“He’s just an alien who likes to party, traveling from one dance contest to another.”
After the ridiculously different, bleak foray into existentialism that was last week’s episode, it seemed like it’d be harder for this show to outdo itself in terms of mouth-agape-what-is-going-on-ness, but then this episode begins with a metallic alien with a rainbow afro named Tom Travolta dancing on a giant golden disco ball with Dandy, and we’re again reminded that the ability of this show should never be doubted.
This is a pretty simple Space Dandy episode by all accounts. Basically, the Aloha Oe crew head to Planet Grease (you see what they did there?) for a legendary dance contest offering up a 100,000,000 Woolong prize (“So many zeroes!”), and see the arrival of the Dancingians, a rare breed of alien that only appears once every hundred years. Upon arrival, the place is a ghost town and the episode becomes much more concerned with the planetary chief of Grease wanting his planet to come back to life. He gets inspired by Dandy’s booty (actually; “Great space! That booty!”) to throw another dance contest with an even bigger prize, and persuades Dandy to help out with the prospect of an Agnes Lum Photo Collection (Agnes Lum to papa, indeed).
Through all of this there are some wonderfully weird segments that are edited to the beat of funky disco tunes (or even the disco record that opens up the theme song this week), as everything takes more of a hand-drawn simplistic approach rather than the polished sheen that’s always present. This ultra-sketched design comes up repeatedly through the episode to punctuate things. The planetary chief’s mother (who’s in a 300 year coma) is permanently drawn this way, even, due to her decrepitness.
This episode also manages to stand out with the further weirdness seen with Dr. Gel and Bea, whose sole contribution is merely to lament their role in the show. “I have to ask, why do we even chase after Dandy anyway?” Bea asks Gel, “I’m getting tired of getting blown up week after week.” This is absolute craziness in terms of the continuity of the show, with them fully aware of their deaths, but the idea of how they may not even know why they’re after Dandy, and are tired of doing it, is amazing. It’s like Dandy remembering the time they were zombies. It’s nuts, and I love it, and it doesn’t keep them from again getting blown to pieces this week.
I know I say this most weeks, but once again there are some really incredible character designs at play here, whether it’s with Tom Travolta, the clerk at Akashiku Records with the faucet arm and warble voice, or any of the wealth of aliens that are boogeying at the dance contest.
What I like so much about this episode is that much of it is just watching Dandy and crazy aliens dance, and it wasn’t even too long ago that we had the musical send up at Baverly Hills, but just as you feel like this may be a throwaway episode, the hugest turns are taken. Dandy’s weird other-dimensional record (“Superinflation”) is played and it causes time to pass at an alarming pace, turning Dandy and everyone into skeletons. There are some great jokes and “science” to this shown, like how playing the record backwards makes time move very quickly in reverse, reverting Dandy and crew into babies, and Meow, into what appears to be, a sperm.
More importantly, this heavy speeding up of time causes this planetary lichen (that has largely been forgotten, according to the narrator) to grow and grow and eventually reveal itself to be the Dancingians. It’s a pretty great twist that at the end Tom Travolta is not a legendary Dancingian, but merely just a dude who fits the profile and loves to dance. The much more devastating conclusion that these are all-powerful super lichens is realized too late as Dandy and Travolta’s dancing combines with their presence and ends up resulting in a big bang that destroys the universe. Which, honestly, might not be the weirdest thing to happen on Space Dandy so far.
It’s kind of fantastic, and the thing that I love about this show most of all that in an episode that seems to just be all about dancing, the entire universe is effectively destroyed, and through the power of dance no less. It’s all right. Everyone will be back and their funky selves, just hundreds of millions of years later.
“Dust in the solar wind, sir.”