“No one knows the truth that these intrepid rockers prevented a galactic war and saved the universe from total chaos.”
One of my favorite things about Space Dandy is that it’s more than willing to switch up its entire mission statement for the sake of an episode. Someone could be watching this show because they love to see bounty hunters at work tracking down their prey (although I highly doubt this), and in an episode like this, where none of that is even mentioned and instead sees the gang forming a rock group, they might get a little frustrated. But don’t try and change Dandy, baby, because Dandy’s a baby that can’t be changed!
And we’re all the better for it, as this week’s foray into the music world is a fairly strong outing that knows what it’s doing. Johnny, the leader of the Gycro Empire (an enemy of Dr. Gel and his Gogol Empire), whose real dream and passion is to become a rock star, which the Narrator thinks is a little predictable and pat, is given the bulk of the screen time rather than our Aloha Oe favorites.
The episode is really about Johnny juggling this double life with Dandy et al kind of just being pieces that get caught up in the whirlwind of the process as Johnny passes through. This ultimately comes down to Johnny having to decide to play in the big show at Space Budokan, or lead the full-scale attack against the Gogols. What a difficult moral dilemma for our guest star that we’ll never see again! Oh, and there’s mushroom men (never fail to mention mushroom men, if in fact there are mushroom men).
In Johnny’s defense, he’s a pretty fun character that feels kind of like shades of a lot of the roving characters that our crew has encountered recently. Johnny could even be one of the alternate Dandys culled forth from the Cosmic String seen in the premiere. He’s the one championing all of this band material, and seeing him and Dandy get lost in band minutiae as QT and Meow stare off in bewilderment is a lot of fun.
It’s a reasonably funny idea that in an episode all about a band forming, they’re much more preoccupied with discussing their own awesomeness (or arguing the merits of a free sticker versus a pennant, or red shirts versus black shirts) as they spend most of their time fighting, rather than actually rehearsing. Or, Johnny waiting in meditation for a song to come down to him from up above, and almost move through him (which, works, by the way); almost like God zapping music through him like lightning, as he builds up more and more of a library. Sure enough too, when it happens, their big hit of a song is appropriately catchy and wonderful and very Blue Oyster Cult-y.
Space Dandy is a show that always has a lot going on in it, whether it’s the plotting, art, or characters, but it’s nice when the focus is a little more weighted in the interest of humor, which seems to be the case here. There’s a lot of funny material going on here, like the particularly solid joke of QT and Meow feeling sorry for Johnny and how he must be so poor since he’s never had French fries, as we then cut to his butler outlining the lavish, mega-swank meal he’s about to devour; the fact that there’s only three people at their first gig, as they play one song again and again for two hours; or the episode-highlight riff of Dandy and Johnny trying to figure out a band name as they run through, Dandy and Omega Drive, Johnny With Team D, Dandy Rave Factory (drf), Johnny featuring You Guys, Dandy and Those Guys Over There, before finally settling on the Dropkix (and we nearly had G.A.S.P.).
It’s never a bad thing when you get an episode whose main goal seems to be wanting to be silly. You almost forget that the fate of the entire galaxy is at stake this week underneath all of this absurdity.
While a lot of time is spent not showing the Dropkix in action, we do get around to seeing them onstage eventually and the material around it all effectively follows the same beats and melodramatic undertones of a typical band “biography” story. While this may not be an all-out documentary on the band like the preview for the episode might have indicated last week, it still has the same rhythm of one, and we’re even treated to more or less the equivalent of a music video for their big song, “Space Lady” (which is again used to close out the credits of the episode). This has been a season that’s surprisingly featured a lot of songs in it, between this and the musical episode, which certainly isn’t a problem as long as the material continues to be entertaining.
One of my favorite things about the episode this week is the nice muted color palette that everything is bathed in, and the even more scaled back black-and-white sequences (with red and blue shading) that are really elegant and a thing to behold. It almost feels like the art director spent more time on these elements than the different alien and planet work this week (not that mushroom men aren’t great), as action and performance is continually cast in purple, yellow, and blue lights, giving it more of a surreal, rock feel.
This is a perfectly delightful diversion for the series to play with for a while, but I’m certainly in no need to get another Dropkix episode any time soon, nor was it one of the more unpleasant episodes. It’s just another example of the strong chameleon-like ability that Space Dandy has acquired and is getting ever more confident in.
Oh, and lightning out of nowhere strikes down and destroys a silent Dr. Gel and company.
P.S. Next week’s episode looks crazyyyyyyy, guys!