When Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from feature films last September, countless media outlets and fans around the world mourned the loss of a beloved filmmaker—Japan’s most famous since Akira Kurosawa—whose movies had brought gravitas to the country’s animation industry, long a niche interest in the West. Thanks to thought-provoking films like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and of course, Miyazaki’s work, American interest in Japanese animation had exploded over the last three decades and made a huge cultural impact.
Critical focus, however, has stayed largely on feature films, while anime—referring specifically to Japanese animated television series—has not earned the same kind of respect. An animator like Daisuke Nishio, for example, who directed the hit Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z series, is not considered an artist like Miyazaki, whose drawings have been displayed in museums in Paris.
But while anime has always struggled to be taken seriously as an art form, one director might be able to make critics reconsider: Shinichiro Watanabe, director of Cowboy Bebop, whose new series Space Dandy is debuting on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim on January 4.