#1 A very dandy protagonist
“Space Dandy: he’s a dandy guy… in space. He combs the galaxy like his pompadour on the hunt for aliens. Planet after planet he searches, discovering bizarre new creatures, both friendly and not. These are the spectacular adventures of Space Dandy and his brave space crew… in space.”
God it’s such a good intro.
Space Dandy is about a laidback alien hunter with an ego so large that it’s only matched by his outrageous pompadour. He is a stylish, smooth-talking ladies man, but unfortunately that rarely does him any good while on the job. The few times he manages to actually capture an alien, 9/10 times it turns out to be just some ordinary citizen he basically abducted and shoved into a cage. Not cool bro.
Dandy absolutely sells this anime. He is consistently hilarious and you never know what kind of insane plan he’ll conjure up next, or by what streak of utterly-improbable luck he may be able to save the day. He’ll sometimes surprise you with a touching moment where he shows a different side of himself, but he’ll probably do something silly again right after
#2 Excellent use of the episodic format
Space Dandy is a role model by which episodic series ought to format themselves. Each episode is a standalone space adventure with its own story and side-characters, which sometimes cross-reference but are otherwise completely unrelated. In fact, many of them end with cast members dying or even total apocalypses. Yes… plural.
The story & tone vary heavily between each episode and individual directors have a tangible impact on this. One episode sees the cast get caught up in a time-loop as they visit a crew member’s home planet and help him sort out old regrets, another is a surreal and almost-incomprehensible adventure on a planet populated by plants, and yet another sees the crew deal with having a shapeshifter invade their ship. Sure, there are episodes in there that are kinda mediocre or might not suit your tastes, but that happened to me twice and the next episode would immediately make up for it.
#3 Stylish visuals
As is to be expected from a show with a protagonist who unironically has a pompadour, Space Dandy is a stylish and beautiful series. Its rap opening already sets expectations high, but the constantly rotating ensemble of (animation) directors and other unique talent ensures that each episode is rich in eye-candy and smooth animation.
One of my favorites episodes ended up being episode 22, “We’re All Fools, So Let’s All Dance, Baby”. It’s a music-driven episode about a planet destined to host a killer party, which features a lot of sweet dance animation and other great moments. Other episodes that stand out are the gothic visuals of episode 21 “A World with No Sadness, Baby” and episode 11, “I’m Never Remembering You, Baby”, where the visual directing is actually key to understanding its confounding mystery storyline.
#4 Lovable side-characters
Dandy is joined on his adventures by QT and Meow, a severely-outdated support robot with a lot of personality and a social media-obsessed catdude who prefers to do the bare minimum needed to not be booted off the ship.
These make for lovely companions with personalities and dialogue that blend nicely with Dandy’s eccentric nature, leading to a very chummy atmosphere as the three embark on bizarre adventures. Both of them get a lot of opportunities to shine, including entire episodes dedicated to their backstory and arc. Even less-important side-characters like the waitress Honey or the strict clerk who handles Dandy’s bounties get their own special episodes.
This comes on top of the creative aliens the crew meets in any given episode, which can become lovable side-kicks or entertaining antagonists depending on the situation. I was especially fond of the little plant girl Dandy meets in one episode; it’s amazing to see how much personality can be applied through strong voice acting and animation, even when the subject is little more than a cabbage with tiny legs.