Space Dandy: The Man Without A Past

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This post will contain spoilers for the endings of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Space Dandy. If you haven’t seen all of these shows, then hurry up and get on it! They’re all classics!

In my observations on Space Dandy season one, I presented the idea that Space Dandy was a show about unbound free speech, and that the titular character was the representative for endless creative freedom. Season two only serves to drive this point home, while including some interesting connections to director Shinichiro Watanabe’s past works.

Watanabe’s 1998 classic Cowboy Bebop was a sci-fi adventure show set in the future, but obsessed with the past. The main character, Spike Spiegel, had a false eye, and would claim that one of his eyes could see the present, whereas the other could only see the past, and he spent the entire series trapped by that past. While his crewmates each tried to move on and live in the present, putting their pasts behind them, Spike wasn’t able to and died with the resolution of his hangups. Each episode of Cowboy Bebop paid homage to old movies and genres, and the show’s universe always felt dilapidated and past its prime.

Meanwhile, Watanabe’s 2004 adventure series, Samurai Champloo, is set in the past, but obsessed with the present. Its vision of the edo period is one where rap music and graffiti exist, and characters speak with modern slang. Each of its main characters are haunted by their pasts, but each of them manages to escape that past in the end and move on to continue living in the present.

Unlike either of those shows, however, Space Dandy doesn’t take place in any specific time. Because it’s a sci-fi series, you might assume that it’s set in the future, but really the universe of Dandy is far too convoluted to claim something like that. It takes place in every time at once, in every universe at once, and it acts as though the past is some ephemeral and unimportant concept. Like the shows before it, Space Dandy does call back to other genres and works, but it also pushes the envelope far beyond what’s been done before. Episodes made to parody other genres always take them to somewhere new and unexpected, and a lot of episodes are legitimately like nothing that I’ve ever seen before. It really does feel like Space Dandy is making references to a future that doesn’t even exist yet.

Space Dandy himself is a man without a past. At first, we understand this through Dandy’s explanations of how he doesn’t really have any memories, but it eventually becomes more literal when we learn that as dandy has travelled between universes, he has constantly become new versions of himself who haven’t experienced the things that other versions of him have. He’s literally been leaving his past behind and forgetting about it, living only in the present while thinking only of the future. Even though Dandy’s only intentions for the future are to make money and go to Boobies, he is always talking about that future. Everything he’s doing at any given time is always in hopes of leading to the future where he can go to Boobies again. He spends no time whatsoever dwelling on the past.

It is clear to me that the ultimate intention of Space Dandy is to push the medium of animation forward. Not only thematically, but in giving work to all kinds of progressively-minded artists who worked on the show’s enormous creative staff. To show things that no other series has really shown before, and to unleash free creativity onto the world. Back in season one, I said that the biggest piece of symbolism in Space Dandy was how the enemy space ship was a statue of liberty with a ball gag in its mouth. In the final episode, Space Dandy pilots the statue of liberty as a robot, all of its restraints are removed, and then Dandy himself is FIRED FROM LADY LIBERTY’S MOUTH in one of the most awesomely explosive symbolic displays I have ever seen.

Space Dandy doesn’t just symbolize boundless potential, but physiologically IS boundless potential. Space Dandy is the catalyst of the singularity and the birth of a new universe. He is the force that ushers in the future, and his TV show is more than a little exciting.

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