It happens a lot in Western cartoons…

    And does she have her pants pulled part way down or is that just some weird alien fashion? I’m not really sure what I’m looking at.

    1. I’m not sure, but I think the fact that Dandy pulled the cosmic string has something to do with them being fine right now. It’s not just Dandy who’s alive and well, so is the evil ape man and his ship. The ED’s theme revolves around multiple dimensions and such and so I think we might be dealing with parallel dimensions but it is very likely that this has nothing to do with it at all.

  3. No one was more geared up for this show than me. That being said, at the rate this is going it’s looking like the next Guilty Crown[Much Hype little payoff]! I give it one more episode before I give it the “EPIC FAIL” stamp!

    1. Guilty Crown failed in how it took itself so seriously, at least that’s not the case here with Space Dandy. The issue as several have pointed out here is the comedy. Since Space Dandy is going to rely on gags and over the top ridiculousness, it’s likely to be hit or miss for some due to the highly subjective nature of humour.

      Like all other cartoon-based comedies, Dandy will fail if more people do not watch the show than watch it, as that is the only indicative factor for how many enjoyed it.

      1. Also the fact that all the characters in Guilty Crown don’t act like human beings:
        -I saw Shu changing. I must roll into his room to punch him in the face

        -I do the only thing logical when fighting a freaking robot with only an SMG, I run away and take cover
        Everyone watching sighs in frustration

        These small things made me headdesk a lot watching that show.

        Compare it to Space Dandy where ugly aliens act more human than anyone in Guilty Crown, you’ll realize just how crumby that show really was.

  4. Personally I actually found this episode to be less enjoyable than the premiere. The jokes either seemed to fall flat to me or relied on overused tropes (i.e. the villains believing Dandy is a mastermind for continuously escaping their traps, when in reality it’s luck or a variety of other factors). I found Meow’s character to be more annoying than endearing throughout – I think I would have liked it better if he had been relegated to a single episode and the series as a whole focused on just Dandy and his robot companion.

    Then there were a number of things going on that didn’t seem to follow any logic. I understand that the show is meant to be comedic and that as such these kinds of things are often excused, but there seemed to be quite a lot of them. To list a few:

    1. It’s mentioned that they are out of money, and not able to even pay for the ramen they currently had. They fortunately seemed to get out of that one by Scarlet kicking ass and (possibly?) paying their share. How then are they eating at several more ramen restaurants? It seems like lazy writing to point this out themselves, then completely ignore the issue.

    2. How were they getting away from the later groups of henchmen? Scarlet took care of the first wave, but did they really just successfully run from the rest? If so our villains have fallen to an entirely new level of incompetency.

    3. Why did the villain fleet end up where the phone was at the end? Presumably they were using Meow’s twitter to follow the pictures to where Dandy was at the time, not tracking Meow’s phone itself (if they were tracking the phone, why did they only ever catch up at the Ramen restaurants?), so their showing up in the middle of space nowhere like that seems a bit odd.

    I’m likely going be called a kill-joy and downvoted for this post, but I honestly just didn’t find the episode enjoyable and am trying to figure out and list the reasons why. I’ll see how the next episode pans out before deciding to drop it or not.

    1. 1. My guess on that was that the thugs Gel sent after them (those who survived, anyway), left a little lighter in the pockets.

      2. Mook villains are always incompetent.

      3. Meow sent a “tweet” (or whatever the Space Century 0014 equivalent is) from the ship right before Dandy checked it out the airlock and then skedaddled. The same purple planet is present in both the scene when he chucked it and the scene when Gel shows up. Your assumption that they are tracking the locations by where Meow is stating they are is probably incorrect. Once someone translates the alienese on those entries, we’ll probably see some tracking info.

    1. Wait till you see Umetsu’s Wizard Barristers, it has insane production values that rival Kyoani’s Beyond the Borders and in has an interesting take on magic and it’s effect on a normal world like ours (with magic being banned and against the law), i suppose it hasn’t been reviewed yet by someone from the RC staff .. will be waiting for that entry eagerly becasue i really liked it (Space Dandy might be more creative but it feels too random/haphazard).

  5. I’m still on the fence for this one. I liked the second episode better than the first, but that doesnt say much since I didn’t like the first one at all.

    So it’s basically an episodic sci-fi comedy show which jokes have been pretty hit or miss so far.
    For me this has turned out to be one of the weaker shows this season so far.

  6. Enjoyed it a lot, I can’t say this is for everybody, but this makes me feel like I’m watching a mix between cartoon writing and anime art. That aside, the animation is absolutely amazing, and the soundtrack is pretty slick too. I’m eager to see how this pans out, although it can go into a plethora of directions. Which includes bad ones. Given the director, I’m not too sure about that, but I won’t be beaten up by the ugly thing called ‘hype’ once more.

  7. Now this is what I expected Space Dandy to be: pure, ridiculous, over the top, space operatic insanity. The Western appeal is not so much the jokes, but in how they are being presented. Entirely episodic, with maybe some 2-3 episode arcs here or there, each largely unrelated to the other except for maybe a few characters or key plot points. This is exactly how Saturday morning cartoons look and feel after you grow up, with the best reference I think being those who have called this Johnny Bravo in space. That gets closest to the mark IMO.

    The key is to never take this seriously nor worry about plot, because frankly story-wise it’s likely to become even more ridiculous as we chug along here. Space Dandy is never going to take itself seriously, this is all about sitting back, laughing at the things we understand, and reminisce over being a kid again. Japan’s version of America’s 1990s weekend past-time.

  8. But how the heck anyone watching this on Adult Swim is supposed to know that, I’m not sure – hopefully all of this is universal enough that it works anyway.

    What I got was flashbacks to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (book 2).

  9. I feel so many people judge this unfairly based on hyped expectations. Realising this isn’t trying to be Cowboy Bebop then just rating it as a simple comedy. This is a enjoyable piece of art with groovy music and subtle humor. Cut space dandy some slack.

    Space dandy, is Space Dandy.

    The Shizard
    1. The humor is subtle? Can you provide an example?

      I thought it was billed as low brow humor. You know, like the subtle T&A intro ..

      That being said, I do think the production values are stellar and there’s promise. I’m trying to forget the hype and just see what happens.

  10. I’m glad to see that with this episode and the fact that everyone is still alive we’re getting that firmly established statement of:

    We’re going to do whatever the hell we want with this show and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.

    Watanabe getting to do a psychedelic sitcom where the rules have been thrown out the window and he’s free to do as he pleases is absolutely wonderful. This was a solid episode and I can’t wait for more. Episodic series like this are truly worth embracing because of the infinite freedom it gives the writers and animators which has me quite excited to see what else is in store for Space Dandy.

    1. If by serious you mean serious in themes, look elsewhere. This is pure comedy (well, 98% comedy and a tiny bit of sadness). But if you mean serious as in some serious hard laughs, then it already is.

  11. I was on the fence after the first episode, but now I’m sold.

    This episode did a lot of the things that made Bebop so great. We were introduced to a strange side character, and while his encounter with Dandy and Meow was brief, the old alien would create a profound and lasting impact on the main characters as well as the reader. We were reminded that it’s not about the end goal, it’s about the journey. At first, the ramen was simply a means to an end. It was a way for Dandy to catch his bounty. By the end, as we see, the ramen and the old alien’s story are all that matter. The old alien cries as he makes the ramen; he pours his heart and soul into creating something truly special. As a viewer, I believe this anime truly has a soul of its own as well, and in this day, it is something to be appreciated.

    We also get to see some great character development. Dandy begins to view Meow as a friend as they share a laugh at the end of the episode. Around the same time, Meow is a little caught off guard and realizes that Dandy actually has admirable qualities. He is not just some bounty hunter who cares only for money and information.

    Much like Bebop before it, Dandy’s characters are all loners in their own right. The old alien states that he has long forgotten loneliness but his tears say otherwise. As the show goes on, I fully expect the characters to need each other more than they think. Also, boobies.

    This show = old alien’s ramen = A dandy in space. Enjoy it.

    1. I feel the reverse is true. If anything this show makes fun of things in Bebop. A hero that looks cool but is actually incompetent and gets by on dumb luck alone, a vibrant, weird universe that would be fun to live in (honestly, coolness aside, would you really want to live in Bebop’s grungy, worn-out universe?). It has a Hitch-hikers vibe to it.

      This is not Bebop, this is a Dandy in the space.

  12. This episode was a fail. Yeah, I actually got the whole Ramen thing. But, if you are NOT Japanese, who gives a crap. Yeah, anime is catered towards Japan so usually, I’ll accept this, BUT even the director/producers admitted that this series was meant for not just otakus, but for more broader, general public fans AND international fans. (Why else air it on Cartoon Network first before Japan, and both sub and dubs are being released at the same time.) Pick a topic where the world can relate to more, not just Japan like Ramen.

    It’s like if writing a story about finding the best Burger joint. That’s totally an American story, but foreigners will be like “WTF?” of a story like that.

    1. Dude, do you really think we live in the 50s? A world of cultural relativism? You don’t need to be an expert on Japan to know what ramen is, just like foreignes know what an hamburger is. And besides, it’s not like they can’t grasp it from watching the episode, even without ANY prior knowledge (which sounds absurd, though). It’s a comedy show – where the already-widely-known obsession surrounding ramen gets taken to absurd levels; it’s not a show about Japanese cuisine in all its detail, a la, say, Shokugeki no Soma, which would be much more difficult to follow.

  13. So, Gogol = google, ape in wig regalia = racist Obama reference? Ball gagged statue of liberty? Is this some commentary on google controlling a ball gagged once great america? =p

    Show Spoiler ▼

    Love This Show for above reasons.


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