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Narratively, Space Dandy is, perhaps more than anything, a theater of the absurd. Any time it approaches the illusion of meaning, it is quick to break that down. There are maybe two episodes with clear messages to them, and both are mostly about how life is a pointless repetitive cycle of sitting around. In its second-to-last episode, Dandy has an existential crisis at the realization that he may or may not be the original Space Dandy, but he quickly gets over it when he realizes how pointless it is to keep asking himself. As the opening theme puts it “life is five minutes of introspection.”
The grand finale is one big, epic love story about a vacuum cleaner who falls for a coffee maker, turns into a giant robot, fights a giant battle, wins nothing, and ostensibly kills himself by drinking coffee. He’ll be back in season 2. Whether its in the face of an epic, dramatic struggle full of Bones doing the style of animation they do best and Yoko Kanno providing the moving score that she’s known for, or just in the face of Space Dandy’s crew bumming around, nothing really matters and nothing ever changes. There is no inherent meaning to anything, and Space Dandy is entirely aware of this. It has nothing to prove, really–it’s just a fun show about a dandy guy in space. And its well aware of what it is.
I think there’s more that this episode is trying to say than what I was actually able to comprehend, but in the midst of its confusion, I caught some cool ideas about the nature of what a book, or any other work of art, is.
In this episode, a book-type alien is the curator of the universe’s largest library. In a way, every work of art is a curation of the influences that go into making it. This could never be more true than it is of Shinichiro Watanabe adventure shows, which are always an amalgamation of styles and influences from all over the art spectrum. Each of his shows is a curated library of other works.
We also learn that the book-type alien cannot move, think, or act on its own, but actually possesses others to do those things for it. This makes a pretty fascinating sci-fi take on how art happens, especially when you think of how many writers claim that they don’t really create a story so much as allow it to manifest and live on its own. This is a literalization of that idea–the book is seriously writing itself.
Space Dandy is usually far too broad to really be called a parody, and it doesn’t have a ton of direct references, but damn if there weren’t a number of them in episode 10. That is definitely a Guncannon with GaoGaiGar’s head inside of it. That is definitely Galaga. In a really obscure reference, Space Dandy pulling a rocket launcher out from behind his back looks exactly like the insane final scene of the Takashi Miike film Dead or Alive, which kind of blew my mind. There’s also a rap about using Yahoo Answers, which slayed me as someone who regularly seems to find answers to random questions there.
Anyways, this episode is the most blatant yet about its message. Meow’s planet is obviously just modern small-town Japan, and his whole hang-up is over wanting to not stagnate living a normal life in a one-horse town. But, as we’ll have already known before the end of the episode spells it out for us, the Dandy crew really just sit around and do the same old shit anyways. In one scene, Dandy declares that, “if tomorrow won’t come, [he’ll] just have to chase after it!” But he’s only so desperate to escape this planet so he can go to Boobies, which he does all the time. If anything, he’s chasing after yesterday.
Even though Dandy says to Meow in this episode that “the things we don’t want are the things that happen,” I don’t think Space Dandy is a particularly pessimistic show. It recognizes the laziness and lack of ambition of humanity, but it relishes in the minutia of the every day. It’s less about chasing a big goal or trying to do something totally unique and different, and more about appreciating the things that make the everyday an adventure in itself. After all, no matter how ridiculous the scenarios in this show are, the effects that they have on the characters are pretty much the same. This is a show that is always reliving a new version of the same day, and tomorrow never comes.
I’ve always found it funny how human beings show far less interest in or respect towards plants than we do animals. Even though plants are living beings capable of interaction within their species and expressing states of being, they are so incomprehensible to us that we just can’t relate to them. I remember one time when a vegetarian told me that their diet was restricted to “anything without a face,” and I found myself wondering what significance a face had in determining which life forms were worth consuming.
One of the jokes in the background of Space Dandy is how in this insanely complex universe of countless possibilities, most of the aliens Space Dandy talks to speak with typical mannerisms, and almost all of them are equally interested in the breasts of human females. Space Dandy is a space fantasy after all, rather than a hard sci-fi story, but in episode nine it actually dives into presenting one of the most alien scenarios that I’ve seen in a sci-fi series.
It does this through putting Dandy and Meow on a planet inhabited wholly by plants. If not for the fact that two of the plants are capable of speaking Dandy’s language and giving him a basic outline of what’s going on, this episode would be totally incomprehensible. It’s difficult to tell what the plants are doing or expressing or where Dandy is or what’s happening most of the time, because the world is so alien and unrelatable that we just can’t understand it. Even with our basic grasp of what Dandy and the plants are trying to accomplish, i.e. reclaiming this meteorite, all the steps taken to get this done seem like nothing to the viewer. It’s very pretty to look at and all, but you couldn’t possibly ask me to summarize what actually happens in this episode. It’s a totally alien expression.