Reviewby Carlo Santos, Dec 3rd 2010
Sub.DVD - Collection 1
Kei and Yuri are the Lovely Angels, two 19-year-old beauties who work as gunslinging, crime-stopping agents in the 22nd century. However, because of their penchant for collateral damage and blowing up everything in sight, the general public knows them by the more familiar name of "The Dirty Pair." Whether it's stopping hyperintelligent entities from going berserk, seeking out wanted individuals, protecting high-priced clients, or preventing an interplanetary crisis, the Dirty Pair is on the job. And somewhere along the way they might also make time to visit their boyfriends and shop for clothes, just like most young women do. Except with guns. In the future.
In the 22nd century, we will still be using disc-based media, 4:3 televisions and corded phones.
That's one of the retro sci-fi lessons to be learned from the Dirty Pair TV series, which offers a now-quaint view of the future to go with its feisty girls-with-guns escapades. Of course, trying to accurately predict two centuries of technological advancement is not really the point of the series; the setting merely serves as window dressing for a pulpy heroes-and-villains adventure that would work just about anywhere else (as long as projectile weapons are involved). There is no secret mystical conspiracy, no political or philosophical hand-wringing, no life-changing epiphany about the nature of the universe—just two pretty ladies kicking butt and blowing things up in space.
And while that may be enough for old-school anime nostalgists to get their jollies, it's also the reason why contemporary fans may fail to latch on to the show. The closest thing this gets to being clever is referencing other genre works—an obvious Star Trek nod in the first episode, an allusion to the "Lovecraft" star system in Episode 13—but otherwise every episode relies on the same old formula of (1) Bad stuff happens; (2) Lovely Angels are called in to deal with bad stuff; (3) Lots of shooting, chases and explosions as bad stuff is dealt with. There's not even any continuity from episode to episode, and the closest thing to character development and back-story is when one of the pair's missions involves Yuri going in search of her childhood sweetheart. After 25 years of evolution and revolution in the genre, this kind of popcorn entertainment doesn't quite thrill like it used to.
Perhaps this boxset's true value comes not from its contents, but how those contents can be examined in the context of anime history. After all, if Dirty Pair were remade today, our heroines would be in middle school, half their power would be derived from magic, and they would never do anything so impure and shameless as to go on dates with boyfriends. But times change, and the series is a fascinating window into the ideals of that era: assertive adult women in the lead role (but sadly still beholden to chauvinist stereotypes), the glorification of space-age technology before space programs went stagnant, and themes of man vs. science—two of the episodes feature supercomputers going haywire, while another two feature genetically modified animals that have gotten too smart for their own good.
Of course, there are even more obvious signs of the series being a product of its time in the visuals, where we learn that the ideal of feminine beauty means having wildly bouffant hair and being built like a pro wrestler (which is in fact where the series got its inspiration). The show's color palette is also awash in loud Miami Vice colors, from the pair's hot-pink spacecraft to the interiors where their adventures take place. Thus, despite its best attempts to depict a flashy, sophisticated view of the future, the fashion and design aspects give this one away as A Creation of the 80's. Despite the limitations of the time, however, no one can accuse the staff of going cheap on production values—the backgrounds are wonderfully detailed with buttons, lights and wiring to give off that sci-fi ambience, and the animation is fearless in the way it takes on challenges like full-body action sequences and tricky view angles. It may not be as sharp and polished as today's digital efforts, but those animators clearly put in the work.
Such effort is not as evident in the audio, though, where most of the soundtrack consists of dated synth-pop or archaic-sounding blasts of brass. The theme songs, too, are typical space-fillers with their midtempo rock beats and simple but forgettable melodies. The generally muddy audio is also the result of not having better equipment to work with at the time—it sounds like it was recorded straight off the TV, but that may very well have been the best quality source they had.
The DVD packaging itself also gets something of a barebones treatment, with Japanese audio and English subtitles the only language option available. There's also barely any bonus content on the 3-disc set aside from a clean version of the opening sequence. (Trailers shouldn't even count as bonuses when they're just ads for other titles.) Clearly this set is aimed at the collector who simply wants to have the series on hand and isn't concerned with bells or whistles.
Although the Dirty Pair boxset may hold sentimental value for longtime fans who want to relive their 80's anime-club glory years, the actual content of the show has aged poorly, relying on formulaic adventures that exist in little 25-minute bubbles and don't even form an overall narrative arc. This may only be the first 13 episodes, but it's hard to imagine things suddenly changing in the second half; the idea of girls with guns gleefully blowing things up in space is clearly all that was needed to support an anime series back in the day. We may sit back and marvel at the dedication to hand-drawn animation technique, or study how audiences at the time envisioned the distant future, but as for enjoying the series at face value? The mileage is definitely going to vary on that.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : D
Animation : B
Art : C
Music : C-
+ Animation and production values have survived the ages and show strong attention to detail.
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