Appellate Judge James A. Stewart enjoyed these anime adventures, but wouldn't want to meet these lethal ladies in a dark alley on a space station.
"And we all know what will happen next. The Dirty Pair will disrupt public order, cause major destruction, and create great loss of life."
When Chief Gooley of the Worlds' Welfare Work Association (3WA) calls in his top "trouble consultants," he's shaking with a mixture of dread and rage. That's because Kei and Yuri, code named "The Lovely Angels," have a bit of a reputation. While they always get the job done, there are usually a few loose ends. Like, say, the destruction of the habitable area of a planet. It's not their fault; the destruction mostly comes from unforeseen circumstances, like a battle with a relatively indestructible cyborg or the results of some mad scientist's strange secret experiment gone awry. Still, the disasters have earned the pair a less-friendly code name known throughout the galaxy: The Dirty Pair.
Kei's the hotheaded redhead, ready to throttle a planet chairman who doesn't trust them. Yuri's the sometimes frightened and seemingly immature brunette, who can make work seem like play (as part of a mission). Kei and Yuri chase men aggressively, Kei even licking her lips at a prospect, and exchange petulant banter. (Stuck in the Nolandia forest, Kei's response is "And I really hate getting scratchy insect bites." Climbing out of rubble, Yuri complains, "And I just washed my hair.") Jokes like these might leave you thinking they're lightweight intellects, until you realize that two of these plots are puzzles with sci-fi twists, complete with a neatly-wrapped detective show denouement. They may be lovely to look at, but the men around them often appear nervous, with good cause. They're joined by Mughi, a large, furry pet with frightening claws and the intelligence to pilot their ship if necessary.
Whether Dirty or Lovely, this pair originated in novels by Japanese science fiction writer Haruka Takachiho, who was told by editors way back in 1978 that a story featuring a pair of women as its protagonists couldn't work. His inspirations were a mix of science fiction, hard-boiled detective fiction, and a pro wrestling match, not to mention a real potential disaster that worked its way into their first adventure, the fall of the U.S. Skylab in 1978. Although it's dangerous to judge books by their covers, original cover art shown online has a 1960s pulp feel (a la Modesty Blaise). The characters debuted in SF Magajin in 1979 and soon turned up on Japanese TV.
In Original Dirty Pair: Movie Collection, there are three adventures, although the rough running times fall a bit short of typical movie length:
• "Project Eden"
• "Affair of Nolandia"
• "Flight 005 Conspiracy"
The two shorter adventures rely on the classic formula you might recall from The Avengers or The X-Files: two unorthodox investigators are called in to investigate an unusual crime with important implications, albeit on distant planets, and with explosions that would blast a hole in any live-action TV show's budget. The best installment in the set is "Affair of Nolandia," mainly for the hallucination sequences and Yuri's offbeat response to those hallucinations. It's a well-written and well-executed adventure story that'll probably have a nagging presence in your memory, like the best Avengers or X-Files episodes. "Flight 005 Conspiracy" lacks those memorable moments, but still is fun.
"Project Eden," the longer story, is guilty of padding, since the mystery is solved around the half-hour mark. The action sequences in the latter part of the movie get a little tedious, and music-video-like sequences fill out the show. This one aspires to James Bond style, complete with a retro-psychedelic stylized credits sequence and an opening action teaser that has naught to do with the plot to follow. It also includes references to 1953's War of the Worlds (take a look at the monsters here) and Star Wars (a lightsaber-wielding villain), not to mention Takachiho's own Crusher Joe. The opening, with Kei going undercover to catch vizorium smugglers, has a tone that reminded me of TV's Alias, although the movie doesn't live up to its stylish first moments. The main plot also fails to live up to its early promise in setting up tensions between the two rival outposts. "Eden" delivers a little more cheesecake than the other installments here, but once you've seen the better stories in this package, you'll want a meatier plot to go with the titillating dessert.
I saw occasional grain and bleeding colors, and some night scenes were too dark to see everything going on, but the transfer preserves nearly all of the fights, explosions, and crumbling structures of these anime adventures. The animation isn't fancy—although the backgrounds are drawn with skill and eye for detail, character movement is limited—but it works when the stories do. I had no problems with the Dolby Digital stereo sound; pulsing pop music is a major part of these adventures, and it came through loud and clear, as did the sound effects. Since the emphasis is on action, watching with the Japanese dialogue and subtitles works out well here. The dubbed voices aren't bad, though, with Kei coming across as tough as nails, a contrast to her softer-edged (at least on the surface) partner Yuri. Some of the songs have subtitles in both English and Japanese for anyone who wants to try singing along. You might count this as an extra; I wouldn't. The running times on the DVD box differ slightly from actual times.
Oh, and just one more thing, as an interstellar Lt. Columbo might say. If you're wary because of this anime's name, keep in mind that the package has a mild TV-PG, V, rating (about as rough as Monk's opening murder, less so than a 24 interrogation). Not that it's kids' stuff. There are brief glimpses of nudity, mostly in a surreal dream sequence in "Affair of Nolandia," and in a forced, farcically unbelievable "Project Eden" scene in which Kei and Yuri stop to take baths in the middle of the action. I guess they really didn't like being known as The Dirty Pair.
Not guilty, since no one wants to risk their planet's habitable areas to arrest these two Lovely Angels.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
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