Reviewby Theron Martin, May 27th 2011
Sub.DVD - Collection 2
In the 22nd century, the World Works Welfare Association, a for-profit troubleshooting group, employs “trouble consultants” to help assorted planets deal with major problems. Kei and Yuri, code-named the Lovely Angels, are the most notorious of their elite operative teams, to the point that they are also derogatorily known in public as the Dirty Pair (which they strenuously protest) because things tend to get destroyed wherever they go even though it's never technically their fault. Their adventures continue here (amidst complaints about denied vacation time), this time including thwarting a theft intended to hide the dirty past of a politician, a game of cat-and-mouse with a famous assassin aboard a ship headed for a black hole, escorting a prisoner targeted for death by a criminal organization, investigating the disappearance of all 463 passengers and crew aboard a space liner, conducting a sting operation to catch a condo-focused serial killer who may be passing himself off as a salesman, seeking out a counterfeiter who is destabilizing an entire city for revenge, and even saving their own boss when he is kidnapped by rogue elements within the WWWA, which hold a city for ransom.
There are two distinct ways to look at Dirty Pair as a franchise: one as it stands purely on the merits of its entertainment value and the other in terms of its place in anime history. Compared to more current anime series (this was produced in 1985), it decidedly fares better in the latter category than in the former, as many of the precedents that the series established have been significantly improved upon over time and developments in the action genre over the past 25 years have left the franchise behind. Still, this series finally getting released - it was, for years, the only part of the franchise that had not seen a VHS or DVD release in the U.S. - ends what, for a long time, was one of the most prominent licensing omissions in the American market.
The founding Dirty Pair TV series was, by all accounts, not a ratings success in Japan, likely due in large part to its central gimmick – sexy, empowered female action stars who engage in practices that lead to considerable mayhem – not going over well in Japanese culture. It was still popular enough in the Japanese fan community to warrant a movie and several OVA releases, including Dirty Pair Flash, the series released in the U.S. as The Original Dirty Pair, and two OVAs which directly continued the TV series and are included here as episodes 25 and 26. The OVAs and movie became a hit in the American fan community because those same principles which made them counterculture in Japan were more accepted, even valued, in the States.
But this was the series that started it all, and its footprints can be seen in anime titles even decades later. Kei and Yuri set an oft-copied mold by forming the prototypical anime female action duo: one is a tomboy with short, reddish hair who tends to act first and apologize later (Kei), while the other is a more ladylike brunette who tends to use her head more but can get equally fired up if sufficiently provoked (Yuri). While they may sometimes squabble over trivial things, they still act as a team with absolute trust in one another. Derivatives can found in a wide variety of titles, including Pretty Cure's Nagisa and Honoka and You're Under Arrest's Natsumi and Miyuki, but Kei and Yuri differ from later versions by being bold and forthright in their empowerment. These are ladies who can switch from lamenting about the lack of time to date to handling deadly danger in the blink of an eye, and while they may go gaga over a handsome guy, they never lose themselves to infatuation. They are not above using feminine wiles to get what they want/need but do not rely on them and can acquit themselves quite efficiently (and without panicking) when a guy gets undesirably fresh. They also both show, on occasion, that they actually have brains, too. In fact, for all they are specifically designed to exploit their sex appeal, one will not easily find stronger and better-rounded female characters in anime.
Depth and character development are another story. Kei and Yuri don't change at all once their personalities get defined, nor are there any advancements to their relationships with each other or to their personal stories. In fact, there is no story continuity at all in episodes 14-26 beyond the two-part case involving the missing plane passengers, not even a recurring villain; this is as episodic as series content gets. In fact, except for the two-parter these episodes could be watched in any order, or without having seen any of the first half of the series, without missing anything. While that was the standard format at one time, hardly any series these days beyond kiddie fare and gag-based comedies still use it; some degree of character and/or story development over the course of the series is expected even for the most basic action fare. Individual episodes do sometimes use some clever ideas and execution, but the lack of structural sophistication limits how accessible this kind of fare is to current anime fans.
The very dated look of the series is another barrier. This was made in 1985 and shows the telltale designs of its era in things like color schemes, clothing fashions, and hairdos. The animation isn't bad beyond a couple of scenes where wide-scale crowd fights are looped and delivers plenty of pyrotechnics, but its lack of 21st century gloss will either evoke a nostalgic feel or turn off a fan used to slicker-looking digital productions. Background art is typically busy, characters that are supposed to look handsome do, and the character rendering effectively makes Kei and Yuri look both sexy and convincing as action figures, but gang thugs have a bad tendency to always look like Blues Brothers rejects and any depiction of technology looks crude. The series offers up surprisingly little prurient fan service beyond the skimpy work outfits that Kei and Yuri normally wear but does toss out occasional sci fi homages, including blatant The Terminator references in one episode. Graphic content is infrequent and never heavily emphasized but still present.
The audio quality and soundtrack also date the series, though not as much so as the mono tracks seen on Dragonball Z releases. The staple themes are all products of their time, although they do vary a bit more here than in the first half. This set opens with dynamic new opener "Ru-Ru-Ru-Russian Roulette" by Meiko Nakahara, who also sings the closer “Uchuu Ren'ai.” (Her work can also be heard on Kimagure Orange Road.)
ADV tried for years to get their hands on this series, but Nozomi Entertainment is the company which finally nailed down the license from Sunrise. Their release spreads the thirteen episodes across three disks housed in thinpack cases which come in an artbox (which predictably features Yuri since the first one features Kei) with a complementary booklet. Unlike every other installment in the franchise, this one has no dub, but Nozomi does distribute clean opener and closer and assorted line art galleries roughly evenly amongst the disks. The 20 page booklet primarily contains 1993 and 2010 interviews with franchise creator (and Studio Nue founder) Haruka Takachiho. Amongst interesting tidbits that come up in the interviews is the revelation that Dirty Pair and Crusher Joe (which Takachiho also created) share a common universe because that was simply easier to do than creating a new one for DP.
Takachiho also stated in his interviews that he made a concerted effort to assure that Dirty Pair played out specifically as a sci fi series, and that can certainly be seen throughout the second half; sci fi elements are deeply enough ingrained into most episodes that they could not happen outside of a sci fi context. They were also intended to be as much mystery stories as they were action tales, and at that the series also succeeds. Despite the wanton destruction, the series almost never descends into purely silly antics, like so many more recent action series do. That, nostalgia, and the strength of its central duo are the main draws that the series can offer to new fans, but the older production values and more simplistic storytelling also stand as a barrier those same fans. However, if you have a taste for sexy action figures and don't care about the age of the material then it is hard to go wrong here.
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : C
Music : C
+ Strong, sexy, and empowered central duo, completes the missing piece in franchise availability in the U.S.
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