I am a fan of Lauren Orsini‘s work at the Otaku Journalist, but I was quite surprised when I read this piece explaining the reasons Shinichiro Watanabe’s Space Dandy is getting widely covered in mainstream media sources. The first time I read it, I mistakenly took Orsini to be dismissing the legitimacy of these reasons. She is not explicitly arguing that these reasons do not call for the degree of attention Dandy is receiving; rather, most of Orsini’s reservations seem to be about the quality of the show itself.
It is these reservations that I want to respond to.
Suggested Soundtrack for Reading – Sinitus Tempo “Wait and See”
This response is given in the spirit of friendly discussion/debate. I have much respect for Lauren Orsini and think people should read her stuff.
Before stating my arguments, I want to say that Orsini is not the only one who is less than enamored with Space Dandy. I chose to focus on her article because (a) it contains the specific criticisms I want to respond to and not really any of the inflammatory and frankly annoying hyperbole and overreaction I have seen elsewhere and (b) these criticisms are well-put by Orsini; she deserves credit for a well written piece (as is the norm for her blog). For the record, she also makes several points about Dandy that I happen to strongly agree with.
Now, here are the bits I want to address:
/// The Classification of Space Dandy ///
Space Dandy may be a light comedy, but its being directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the mastermind behind anime classics Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.
I don’t think anyone really knows what Space Dandy is just yet. Or, perhaps a better way of putting it is to say that Dandy will probably be a whole bunch of different things. Orsini references other shows directed by Watanabe, and these shows demonstrate that when Watanabe is directing original works, he hops from genre to genre, exploring a variety of themes and constructing a pastiche of moods.
Add to this fact that multiple creative people with different points of view will be taking the helm at different points in the series, and I think that there is a good case to be made that, in the end, Dandy won’t be classified as simply a light comedy (a term which Orsini seems to use as a strike against Dandy). Orsini may eventually be proved correct in her classification; however, at this point in time, given what we know, it seems at best too early to make definitive claims and at worst to be discounting the creator’s track record.
/// Space Dandy is Not Original ///
Space Dandy is entertaining enough, with bombastic dialogue, plenty of fanservice, and explosive fights. But is there anything truly new or exceptional about it?
Though Orsini likely disagrees, I happen to find the extravagantly animated scene near the end in which Dandy and Meow are being chased by space worms to not be derivative at all. But, this is actually beside the point. Going back to the above argument, we have seen so very little of the show that I don’t think we can make any sound judgments on its lack of originality.
To approach from a different angle, Orsini believes that Dandy‘s lack of originality is a valid reason that it should not receive the amount of coverage it is getting. The truth of this claim is far from obvious, Originality is not, in and of itself, a great-making property for stories. Many of the most well-covered and high quality media rely on genre tropes to a greater or lesser degree.. One could point out the influences of and cliches contained in the works Orsini’s piece lists as ones she wishes received Dandy-level media hype.
So, I lied above. I am going to respond to one point Orsini makes regarding the “unjustified” level of coverage Dandy is getting.
///Space Dandy Being on Cable Does Not Justify This Amount of Coverage///
There’s still a bias that more people watch a show if it’s on cable, and that a show aired on TV is somehow more legitimate than a direct-to-streaming one.
First, I don’t think that this is necessarily media bias. Say you have a show and you can chose to release it on cable and streaming or only streaming on your website. It seems reasonable to go forward believing that if the show is released on cable and streaming it will attract more viewers than if it is only released on the internet.
There is also a higher barrier of entry to getting content on television than to getting it on the internet, and that goes double for anime in the United States in 2014. For over a decade the number of anime airing on TV has steadily dwindled. Networks that once upon a time made their name showing Japanese cartoons have drastically decreased their anime offerings and relegate what is left to horrific timeslots. Different networks tried, unsuccessfully, to bring in an anime block. I think it is kind of significant that someone is betting on anime again, betting on anime that isn’t made for children. Cable previously said “no” to anime; now it is saying “yes” to Dandy, which isn’t pimping card games or model kits. If I were a media journalist, I would think that this was news.