Reviewby Mike Crandol,
The Dirty Pair:
Run from the Future
A rare example of an "American manga", one based on an anime classic. Kei and Yuri are the Lovely Angels, intergalactic "trouble consultants" who travel the universe the behest of the Worlds Welfare Work Association solving problems of all sorts. The United Galactica government has granted the 3WA absolute authority to use whatever means they deem necessary to resolve their cases.....the Angels' preferred method involves as much firepower, high explosives, and implements of mass destruction as they can carry. This usually results in carnage on a much grander scale than had previously existed on whichever sorry planet the girls have been assigned to "clean up". Despite their good intentions, the chaos that invariably follows in the Angels' wake has earned them the unflattering moniker of "The Dirty Pair". The itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bikinis the girls call "uniforms" may have something to do with the unwanted nickname as well....
This time around the Dirty Pair have been elected to travel beyond the borders of United Galactica in pursuit of 50 of the most wanted criminals in the universe. Their search takes them to the disreputable Nimkasi Habitat, where they vow to use the latest in bio-technology to catch the perps without blowing the place to Kingdom Come. The catch: Kei and Yuri only have 100 minutes to do the job before their biofoil-tattoo visas expire and they're booted out of the joint, with or without their intended prey. The hunt is on!
This is not your parents' Dirty Pair. American comic artist Adam Warren retains the basic premise of creator Haruka Takachiho's cult classic, but little else. While it is true that the early DP comics owed much to the original novels and Sunrise's 1985 anime series, Warren has given his Lovely Angels much more aggressive personalities than their Japanese counterparts. While not exactly bloodthirsty, the Pair show little mercy against their adversaries, and a grim, satiric sense of humor pervades in place of the light comedy to be found in the anime. Their uncanny knack for disaster was also upped significantly, with each story guaranteed to end in the destruction of at least an entire city (though as in the animated version, it's "never their fault"). Later comic adventures show more influence from Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell) than from Takachiho, as Warren began to focus more on the technological aspects of Kei and Yuri's world. Each new Dirty Pair comic sought to top the previous one in the quantity of ludicrously conceived gadgets featured, both mechanical and biological. Run from the Future represents the culmination of Warren's techno-happy universe, where hair can be a Lethal Weapon and sentient clothing is a formidable enemy.
Warren's entire DP canon, particularly Run from the Future, presents us with a brave new world in which technology has permeated every aspect of our daily lives, and indeed the very fabric of our being. Kei and Yuri, were are told, are "Lucien Upgrades": a combination of genetic enhancements and cybernetic implants. This gives them a wide variety of superpowers; and as if that weren't enough they also carry an arsenal of technical gadgetry that puts Batman's utility belt to shame. Chameleon-like Kei and Yuri can change their hair, eye, and skin color at will, as well as use their brains to "hack in" to minds both artificial and biological. Weapons of choice include the Gee-M (TM) Gravitational Manipulation Field Weapon, Shok (TM) Gloves, and the "Tape Boy" (don't ask). Pitted against the Lovely Angels are an equally impressive array of "upgraded" baddies....this reader's favorite is a criminal whose mind has been implanted into a robotic Teddy Roosevelt.
One of the things that makes RFTF such an enjoyable read is that no matter how outlandish the tech gets, it all remains oddly believable. Every ridiculous gizmo or genetic alteration is given a reasonably scientific explanation, so that it's seems somehow plausible that in 2141 mankind will be able to traverse the galaxy in an organic starship, or mentally swap bodies with the person sitting next to them. And unlike many futuristic cyberpunk fantasies, the technical marvels aren't reserved solely for a few privileged individuals. Everyone who's anyone in the Dirty Pair universe wields some sort of oddball "enhanced" power or whacked-out weapon. So where does Joe-schmoe get his hyper-intelligent Smart Gun? He doesn't have to look far, thanks to Warren's satiric vision of a world where everything high-tech has fused with rampant commercialism on an unprecedented scale. Each page is stuffed with clearly-labeled products of all sorts, each with a catchy little commercial name ("Proust-in-a-Can", for example), and the impression is given that all these handy-dandy little gadgets are available at your local convenience store. Warren gives his satire of over-commercialism an extra punch by often including trademark and copyright symbols at the end of all his imaginary products. Perhaps this also helps to lend credibility to such a zany vision of the future; for if man can truly achieve such technological heights, he will surely market the hell out of them. It makes for funny, and perhaps a little frightening, reading.
Run from the Future's Story Proper is little more than an excuse to showcase all this madcap speculative technology. The ideas are so inventive and fun that the reader turns each page not in anticipation of any plot development but to see what crazy futuristic gizmo will pop up next. Kei in particular delights in showing off her endless bag of technical tricks, and one gets so caught up in the fun the bare-bones plotline is easily overlooked.
Also included in the book is "Start the Violence", a short throwaway story predating Run from the Future that originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents. The paper-thin plot (even more so than RFTF) is little more than an extended gag, but "Violence" is notable for two reasons: it marks the debut of Warren's third (and best) overhaul of the Dirty Pair's design, as well as the only appearance of Kei's Acclaimed Hypno-Butt (TM), a weapon that fast became a fan-favorite to rival Yuri's Bloody Card.
Beginning with "Start the Violence", we witness the maturation of Warren's skill as a comic book artist. His first two Dirty Pair books (co-written with Toren Smith) are clumsily drawn with predictable, pedestrian storylines. Starting with his third DP story, A Plague of Angels (also co-written with Smith), Warren displays a massive leap forward in artistic ability, and presents us a witty sci-fi satire of everything Dirty Pair represents. A Plague of Angels and its follow-up, Sim Hell, represent the best of Warren's literary efforts, but his talent as an artist has continued to grow with each new release. By the time Run from the Future arrived Warren was one of the best artists working in the field, and his drawings have a cartoonish yet dynamic, lifelike appeal that few can match.
To call The Dirty Pair manga is technically incorrect. Though his character designs are strongly inspired by Japanese comic artists, Warren's panel construction and big, loud stories have little in common with true Japanese manga. His darkly humorous, satiric, and inventive comic is a very different approach to the classic Dirty Pair; this has inevitably caused a split in the fan community between those who admire Warren's unique take on the characters and those who feel it betrays the original.
The drastic change in tone from the source material has led many to criticize Warren's Dirty Pair for not being true to the anime's vision. However, one could argue that the anime is not true to it's own vision. Episode 1 of the original Dirty Pair television series sets up the wonderful premise: Kei and Yuri are the most feared women in the universe, for every case they are assigned inadvertently ends in collateral damage on a massive scale. Indeed, by the end of the pilot episode the girls have all but destroyed their home city in an attempt to subdue the berserk computer that manages the municipal facilities. It is extremely entertaining, but in subsequent episodes the rules set up in the pilot are blithely ignored. The Pair's cases are often neatly and efficiently resolved, and to the viewer's dismay this pattern occurs in more than half of the 26 original episodes. Although Kei and Yuri do manage to decimate the occasional planet, the majority of their missions end with nary a ka-boom, and one is left wondering just why they're called the "Dirty Pair" in the first place.
But Adam Warren makes good on the destructive promise, and his version of the Pair are the Lovely Angels as the description on the back of the video case would have you believe. From the outset it's pretty much a given that Run from the Future will end with the utter annihilation of Nimkasi Habitat, and in another of Warren's more audacious DP stories an entire star system is wiped out in the finale. Detractors complain that the wanton violence makes this version of Kei and Yuri unlikable characters.....but Warren has retained a key point from the anime that redeems them. The Angels never directly start the chaos that is invariably unleashed, and oftentimes never have anything to do with it all other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Though Kei does sometimes revel in beating the snot out of evildoers, every catastrophe that occurs is accompanied by an "Oh no! Not Again!" look of horror from the girls. This allows Warren to give the Pair more of an edge than the anime without losing our sympathy for the characters.
Mention must also be made of the Dirty Pair's attire, which is risqué enough in the anime but barely-there in the comic. Anime's Kei and Yuri sport revealing two-piece outfits, but Warren has given them metal bikinis that make them as nude as can be without actually being nude. It has been claimed that this cheapens the comic's version of the Pair. The point remains debatable, but Warren has the good sense to realize this, and every DP story he has done includes a degree of self-satire regarding the girls' clothing choice. The universe at large wonders why the hell they dress that way, young men across the galaxy are grateful for it, and Kei and Yuri obliviously wonder what all the fuss is about. The comic knows it is sexist and freely admits it, but makes no apologies for it either, and what are you reading it for in the first place if it bothers you, thank you very much. Conversely, no one in the animated Dirty Pair world seems to find anything unusual about girls solving crimes in hot pants and halter-tops. We are to assume these are the girls' uniforms, yet everyone else at the 3WA is fully dressed at all times. Scantily-clad Kei and Yuri report to their male superior Gooley who is always smartly dressed in a full suit and tie. Everybody, including Kei and Yuri, seem to accept this as the norm. When considered in this light the anime appears substantially more sexist than the "lecherous" comic based on it.
Despite the myriad differences, at its heart Adam Warren's Dirty Pair holds true to the intent of it's Japanese counterpart. Neither have profound messages to impart. In any and every incarnation The Dirty Pair is, at it's base level, trying to tell an entertaining story while indulging our desire to see attractive women blowing stuff up. More often than not, Adam Warren succeeds in doing so, and his latest (to date) Dirty Pair book is no exception. Run from the Future won't give you an enlightened perspective on life, but it will entertain you in spades. And as anyone in the business will tell you, that's really the most important thing.
Story and art by Adam Warren
Colors and separations by Ryan Kinnaird
Lettering by Tom Orzechowski
Published by Dark Horse Comics, 2002
Overall (dub) : A
+ Engaging artwork presents a uniquely satiric, entertaining view of the future; in true Dirty Pair fashion centers around chicks in bikinis inciting mass chaos.
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