Many a great sci-fi series features a good old-fashioned Grand Prix race at some point in its run, and Space Dandy reaches into that deep cookie jar of stand-bys with its usual cheek and flair. It’s yet another great opportunity for universe-building, as the various drivers come in every size, shape and color. But the only one that matters to Dandy is the one stealing his thunder at Boobies: The Prince, voiced by Kaji Yuki.
While Dr. Gel is the antagonistic thorn that…never actually makes it into Dandy’s side, Prince is his first legitimate rival, winning hearts of the ladies through impeccable polish, politeness, boyish good looks, and by being the very best at what he does, which Dandy is decidedly not, no matter how entertaining his missions have been. Still, Dandy doesn’t hesitate to take Prince on at his own game, and enters the Magellanic Nebulae Grand Prix.
QT and Meow are dubious of any kind of success against Prince, but when they find out that Prince is essentially a Bizarro Dandy with his own arrogant robot and (Mickey-like) rat sidekicks, they buy in at once, and the race is on, along a course that bears a close resemblance to Silverstone. (We’re also watching this episode on the day of the Daytona 500; a cool coincidence). Dandy doesn’t get off to a good start, but makes good use of his many trump cards, all of which are activated by the same yellow button.
The race itself is a gorgeous panorama of diverse environments and menagerie of funky aliens, which again just adds to the scale and intricate texture of the Space Dandy universe. The Prince is heel-and-toeing along in the lead, but Dandy keeps clawing and bearing down and showing up in the rear-view mirror until before Prince knows it, Dandy’s in the lead, and he does it His Way, which is to say by ignoring the laws of chemistry, metallurgy, physics—but none of the race rules.
In the process of dueling with Dandy while the other competitors crash and explode (including Dr. Gel, who got so caught up in the race he briefly overtook his quarry), Prince undergoes a transformation (emotional, not physical): for the first time, he’s going all out and not leaving the competition in the dust. Dandy is pursuing him against all odds, flying in the face of the truths he had held inviolable: that nobody could beat him; that despite the love of the millions, he was alone at the front of the pack—until now.
We expected an ending in which the result of the race was disputed in some fashion or another, but with Prince and Dandy coming away more friends than enemies. But the Prince falling in love with Dandy, Dandy plowing into him from behind at the Seventh Space Velocity, Dandy achieving a higher level of existence, emerging 5 billion years later to find that he had been revered as a Buddha-like deity? Not expected. And those incessant bumper cards throughout the episode in which a chorus sang “Dandy” in various chords actually foreshadowed his apotheosis: it was a mantra.
Rating: 9 (Superior)