A Hair-Rais­ing Space Ad­ven­ture

Adult Swim wel­comes Toon­ami’s new­est hero from the Land of the Ris­ing Sun, Space Dandy. by Mercedes Mil­li­gan

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Adult Swim wel­comes Toon­ami’s new­est hero from the Land of the Ris­ing Sun, Space Dandy. by Mercedes Mil­li­gan

The pop­u­lar Satur­day night pro­gram­ming block Toon­ami, Adult Swim’s desti­na­tion for ac­tion-packed anime se­ries, is kick­ing 2014 off with a bang as it pre­mieres Shinichiro Watanabe’s ( Cow­boy Be­bop, Samurai Cham­ploo) lat­est show Space Dandy on Jan­uary 4. In an un­prece­dented move for the net­work, the English dub (pro­vided by FU­Ni­ma­tion) will hit U.S. air­waves near si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the Ja­panese TV launch.

Pro­duced by Bandai Vis­ual Co. and Ja­panese toon house BONES, Space Dandy fol­lows its tit­u­lar, pom­padour-sport­ing hero (voiced by Ian Sin­clair) as he trav­els the galaxy in search of undis­cov­ered alien species—each new spec­i­men of which earns him a hefty re­ward. Joined by his run-down ro­bot QT and cat-like alien crea­ture Meow, Space Dandy must out­race and out­wit ri­val bounty hunters as he ex­plores ex­otic plan­ets and en­coun­ters strange new be­ings—all while look­ing fab­u­lous.

The English voice cast also fea­tures Ali­son Vik­torin, Joel McDon­ald, J. Michael Ta­tum, Micah So­lu­sod, Kent Wil­liams, Alexis Tip­ton, Colleen Clinken­beard and R. Bruce El­liott as the nar­ra­tor. The 2D-an­i­mated ad­ven­ture-com­edy re­unites the ta­lented cre­ative team be­hind the hit 1998 se­ries Cow­boy Be­bop. In ad­di­tion to gen­eral di­rec­tor Watanabe, the crew com­prises di­rec­tor Shingo Nat­sume ( Full­metal Alchemist: The Sa­cred Star of Mi­los), screen­writ­ers Kimiko Ueno, Dai Sato, Keiko Nobu­moto and oth­ers; char­ac­ter de­signer Yoshiyuki Ito and space­ship de­signer Thomas Ro­main.

“The num­ber one thing is [the show] is supremely con­fi­dent,” says Ja­son DeMarco, Adult Swim’s VP and cre­ative di­rec­tor for on-air. “It’s re­ally play­ful, re­ally funny. There are def­i­nitely mo­ments of dan­ger and se­ri­ous­ness but it’s way more play­ful than any­thing we’ve seen be­fore … There’s some anime that’s very in­su­lar, there are cer­tain tropes and cer­tain modes of sto­ry­telling and things oc­cur­ring over and over again, and this show feels like it’s play­ing with th­ese con­ven­tions and turn­ing some of them on their heads. Right now [Watanabe] is like a mas­ter who has noth­ing to prove and can now do any­thing he wants.”

DeMarco re­veals that Space Dandy’s transcon­ti­nen­tal pre­miere was a huge bonus to the net­work, which came on­board for the show early thanks to strong re­la­tion­ships with Bandai and BONES. Toon­ami orig­i­nally ex­pected to have the stan­dard six month de­lay be­tween the Ja­pan pre­miere and com­pleted English dubs. “It was ba­si­cally luck that FU­Ni­ma­tion was able to record all the voices and get us the fi­nal episodes early enough that we can air it tech­ni­cally be­fore Ja­pan,” he ad­mits. “I wish I could tell peo­ple it was some kind of mas­ter plan!”

A Dandy of a Plan

As se­ries cre­ator Watanabe told us through an e-mail in­ter­view last month, the ac­claimed di­rec­tor set out to cre­ate “a pop, avant-garde anime” with his new­est project. Th­ese watch­words

“There’s some anime that’s very in­su­lar, there are cer­tain tropes and cer­tain modes of sto­ry­telling and things oc­cur­ring over and over again, and this show feels like it’s play­ing with th­ese con­ven­tions and turn­ing some of them on their heads. Right now [Watanabe] is like a mas­ter who has noth­ing to prove and can

now do any­thing he wants.”

show both in Space Dandy’s fresh de­sign and its ir­rev­er­ent ap­proach to sto­ry­telling. DeMarco notes that while there is oc­ca­sional story con­ti­nu­ity from one episode to another, for the most part each ad­ven­ture is a self-con­tained story. Space Dandy and crew also aren’t afraid to break the fourth wall for comedic ef­fect.

“Part of what makes it a good fit for Adult Swim—and why we’re pre­mier­ing it at 11:30, which we’ve never done—is it’s so funny,” DeMarco adds. “It’s a very good tran­si­tion from the clas­sic Adult Swim car­toons to the ac­tion Toon­ami stuff.”

“In ev­ery episode, the show’s sen­si­bil­i­ties and style al­ways change,” says Watanabe. “You never ex­pect what the story is go­ing to be like next, which makes you feel ex­cited.”

Since each episode of the show takes Space Dandy to a new, un­ex­plored planet in a far cor­ner of the universe and in­tro­duces view­ers to a brand spankin’ new E.T., the BONES stu­dio crew has plenty of op­por­tu­nity to flex their cre­ative mus­cles when it comes to de­sign­ing char­ac­ters. “I think many peo­ple thought when they were kids, ‘there must be aliens like this, like that,’” Watanabe ex­plains. “Space Dandy is an an­i­ma­tion show in which those thoughts got re­al­ized.”

“It’s like some­one took the Cantina scene in Star Wars and it’s like that all the time,” adds DeMarco. “It’s awe­some. It’s just peo­ple hav­ing fun and let­ting their imag­i­na­tions run riot.”

Watanabe’s pre­vi­ous hit Cow­boy Be­bop also in­volved a space-trav­el­ling hero. The anime

— Ja­son DeMarco, Adult Swim VP & cre­ative di­rec­tor for on-air

leg­end says that hav­ing a whole galaxy of pos­si­bil­i­ties def­i­nitely has its ups and downs. “One of the ben­e­fits is be­ing able to give life to var­i­ous strange ideas,” says Watanabe. “The chal­lenges are... it is re­ally a lot of work to draw set­tings.”

In ad­di­tion to the Toon­ami and Ja­pan launches, Space Dandy will be sweep­ing Asia, Aus­tralia/ New Zealand and parts of Europe thanks to a num­ber of broad­cast­ers, VOD and stream­ing ser­vices who have part­nered with Bandai to spread the love (and great hair). For DeMarco and the Toon­ami crew, all this has meant a new level of co­or­di­na­tion. “To make the show hap­pen near si­mul­ta­ne­ously in all th­ese ter­ri­to­ries, it takes like five or six part­ners to make sure no one is screw­ing any­one else’s ter­ri­tory up. It’s not like any show I’ve worked on be­fore. It must be a very small taste of what it takes to launch a ma­jor movie world­wide!” DeMarco adds that de­spite the size of the ven­ture he’s amazed at how smoothly the process has gone so far.

With other suc­cess­ful shows un­der his belt and Space Dandy get­ting ready to set the world on fire for his to-die-for ‘ do, we couldn’t miss ask­ing Watanabe about his take on the global tele­vi­sion toon in­dus­try. “In many coun­tries, they stopped cre­at­ing 2D an­i­ma­tion drawn by hand, which is dis­ap­point­ing,” he opines. “I think draw­ings and il­lus­tra­tions made by hu­man hands are very at­trac­tive, so I want to con­tinue to cre­ate hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion.”

Space Dandy pre­mieres on Adult Swim’s Toon­ami block Jan­uary 4 at 11:30 p.m.

Ja­son Demarco Shinichiro Watanabe

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