Otakon 2013: Shinichiro Watanabe Reveals “Space Dandy”
On the morning of Sunday August 11th Director Shinichiro Watanabe held the second of his two public panels at Otakon 2013, where he addressed the gathered crowd on his newest project: Space Dandy, a sci-fi comedy series from the Japanese animation studio BONES (Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka 7, Sword of the Stranger, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie). Speaking through a translator, Mr. Watanabe discussed the staff working with him to create Space Dandy and introduced many of the characters and strange aliens from the show. An edited transcript of his translated remarks follows, in addition to snapshots of the Space Dandy artwork presented to the audience. Here is Director Shinichiro Watanabe on Space Dandy, in his very own words.
So I’m going to talk about Space Dandy. Yesterday at my panel, we announced Space Dandy and it was the first announcement of its type in the world. To put it simply, this anime is going to be a new TV series and it’s going to be my first attempt at doing a comedy. With Space Dandy, 80% of the show is going to be comedic and light-hearted, and the other 20% is going to be a more serious nature. There’s going to be some dramatic stories, some heartwarming stories, and some hardcore sci-fi stories. Think of it as the opposite of Cowboy Bebop.
So now I’m going to be talking about the staff, who’s going to be helping me create Space Dandy. I am the general director. Shingo Natsume (Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos) is going to be directing the anime with me. Although he is young, I think he is an up-and-coming director who’s going to be very famous in a few years. Pay attention to his name and the series you see his name on. You’ll see a few names for scriptwriters, two of them should be familiar to you: Dai Sato and Keiko Nobumoto are both scriptwriters who helped me with Cowboy Bebop. These two – they understand me very well and they know what I’m trying to do, and they’ve written me some hilarious scripts.
There’s another writer, Miss Kimiko Ueno. This is my first time working with her, but she will also be helping me with Space Dandy. Can you believe it? This writer says she never watched Star Wars! She’s going to be writing the script to a sci-fi piece in space, and she’s never watched Star Wars! I thought this was pretty interesting, so that’s why I invited her onto the staff. I’m pretty sure she’ll be writing some very original scripts. Mr. Yoshiyuki Ito is going to be helping us with the character design. I’m sure you’re familiar with his name by this anime called Fullmetal Alchemist. But this time the character designs are all going to be his original [work], he’s not going to be basing it on a manga, so I’m looking forward to what he comes up with. Mr. Thomas Romain is going to be helping us with the mechanical design. He is a French man living in Japan. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time now, and I’ve been wanting to work with him for a long time. But unfortunately, he’s an employee of Satellite, with a different company, so there were a few barriers to having him help us. But this time we approached him, and it turns out he’s a fan of Cowboy Bebop. So we got special permission for him to help us out.
Now I’d like to talk about Mr. Yasuyuki Okamura, who wrote the theme song. He is a very famous singer in Japan. He writes a lot of funky song, not the kind of songs you’d expect from Japan. So I’ve been a fan since I was much younger, and in fact he’s sung anime theme songs for anime in the past. He sang the ending theme song to the anime City Hunter. I’ve been a long-time fan of his so I was a little nervous about approaching him to help with my work, but he accepted so he’s going to be singing the theme song to Space Dandy. I personally think he’s the funkiest guy in Japan, so you have a lot to look forward to with the theme song. Oh yes, I almost forgot – this anime is produced by BONES. It’s been several years since I worked on an anime for BONES. The last time I directed an anime for BONES was Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, so I’m very excited to be working with them again.
This is a scene from Space Dandy, and as you can see this anime gets a lot of inspiration from old-school sci-fi. I derived a lot of influence from classical sci-fi movies, like Forbidden Planet or John Carpenter’s Dark Star. I’ve been a fan of sci-fi movies for a long time, so I was very happy to take that old school taste and bring it in to this anime with more modern action. There is one thing I’d like to talk about regarding old school sci-fi. In the world of Space Dandy, they listen to music only on cassette tapes. In the world of Space Dandy, there is no such thing as MP3s or CDs, the latest audio technology is cassette tapes! So as you can see, there’s a lot of jokes embedded in the setting of this world, so hopefully you can enjoy this comedic TV series.
Now I’m going to talk about the characters of Space Dandy. This is the main character, Dandy. Dandy isn’t his nickname, it’s his real name! He is the biggest dude in the universe. He doesn’t worry about the small details. When we live our everyday lives, we have all these things we worry about. We let the littlest details bug us and worry about them forever. But Dandy – when something bad happens to him, he forgets about it in five seconds. So with this anime, I’m very envious of the character Dandy and I wish I could live my life just the way Dandy does.
These are some of Dandy’s official expressions. In Japan, there’s a rather unique term – these bad boys, these gangsta types? In Japan, we call them “yankees”. “Yankee” doesn’t refer to Americans. I don’t know why we call them “yankees”, we just do. So Dandy is a yankee-type character, but he’s very fun to be around.
This is his partner, the robot Q.T. There’s not a single normal dude in this show. Dandy – compared to normal people, he’s a lot more “baka” [foolish or stupid]. And this robot Q.T.? When you compare him to other robots, he’s a piece of crap. You could say he’s scrap metal. So Dandy went to a secondhand robot shop, and he was looking for a very capable robot like R2-D2. But Q.T.? He’s a glorified broom bot.
This is Dandy’s other partner, Meow. He may look like a cat, but appearances can be deceiving: he is not a cat. He comes from the planet Beetlejuice. So he is really lazy. All he does all day long is go on twitter and his iPhone. So as you can see, this trio is a very special trio. And this TV series is about the trio going to a new planet each week and having a new adventure on a new planet. In the universe of Space Dandy there’s a job where if you go to a brand new planet and find an alien race nobody’s ever met before, you get paid for it, and that’s what they do. They’re called alien hunters. This is an epic tale of alien hunters!
This is the spaceship designed by Thomas Romain. As you can see this spaceship has a laser beam on one side, and the spaceship was designed based on a canoe. They ride this spaceship to various new planets around the universe each week. The planets they go to are new planets no one has ever been to before, so there are new characters in every episode. So I’ve had a lot of trouble – one of the things I worried about was, what was I going to do about the designs for all these new aliens every week? I mean if we had one person designing the aliens, no matter how hard he works all the aliens are going to be reminiscent of each other on some level. So I decided to have a different designer design the aliens on every planet. For all these designers, I only ask one thing of them: draw an alien nobody’s ever dreamed of. So all these designers I’ve recruited for the show, they’ve all given me very different designs. In fact, we already have over 100 for aliens. If this series becomes popular, we can have at least 100 episodes! But if this show isn’t popular, then uh – we’re only scheduled for 13 episodes, so we’re counting on your support.
The next character – this character works at a certain store. If you walk across the street from the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, there is an establishment called Hooters. There are apparently establishments very similar to Hooters in space. Dandy’s biggest pleasure in life is to go to this establishment reminiscent of Hooters. This character Honey is employed at that establishment.
So this dude, he looks like a bad guy right? Well, he is a bad guy. He’s an evil professor, Professor Gel. He may look like a gorilla, but he’s actually a genius. Each week he comes up with some crazy stupid invention and chases after Dandy with it. And this is his partner, Bee. He comes from the planet Cucumber.
And this is their spaceship. This was designed by Thomas Romain – did I mention he’s French? We were a little worried about how our American audiences would like this design (note: the audience applauded and cheered). So we will have a new alien in every new episode, and each alien is designed by a different designer. Of course there are humanoid aliens, and there are very alien aliens. There are some invisible aliens too. In the episode with the invisible aliens, we didn’t draw anything! The design for the aliens in that episode, we haven’t come up with it yet. So as you can see, we have very many unique designs coming from many different designers. Just who these designers are is still secret, so we will announce them episode by episode. Out of the designers who are working on this show, of course there are some very famous and established designers, and then there are designers who I bumped into at a bar and who agreed to help me over a drink.
After this presentation, Mr. Watanabe treated the audience to a trailer for Space Dandy and began a Q&A session with the audience. For an account of this and Mr. Watanabe’s Sunday press conference at Otakon 2013, click here. For a bonus, below you can check out a few of the designs for the aliens of Space Dandy!