Space Dandy 2 – 11

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The well of imagination just never seems to run dry.

I have a suspicion that history is going to be kind to Space Dandy.  Long after most anime are forgotten I think this one is going to be remembered as one of the watershed moments of the medium, and not because of its unusual production and marketing but because of its content.  I’m happy BONES is running things but back in the day I would have had no trouble seeing this as a Gainax series – it has that extra creative gear that for a glorious decade or so the studio seemed to be able to call on more frequently than anyone else.

It’s quite fitting that Space Dandy has multiple universes as its core mythology, because this is a show that lives the example.  It’s a Heraclitian river of ever-shifting styles and influences that refuses to repeat itself.  One of the secrets to that of course is the Watanabe strategy of using elite writers and directors of myriad styles and giving them free rein, but though this episode recycles the creator of one of the first season’s best it doesn’t step in its own footprints.

As he did in the first season, EnJoe Toh pens the 11th episode.  Last season’s was the remarkable story of the library planet Lagardo, one of the most surrealistic and intellectually sophisticated anime episodes in history. This time around EnJoe – a physicist and novelist of immense intellect and vision – gives us a tale of dimensional reality.  It’s a collision of universes, from 0-D to 4-D, and all driven by love.  It says a lot about what makes Space Dandy so unique and wonderful that Watanabe reached so far outside the anime mainstream to work with EnJoe, and the results are predictably brilliant.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that EnJoe’s episodes have been the antepenultimate in each season; this season’s (and perhaps the series as a whole) final two are going to be written by Satou Dai and Watanabe himself, and last season it was Dai and Ueno Kimiko.  Clearly EnJoe is being used to set up the “canon” episodes, and he’s certainly in on all the secrets as he drops some very interesting hints in this episode.  I was especially intrigued to hear Dandy say “I have about 200 pasts and futures I don’t ever wanna remember, Baby” – the surest indication yet that not only is Dandy freely moving between realities (that’s a given by now) but that he has a “Reading Steiner” like ability to remember them.

The stone that starts the ripples in EnJoe’s pond is the intrusion of a 2-D universe into – well, not our universe most likely, but a 3-D universe.  Dandy has bad memories of that universe, and he seems unsurprised by the arrival of his old girlfriend Catherine (Sawashiro Miyuki – sultry and retrained, one of her best sides) who happens to be a resident of a 4-D universe.  Even with Dandy’s ability I’m not sure how the mechanics of a relationship between a 3-D humanoid and a hypercube work, but the really strange bit is that the guy Catherine dumped Dandy for is a 2-D Prince named Paul (Inoue Kazuhiko – seriously, could this show get any more awesome?), and he’s the one who crashed his universe into this one searching for Catherine (who dumped him after he was named heir to the 2-D throne).  How did he do it?  He built an inter-dimensional warp drive by putting a 1-D universe in a box.

This is just fabulous stuff that demands to be watched, not explained.  Anime doesn’t get any smarter or more challenging than this, that’s for damn sure, but there’s a lot of EnJoe’s trademark humor here too – Meow speculation that a universe crashes into another because it’s “looking to meet other universes”, for example.  He and QT discuss Catherine’s looks as follows:

QT: I don’t know what to say.  I’m starting to think I don’t understand his taste in women.
Meow: QT…  In your opinion, does she look pretty?
QT: She just looks like a box to me.
Meow: I’ll bet she looks that way to other boxes, too.

Honey tags along with her mind set on snagging a prince, but balks when she sees he’s just a rectangle.  And the 2-D universe itself – which Dr. Gel and Bea get sucked into – is an 8-bit game landscape straight out of the decade in which EnJoe and Watanabe grew up.

Played off against this absurdism is Catherine’s repeated teasing question to Dandy – “Have you figured out the secret of warping yet?”  Finally Dandy answers yes, he has – it doesn’t exist.  What people call warping is just really moving through the spaces between universes, and becoming an alternate version of yourself in a different place but not realizing it (though the 4-D Catherine does, and thus realizes this is not the Dandy she fell in love with).  Let the speculation begin.

There can be no doubt that this has been a more melancholy, darker season of Space Dandy – nor that Dandy himself has been a far more self-aware and contemplative fellow. Whether this is simply a stylistic evolution or represents a genuine change in Dandy’s perception of reality I don’t know, but the feel of the series is very different.  Even Dr. Gel and Bea have evolved into victims rather than adversaries, and it’s never easier to pity them than this week – they too seem to retain an awareness of their repeated fate, and a fatalistic resignation that it can’t be avoided. I’m nowhere close to guessing how this series is going to end, both because of the sheer breadth of the imagination behind it and the way it’s managed to leave every conceivable possibility well, conceivable.  These final two episodes are going to be quite a trip.

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8 comments

  1. A

    Well, I'm hoping the series ends with the announcement of another season to start next year.

    I don't believe there's going to be some kind of grand conclusion because so long as they can keep coming up with creative and interesting stories like this they should do more.

  2. That will depend 100% on whether CN wants to bankroll it.

  3. R

    I hope that its stupidly popular and sells a bunch and runs as long as Adventure Time, dammit. Because I haven't seen an anime with this much creative muscle in YEARS. Possibly over a decade now I'd argue. (God I'm old).

    I know that I'm buying the box sets (two of them) when they come out though.

  4. J

    Suddenly the ED makes so much sense.

    Can't say I fully agree with a 3rd season, even though I have thoroughly enjoyed this one. I don't want to see what happens when (*not* if) the creative well runs dry or Watanabe looks too far afield for new ideas/interpretations. The numbers for S2 have been good though, so as Enzo said it's all up to CN.

  5. s

    Let the speculation begin indeed; From what i got this ep, two things could be going on with the space dandy universe: 1. in the first ep of the first season, when dandy pulled on that string of pyonium after his warp drive went funky, it almost appeared as if they began to warp infinitly across multiple planes and dimensions. Perhaps because of that phenomenon, dandy and crew are infinitely everywhere and yet infinitely nowhere…allowing him to carrying on to other universes even after he dies in that one (not that the same dandy from the universe in which he dies gets transported to another one; just that he is infinitely in another similar universe where he is alive versus him being dead). 2. the second theory i have is much simpler and revolves around the idea the when dandy warps from the infinitely possible universes that exists, he enters almost infinitely similar universes with the memories of the universe that he was originally in. I think i like the first theory better because this theory doesnt neatly explain how he could retain memories of events in universes in which he dies. Quite frankly, im kind of iffy on how gel and bee remember their deaths too; perhaps they got caught in that pyonium razzle dazzle from the first ep; now that i remember, they were tailing dandy when it happened.

    About Catherine, a part of me speculates that she may not actually be just a box. Theoretically, different dimensional beings cannot perceive higher dimensions properly; its impossible. Just as how something with two dimensions is restricted to length and width, a three dimensional being are restricted to length, width, and height. If there was a living two-dimensional being, they would not be able to perceive what "up and down" is. if i was a three dimensional being hovering above a two dimensional being, they could only see my shadow because they are incapable of seeing up. And if i landed right in front of them, because it is inherently impossible for them to completely perceive three dimensions, they would only be able to see cross sections of me rather than me completely….in other words id look as if a large part of me was not there and id look super disfigured. The way catherine is represented this ep could be one giant metaphor for the fact that dandy (or the viewer) is incapable of perceiving Catherine for who she is; she;s a four-dimensional alien, and as we are incapable of perceiving 4 dimensions, we only see her as a rectangular teseract. That extra dimension every time you go up a higher number added and exponential amount of detail to an object and the forth dimension is no exception. the amount of points of a graph one would have to plot to draw a teseract versus a cube are vastly different and at the end of the day, any representation of the fourth dimension we design is nothing but a false one because it is impossible to represent the fourth dimension in either two or three dimensions. Oh how the science geek in me loved this ep.

  6. s

    Oh and i think honey should become a reccurring crew member on the aloha oye; i dont know if this ep was intentionally hinting at it, but it wouldnt be far-fetched to think it was. In the season 2 premiere, when dandy goes to multiple universes, we see that honey was already a recurring member in not a regular member of space dandy's crew in a good amount of the universes they went to. It had me questioning if that would ultimately be honey's fate as well in this universe and i woudnt be too surprised if the writers decide to take direction in this current universe we see.

  7. T

    It's going to be hard seeing this, Haikyuu, and Hunter x Hunter all end around the same time.

  8. S

    Are you me? Those are the only three shows I'm watching right now (plus Terror in Resonance, but ehh).

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