In Episode Eval, I take a look at a singular episode from one of the eight series I’m watching this season. At the end of the week these will be collected in the weekly Streaming Anime Round-Up for easier consumption.
After a really strong episode last week, Space Dandy S2 outdoes itself in this episode, where the philosophical ideas are just as deep, but the plot itself is much more fun–though nothing will come CLOSE to last episode’s animation for the rest of the season, save for some kind of rainy day fund.
Dandy and the gang head to Planet Grease to win money in a dance competition and to try and catch some rare aliens–the Dancingians–that apparently visit the planet once every 100 years. Once their, the crew realizes that the Dancingians haven’t visited the planet in some time and soon, Dandy is roped into a plot by a local to fake the dance competition and pretend that he himself represents the Dancingians. When a mysterious alien named Ton Jravolta shows up with a space-ship/boombox, the dance competition is on for real, but can Dandy keep up, even with all his smooth moves?
***This review is SPOILERIFIC*** Like some of the best episodes of Space Dandy, this one juggles science-fiction, pop culture references and philosophical ideologies, making that Herculean task look effortless in its delivery. Take for example the dance party which Ton Jravolta incites; it is at once full of wonderful sci-fi non-sense–various aliens of different builds and features get their groove on (there’s even a somewhat racist “MC Hammer” alien)–colorful exuberance–Ton Jravolta’s spaceship not only doubles as a giant boombox, but also puts on a laser light show–and an over-the-top dialogue on how quickly people forget last week’s news–Dandy is left in the dust, as his hula-hooping is no match for Ton’s advanced moves. And that’s only the beginning of the rabbit hole this episode dives down.
***Still spoiling away here*** Earlier in the episode, Dandy and Meow pick up an album from a local record shop, the entire scene washed out and shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio to give it a 1970’s feel–and some people say Space Dandy is only meant to be idiotic fun. The album, which the store owner says never to play out loud, comes back into the fold when Dandy interrupts Ton Jravolta’s display in order to one up him with his own dance moves. Soon after the music begins to play, the time stream is somehow affected, leading Dandy, Meow and everyone else to become withered and frail. Meow is able to reverse the album and set everything right, but little do they know, they’ve caused the rebirth of the actual Dancingians–an alien race of ring-like creatures that coalesce around the entire planet and destroy it. So what’s the philosophy here that I’ve been harping on about?
Even leading up to the destruction of planet Grease, there is something apocalyptic about the outrageous and over-the-top dance scenes between Dandy and Ton. There’s almost a “dance-battle to the death” kind of feel, with the frivolity escalating until Dandy’s semi-ballet routine causes everyone to age rapidly. When the end-of-the-world destruction really heats up, Dandy and Ton don’t stop dancing to contemplate their impending doom, but instead intensify their grooving, completely and utterly wrapped up in the intensity of their dance moves. In a moment of armageddon, this intense focus points to the forthcoming planetary explosion as not such a big deal, but instead, a process which Dandy and Ton have themselves become a part of. This is even more clearly defined after the planet explodes and we get an abstract representation of the rebirth of planet Grease, Dandy and Ton going from two sperm that encircle the planet, always chasing one another, to each representing a half of the yin yang sign. In some ways, it even feels as if Dandy and Ton are an integral part of the destruction and rebirth of Grease, seeing as how the yin yang sign represents opposing forces that are actually elevated to greater heights by interacting with one another. Dandy and Ton’s dance not only entertains the beings of Grease as their home–and themselves–are destroyed, but contributes to the cycle of the planet. While Dandy and Ton’s non-stop dancing feels like utter insanity, in the larger view of things, it encourages us to accept our inevitable doom/death and to enjoy ourselves in the process, as well as to appreciate the part we get to play in the game of life.
Space Dandy is an oft stupid show–the lame references to American pop culture surely get in the way here–and it’s easy to dismiss an episode like this one as simple entertainment with a constant ramping up of stakes. But I have to argue that’s there more here, if you’re willing to accept that some of the most thought provoking bits of media have come in an entirely entertaining package–Dr. Strangelove, Blade Runner, The Matrix, etc. The title itself–“We’re All Fools, So Let’s All Dance, Baby”–implies what the entire episode is about; we are all apart of something larger than ourselves and must accept the fleetingness of life in order to truly enjoy the time we have here. Or maybe I’m just reading to much into it. You tell me.