Written by Haruka Takachiko and illustrated by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the Dirty Pair series is something that many newer anime fan’s have never heard of. Beginning in 1980, the series spans over eight novels in total, as of 2007, but has countlessly been adapted into many of the various outlets of anime. TV shows, OVA’s and even a feature film have been made about Dirty Pair, that have established it as one of the longest running sci-fi franchises in anime history. Set in the future, the series follows Kei and Yuri, two trouble consultants for the World Welfare Works Association, 3WA for short, that are to help out planetary systems that are part of the United Galactica federation. The girls have dubbed themselves as the “Lovely Angels” but due to their crappy luck, they manage to always cause massive amounts of collateral damage, that has made the public refer to them as the “Dirty Pair”. I’ve never watched anything of Dirty Pair, until now, which made me want to create a retrospective that highlighted this series, explore what has made these gals so popular over the years and if they’re still relevant to fandom now. In part one, I’ll be exploring the Dirty Pair Features Boxed Set, which contains Affair of Nolandia, Project Eden and Flight 005 Conspiracy.
Affair of Nolandia (1985)
Created by Sunrise and Studio Nue as an OVA sequel to the TV series that aired earlier that year, Affair of Nolandia was the first undertaking in this retrospective. Taking place on the planet Ookbar, the girls are in search of Missinie, a girl with psychic powers that has gone missing in the forest of Nolandia. Once they find her, the girls realize that she’s being used as a part of a conspiracy, Yuri and Kei decide to fight back and save Missinie from her captors. At 57 minutes, Affair of Nolandia is the shortest film out of the bunch and was directed by Masaharu Okuwaki.
This film was certainly the weakest of the three films included and hasn’t aged very well. Due to the limited animation, it was painfully obvious that Affair was probably another string of episodes that never aired. The TV series was canceled and the final two episodes were released on home video as a two episode OVA. The overall aesthetic of Affair is the exact thing that dates it, from the clothes and styles of our two heroines, to the funky designs of various creatures and places that make the OVA feel much more older than it is. The film was certainly still fun and seeing the girls in action, especially during the final 20 minutes, that makes for some interesting action and adventure. Affair of Nolandia is still a fun movie, but its weak animation and average story make it the least interesting of the bunch.
Project Eden (1987)
Made two years later, Project Eden is the only true feature film of the Dirty Pair and while the film still has some issues, this film made me fall in love with this franchise and is now one of my favorite anime from the 1980’s. The girls are sent to a planet called Agerna, where two rival countries are fighting over a mineral named Vizorium. The pair first get wind of it, during a covert operation to bust some smugglers and find out the reasons for the increased demand for it on the black market. It turns out that both countries have mining operations on Agerna and all of their dig sites keep getting destroyed and any trace of Vizorium disappears. Kei and Yuri eventually find out that a mysterious alien species is the cause of all their trouble and a mad scientist on the planet is trying to using them and the Vizorium for his own maniacal means.
Project Eden is quite possibly, a perfect encapsulation of 80’s anime and still holds up to this very day. From the fantastic, James Bond-esque opening, animated by the legendary Koji Morimoto, to the catchy songs by Miki Matsubara, Project Eden is a joy to behold. The film is action packed and manages to stay entertaining for the entirety of its 80 minute running time. If there was anything that I’d have to say was a flaw in the entire movie, it would have to be the script from Hiroyuki Hoshiyama. The film sets a solid pace and a great amount of intrigue in the first 30 minutes, to then get bogged down during the second act of the film. The girls and Carson D. Carson, a thief that joins them in their excursion, gets kidnapped by Dr. Wattsman. It is during their captivity that there’s a huge dump of exposition by the good doctor, to tell us everything that has been going on and his plans of creating the perfect specimen. While it may have worked in the original novel, to have all of this explanation dumped on us in the middle, it doesn’t work in the film and bogs everything down to a very mundane level. All of this is made up in the last twenty minutes of the film, which includes a lightsaber/knife fight that every anime fan should behold, at least once in their lives.
Director Koichi Mashimo helmed the project and with such a prestigious person guiding the ship, its easy to see how this film was so enjoyable. The man founded Studio Bee Train and has directed plenty of anime that I enjoy, including Dominion: Tank Police, the severely under appreciated Wild Arms: Twilight Venom and the much more recent El Cazador de la Bruja. With fun titles like these under his belt, its really refreshing to go to his past work and see that he’s been cranking out entertaining anime for over 30 years. Watching Project Eden has made me understand why Dirty Pair has enamored anime fans for years and gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of this classic series.
Flight 005 Conspiracy (1990)
The Lovely Angels get placed on two incidents, a space shuttle that explodes, carrying 200 people and a famous scientist that goes missing. They soon find out that both events are intertwined together and are part of a major conspiracy involving a criminal organization and government officials that put the girls in deep trouble. Made by Sunrise in 1990 and one of the last Dirty Pair OVA’s, before their re-imagining in Dirty Pair Flash, that certainly stands out from the other two entires in the Dirty Pair Features Boxed Set.
What makes Flight 005 Conspiracy so different from the other installments in this set, is how bleak it is. Minor characters that Kei and Yuri get attached to, are murdered in cold blood or even many of the conspirators that they’re fighting against are given no quarter by the duo. Since the animation isn’t as old as Nolandia, it holds up much better, but its not as fluid as Project Eden, due to major budget differences. The story and script work the best in this OVA, out of all three contained in this boxed set and you really find yourself being drawn into the world and the stakes at hand in this series. The ending is downright brutal and one of the most heart wrenching endings I’ve ever seen in any anime. Its not Now and Then, Here and There bad, but its sure to make a few tears run down one’s face.
Each of the films in this boxed set offer something unique and different to the Dirty Pair universe, but ultimately add up to a wonderful collection. After watching all three and getting a feel for what makes these characters stick, I’m glad to have experienced Dirty Pair all these years later. Much like Lupin the Third, there’s a fun, campy quality to the entertainment that Kei and Yuri bring to the table and offer some of the most fun I’ve had with retro anime in a very long time.
Next week, I’ll be back with Part Two of this retrospective, where I’ll examine the Original Dirty Pair, a 10 episode OVA series made in 1987.