Even from just the first few seconds of the very first episode, the apparent simplicity of Space Dandy, a show about a “dandy guy in space,” is made clear. This is a simple show where narration is thrown away and plot is ignored in order to give you a good time. Space Dandy dressed itself up as the silliest thing that was out there (and it was), but it was actually even busier at being the smartest thing that was out there (and it was), and as its second season wrapped, “simple” seemed to be the last thing the series was.
In fact, it’s kind of deeply, infinitely layered, all with the aim to set you off guard. Even the finale, which seemed like it could have been any other random, slapdash adventure through space, just like the show had conditioned us to believe, was a true finale in every sense of the word (it’s even two parts). As if saying you should have never doubted them. This year, more than ever, they proved why you should have never doubted them, and considering #SpaceDandyFinale was actually trending after the episode aired, it seems to have paid off.
Space Dandy’s first thirteen are a triumph in every sense, but this season the show took what was established in those prior thirteen, and pushed all of it farther. Not just in terms of the science and concepts in play, but actually in terms of connecting dots and tying an untie-able series together in the most ambitious way. The first season was great at being a storyteller; the second season became great at being a series teller as intricate lore was fleshed out.
Part of this took the form of a very present self-awareness. The first year broke convention and seemingly ignored continuity. This season extrapolated it all by characters not only remembering their (what were thought to be) non-canonical deaths, but being morose over them. There’s the revelation that all of this has been “on the record,” as characters acknowledge their circumstances and outright criticize them, like they know better than the show does, but don’t have a choice but to follow its whim.
We also got to see former caricatures like Honey and Scarlett actually get to be developed and have entire episodes devoted to them. Even Dr. Gel has humanity injected into him via a touching story of his disappointed mother gorilla. At the same time, countless new classics were being added to the what-the-fuck rolodex of personalities, like Jom Travolta, Commander Johnny, and Ukeleleman. In fact, all of the designs on the aliens, planets, and artwork in general are delightful. There are endless new creative monsters and more mechas present this time around, and highlights like Carpaccio’s planet, how the River of Time is depicted, and Planet Limbo still resonate. The first season didn’t take any shortcuts creatively, but this year set a new standard with the art.
If there’s any complaint to be given here, it’s that more time could have been spent on Meow and QT, but oh well! Really. It’s such a big show with a lot to service, and the first season features them a lot so this is excusable, especially when you have stories like the ones that were being told here. I still can’t get over how smart and articulate the multi-dimensional episode is, where a two-dimensional universe is trying to take over ours. The show has an amazing ability to take a concept and wormhole so deep into it, pushing ideas as far as they can go. Just as naturally that same episode eventually gets to a one-dimensional universe and zero-dimensional universe (depicted as a dot) entering the fray.
This season even became Excel Saga-ish (what I used to think was the smartest, most competent, reflexive comedic anime out there before Space Dandy came along) in its refined tendency to skew a different genre in nearly every episode, such as the perfectly done courtroom homage entry right before the finale. Some other classics from this year include the multiple reality premiere which introduced dozens of Dandys, including the fan favorite, Emo Dandy, in what I consider to be the best episode that the series has done. There was the deeply philosophical, esoteric look at a world with no sadness and a treaty on life and death as Dandy spends time dead on Planet Limbo.
We got to see Dandy and crew forming the band the Dropkix, as well as the High School Musical riffing, mostly musical “The Transfer Student is Dandy, Baby” episode. And of course, the disturbing, uncomfortable trek of Ukeleleman trying to steal Dandy’s smile in “There’s Music in the Darkness, Baby,” which also plays with the brilliant physics and jokes executed through the “River of Time” where things like a spaceship devolve into a pirate ship.
This isn’t even touching on half the season, and really every episode is a stand-out (the “second” dating episode with Scarlett was probably my least favorite, but by no means bad) in a show that already has a limitless playground to explore. But in spite of this limitlessness, ideas like multiple dimensions, chronology, the destruction and rebirth of the universe, and life and death continually kept coming up through the season, only to surprisingly get married together in the finale that pulls the space rug from under you to that all of this was connected, even from the first episode. You were just too busy getting caught up in the weekly hijinks to notice.
The series ends with all-too-ambiguous, “May be continued?” card, and it’d be nice to think that this world would be returned to in some form. Watanabe eventually did a Cowboy Bebop movie, and that feels like the route that will probably be taken here. Watanabe has done so few shows, but he feels so deeply invigorated lately with not only working on Dandy but also the ultra-real and grounded Terror in Resonance simultaneously, with neither show suffering. Regardless of how Watanabe decides to continue this story (if he decides to continue this story), we can at least count on there being no Narrator in it.
Because God is dead.
Long live, Dandy.
Never-ending, ever-lasting Dandy, baby.