In a sense, this was the perfect follow-up to last week’s tour de force episode of Space Dandy. There was no realistic chance any ep could compete with that one on its own terms, so “We’re All Fools, So Let’s Dance Baby” didn’t even try. It wasn’t an auteur-driven mini-film, but a straight-up episode very much in the Dandy canon, written and directed by solid industry veterans (Nobumoto Keiko and Miyoshi Masato, respectively). The focus was on comedy with a dash of exposition – the latter especially critical as we’re now only three episodes from the end of the series (for now).
It’s pretty obvious that Watanabe and company are huge fans of American movies, especially those from his youth – the 70’s and 80’s. They’ve been referenced as often as anything in the Japanese cultural lexicon, and this ep was an unabashed homage to the disco era. The planet in question was named “Grease“, and the dancing alien who shows up packing his own disco ball named Ton Jravolta (the unmistakable Yamadera Kouichi). Subtle, it isn’t.
Disco is one of those subjects that’s difficult to parody because it’s almost a self-parody in and of itself. But Space Dandy has proven itself adept at taking on those sorts of satirical challenges, and this ep is wildly entertaining while keeping the mockery affectionate (I’m willing to bet that a pubescent Watanabe-sensei was trying out his moves in the bedroom to the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, and writer Nobumoto is roughly the same age). And when you look at Dandy, really, it seems almost inevitable that he would end up on the disco floor sooner or later – he was practically custom-built for it.
The setting is the aforementioned planet Grease, where Q.T. has promised a once-in-500 years dance contest featuring the rare alien “Dancingians” draw huge crowds, and the winner takes home 100 million Woolong. Alas no one has shown up for centuries and the planet is a ghost town, the only places open for business apparently a used record store where Dandy buys a record the owner warns him will cause “superinflation” if played, and a tourist information center which hasn’t seen tourists for a hundred years. There the planet’s Chief (Shinpachi Tsuji) and wife (Tsuda Shoko) tell Dandy about the legendary Dancingians, which only his mother (Mayama Ako) has lived long enough to have seen. But she’s been in a coma for 300 years.
It’s pretty silly, but then disco is pretty silly to start with. Things get sillier when the chief decides to throw a fraudulent dance contest with Dandy and his magic hips posing as a Dancingian in order to boost tourism. Only a handful of folks show up, but among them is Jravolta – who’s a wildly over-the-top sendup of 70’s disco cliche, and is mistaken for a Dancingian at first by everyone but the chief’s mother. Q.T. does The Robot, Meow does… something rather cute, and Dandy uses Q.T. as a turntable and Meow’s claw as a needle to play his record and bust a move on Ton Jravolta. And as predicted weird stuff does indeed happen (beyond the weirdness of the music itself, which I can’t quite get a handle on), which includes everyone aging and then getting young again when the record is spun backwards, and the arrival of the real Dancingians. And yet another planet is destroyed and reborn in Dandy’s presence, as Dr. Gel and Bea once again blow up.
That’s all good fun, and pretty hilarious. But it does also bring us ever closer to the riddle of just what Space Dandy is. Dr. Gel and Bea show us that they clearly have memories of other timelines (or dimensions, or realities) by commenting on how it’s their lot to be vaporized chasing Dandy. And the Narrator clues us in that Dandy possesses Pyonium energy – which is the key, seemingly, to his ability to dimensionally hop. And it’s also something we know the Gogol Empire needs to power it’s ultimate CORE weapon, which presumably explains why Dandy is worth chasing across realities. How did Dandy come to possess it? I would imagine that’s a question that’s going to answered over the final three episodes.
ED: “Space ☆ Dandy” by ZEN-LA ROCK featuring Yomeiri Land