Space Dandy, like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo before, is genre to itself. It plays with and breaks themes found in scifi and anime. The series lacked a cohesive plot, and it was sporadic at times. Yet, some episodes were the stuff of legend. Other episodes were the stuff of meh. Where Cowboy Bebop was episodic, but Space Dandy took it to the extreme. It seemed as if zero episodes were related. The final episode explains the structure and pulls everything together, just barely but enough.
I wasn’t expecting the last episode to be able to pull that off. I won’t ruin the last episode beyond that.
It is interesting how subtle this rockabilly anime was. Oh, not in the lavish, varied animation. The show was quite in-the-face about that. Rather, the subtle threads laced in every episode that the finale yanks together. Of course, in one episode QT makes an offhand comment about Dandy’s changes in female tastes. Dandy starts out preferring the booty. Several episodes later, Dandy makes a comment about boobs being the best. Then back to the booty in the High School Musical spoof episode. Events with Dr. Gel also point to goings on. His personality shifts from mustache twirler to absent minded professor and back again. Space Dandy’s tie together is worthy of Star Trek’s convoluted timeline arcs.
I quite enjoyed the romp. Dandy is a dandy guy. Interestingly, his love for the ladies and their various gifts does not fall into misogyny. Rather, he treats women with respect in an old fashioned, 1950s sort of way. Dandy fits with the 1950s time period in every way – from the Greaser look to the cheesy science fiction movies.
Scattered throughout the series are references to modern issues and cultural norms. Meow is constantly screwing around with his blog or Twitter. His smart phone is always in his hand. It often distracts him from goings on around him. Sounds familiar? Honey is also a reference to attitudes toward women. Honey works at Boobies where she wears not much of anything. Despite coming off as a bimbo at work, she is actually a genius and capable pilot. This reflects how women who work at places like Hooters are often looked down upon. Many are working their way through college and are far more intelligent than the tight shorts and shirts suggest to people. Space Dandy alludes to how we make (wrong) judgments of people based on surface interactions and the clothes they wear.
The series is unlike any other I’ve watched. It is refreshing to see storytelling be daring and strike out into new ground. Although, at its core, Space Dandy’s storyline is straight out of Star Trek, the execution is what sets it apart. It doesn’t try to tie anything together, but offer threads in every seemingly unrelated episode to pull together at the end. The series doesn’t try to be something it is not: it is just a fun ride through space in a Hawaiian themed space ship.
I am a little disappointed that the cute Adelie failed to make one last appearance. I expected to see her appear as a adult to torment and perhaps marry Dandy. Hey, weirder things happened!
It is interesting how Space Dandy played with String Theory and the multiple universe hypothesis without becoming overly confusing. Star Trek tends to get lost whenever it plays with the same ideas.
At the end of the day, Space Dandy doesn’t have much of a message. It plays with sci-fi tropes and ideas from the fringes of science. It doesn’t get itself lost in lofty serious messages about existence. Space Dandy sets out to entertain. The anime isstuffed with visuals that massage the retinas and zany action that remind me of the more playful days of animation. It is also very western and wonderfully funky. Anime often takes itself too seriously. Space Dandy is everything but serious. Space Dandy is a nice break from the tired high school anime that clutters what we see here in the US.
I am sad to see Space Dandy end. It was a dandy ride, baby.