This has been quite the challenging week. Fighting a full-on Japanese viral infection while having to play tour guide to two sisters on their first trip to Japan has left me desiccated and exhausted. Certainly, I’m not going to be able to do justice to this finale of Space Dandy – up until today I didn’t even up to watching it, much less writing about it – but time and tide waits for no virus or sibling.
Please don’t take an unusually spare final post as any indication of the level of my esteem for either the finale or the series, then – I’m quite smitten with both. Watanabe Shinichirou has delivered up the ending Space Dandy needed and deserved, tying together all the dangling cosmic strings with elegance and leaving the door open to more inter-dimensional adventures in the future (more on that shortly).
A hell of a lot happened here, in what was the first true continuation in the entire two-cour run of the series. This was a genuine two-parter and a genuine resolution, explaining much of what was teased out over the first 24 episodes. There’s no question this entire run has been planned from the beginning – Watanabe knew exactly how Space Dandy was going to finish and made sure it got where he wanted it to go, even if he clearly allowed the various guest writers and directions a lot of leeway about what the journey would look like.
Among other highlights of the finale was Bea betraying Dr. Gel, which sort of ruined the satisfaction of his finally catching Dandy after all this chasing. Bea turned out to be a triple-agent, betraying Dr. Gel on behalf of the Jaicro Empire and then, with Dandy and his Pyonium in-hand, betraying them on behalf of his own dreams of becoming God. I confess I didn’t see that coming. Johnny showed up again, naturally, leading the Jaicro fleet in a surprise attack on the Gogol homeworld after Dr. Duran (I guess we can assume he worked for the Jaicro all along, too) tipped up off that Gel had captured Dandy, and that he was the key to their “Super Hulkider” ultimate weapon.
That battle – with the Jaicro and Gogol fleets of mechas and spaceships blasting the hell out of each other as the Aloha Oe under the command of Honey and Scarlet attempted to survive long enough to find Dandy, all set to the amazing soundtrack, was one of the best scenes of the year. Normally I’m not crazy when shows go for these kinds of big theatrics in finales, but that was classic stuff, worthy of 90’s Gainax.
The headline has to be the reveal that the Narrator (and sometimes Chameleonian) was actually God, and that Dandy is – not surprisingly – the only being that can feely move between universes and the key to the impending destruction of the current multiverse (as headlines go, that would be pretty hard to top). He offers Dandy to chance to park it in his all-powerful seat when this universe ends and the next one is born, but reasoning that having no physical form would make trips to Boobies no fun, he declines by literally kicking the Throne of God into oblivion the new Multiverse is apparently born Godless.
I’m not sure I can explain exactly what happened here – maybe it’s my fever-addled mind – but it seems safe to say that the new Dandy in the new multiverse (14.8 billion years later) still has the same Pyonium-fueled ability and he’s still traveling with Q.T. (no sign of Meow, though), and that this Dandy is a leg man. Did pulling on that string way back when make Dandy this way, or was he “born” like this? I’m really not sure, but this is a blockbuster ending that definitely ties up just about everything we’ve seen in the series, including the ED that turned out to be every bit as spoilerish as it seemed.
All in all this was exactly the ending I would have expected from Watanabe and Space Dandy – wildly creative, hilarious and incredibly beautiful to watch and listen to. There have been inconsistencies to be sure, but on balance Space Dandy has been one of the best shows of the past year – its best episodes truly spectacular, and utterly fearless in challenging the audience. It never set out to “save” anime, but if anyone is paying attention maybe Space Dandy did offer some lessons in how to buck the system both creatively and in terms of production.
So was that really the end? The end card said “May be continued?”, and it’s self-evident that this premise offers literally infinite possibilities for more storylines. The official word from Toonami is “It’s quite possible that Dandy will be back as a movie or OVA, less likely that there will be a new series. We hope for more Dandy, though!” So make of that what you will – it’s always seemed likely that the possibility of more Space Dandy depended more on Cartoon Network than on the Japanese market, where its performance on disc has been modest at best. But even if CN would like more, there’s also the matter of whether Watanabe-sensei is interested in committing the time – he’s not exactly been a workaholic over the last decade – so perhaps a movie or OVA would be more to his liking even if CN would be more keen on a new series.
Well, that didn’t end up being so short after all – but apologies if it wasn’t up to my usual already-modest standards of coherence. All I know is that I really love Space Dandy, and the more successful this show is perceived as being the better it is for the notion of diversity in anime. Great endings certainly can’t hurt the cause, and the fact that Dandy has clearly found a loyal audience in the West and won the support of the network higher-ups is a significant victory. Perhaps no anime has quite so seamlessly meshed Japanese and Western cultural influences, but in its staggering creativity and imagination Space Dandy is as classic anime as it gets.
ED: Space Fun Club” by ZEN-LA-ROCK featuring Robochuu