Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Kei and Yuri are trouble consultants for the welfare organization WWWA sometime in the future. The two lovely ladies are quite good at their jobs, but an unfortunate tendency towards trouble has caused their team to go from being known as the “Lovely Angels” to the “Dirty Pair.” Despite this moniker, Kei and Yuri continue to be highly sought after (and feared) tro-cons as they do everything from rescue a missing cat to end a dispute on a highly territorial planet, with some time for busting up a corrupt casino and saving some kidnapped engineers along the way.
Based on a series of science fiction novels by Haruka Takachiho that began in 1979, the story of the Dirty Pair was first adapted into a TV anime series in 1985, and now thanks to Nozomi Entertainment, you can experience these original animated adventures. (The later OVAs were released by ADV in 1998 and later rescued by Nozomi Entertainment.) And how does a series from the mid-eighties based on novels from the late seventies hold up today? Quite well, actually, and even those who are not anime historians should find something to enjoy in the adventures of the dynamic duo in short shorts.
Kei and Yuri are trouble consultants for an organization known as the World Welfare Works Association, better known as the WWWA (or 3WA). Their code name is supposed to be “Lovely Angels,” but a series of mishaps and trouble's tendency to follow them around has resulted in that name unofficially changing to the “Dirty Pair.” Needless to say, neither of the ladies really appreciates the new title, and they'll correct it every chance they get. It soon becomes obvious, however, that it isn't entirely undeserved, as every case they take on seems to devolve into or result in a disaster for someone. Despite this, it is abundantly clear that Kei and Yuri are actually really good at what they do, with only episodes one and nine resulting in wide-spread disasters. Nine is the worst, with the ladies sent to a faction-torn planet that mines a highly volatile mineral, which the Angels manage to...activate. (This episode is also noteworthy for its “cowboys versus the 1980s” character designs.) There is very little continuity between these first thirteen episodes, although the computer-run tower city where the Pair lives, Eleanor City, is mentioned and forms part of the plot of episodes one, twelve, and thirteen. Its name does change from “Brian” to “Brain” somewhere in the intervening episodes, however.
Each episode follows a fairly basic pattern of the pair getting an assignment reluctantly handed to them by Chief Gooley, their boss, which they object to and try to milk for more money or vacation time. Gooley tells them that they are the only people who can do the job, they reach an agreement, and off go Kei and Yuri. They solve the problem handily, but leave destruction in their wake. Roll credits. Despite this formulaic pattern, Dirty Pair manages to be entertaining. Kei and Yuri embody some unfortunate stereotypes (Get a man! Look pretty! Lose weight!), but their personalities are engaging and they play off of each other well. Their teamwork is impressive, with Yuri's ability to remain calm in a crisis balancing out Kei's hotheaded reactions to everything. In episode five Yuri seems to use the psychic powers the original novels grant the pair, and their endless supply of Bondian gadgets makes every fight worth watching. The addition of Mughi and Nanmo, their large cat-beast and small robot, stir things up as well. Mughi, it is commented in episode twelve, is some kind of genetically engineered cat, but he serves as mount, pilot, pack mule, blanket, and everything in between for Kei and Yuri. Nanmo is frankly kind of adorable and essentially fills the R2D2 role.
On the subject of episode twelve, it is one you might want to avoid if you are squeamish about mice. Other than that, there is very little objectionable content to be found in Dirty Pair, and even fanservice is basically limited to the pair's work uniforms. (In a nice detail, they occasionally wear cover ups under which you can see the uniforms peeking through.) Episode eight, titled “From Rusha With Love,” is perhaps the most powerful, and it takes a much more serious tone than the rest of the show, giving us a bittersweet storyline as well as proof of how much Kei and Yuri actually do care for each other. It is also, you might notice, a reference to a James Bond film, and hardly the only reference to grace these thirteen episodes. Episode five hides a list of 1980s musicians on a computer screen, all of the bad guys look like the Blues Brothers, and Lovecraft is mentioned in episode thirteen. It is clear that a lot of fun was had animating and writing this series, and that can be contagious.
As of this writing, there is no Blu-Ray version of this TV series, and perhaps that is just as well. On an HD TV there is a slightly fuzzy quality to the images, like watching on an old, convex screen television. Everything is perfectly viewable, just not “clear” and “clean” by today's standards. This perhaps makes the fluidity of some of the animation that much more impressive, and it is also hardly the only mark that this show hails from the mid-eighties. Crowds do show some racial diversity, but they are largely unfortunate stereotypes, and the outfits the ladies wear off duty also have some 80s flair. There's nothing wrong with this; in fact, part of the fun of the show is seeing the future through the eyes of people thirty years ago. Apparently they thought we'd still have corded phones.
Kei and Yuri belong both the categories of “girls with guns” and “strong heroines.” While they don't defy any stereotypes or break much new ground either today or in 1985, they more than get the job done, are fun to watch, and take very little crap from anyone. Whether you like older anime, are a Dirty Pair fan, or just like shows about women with guns who blow stuff up, there's something to enjoy in this lower-priced edition of Nozomi's release of the classic series. It doesn't necessarily hold up to multiple viewings (at least not in close succession), but there's no denying that it is a good time.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Fun, fast-paced episodes with self-assured heroines who are actually really good at what they do. Nanmo and Mughi are more than just mascot characters. Opening theme is really catchy.
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