"Dirty Pair: OVA Series" – Happiness is Warm Laser Guns and Girls in Space Bikinis
Kei and Yuri are back, and wherever the “trouble consultants” euphemistically known as the Dirty Pair go, a massive amount of >set 1 reviewed here and set 2 reviewed here) with the ten episodes of the “OVA Series,” which originally ran from 1987 to 1988 in Japan and was previously released by ADV Films in the early 2000’s. If you’ve enjoyed the last two releases, this one will pretty much have a hammerlock on your wallet, but this is a fine introduction to the series if you’ve never seen it before and is also the first to come with an English dub if you’re the type who really hates subtitles.
My wife is often my gauge to tell whether something has crossover appeal, since her sensibilities aren’t quite as nerdy as mine and there are lots of times where something gives me a geeky thrill but leaves her cold. As a result, I felt vindicated in my affection for Dirty Pair when she finally sat down and watched an episode from these DVDs, turning to me afterwards to say, “This is a better show than I was going to give it credit for” before joining me for the rest of the episodes of her own accord. While the 10 episodes on here don’t quite hit the high-water mark of the second set, there’s still plenty of fun to be had here. The first episode, “Prison Uprising – We Hate People With Grudges!”, is mostly a warm-up, and the best thing about the next one (“No Thanks! No Need for a Halloween Party!”) is the killer robot moving like a Looney Tunes character while hiding in plain sight during a city-wide Halloween celebration. By episode 3, the show is back to form from the last set, with “The God’s Challenge” pitting the Dirty Pair against a deity and his acolytes on an agrarian world; the opening sequence is moody and striking, there’s a good amount more violence than normal, and the humor is toned down a bit for a slightly more serious story that ends with an appropriately inappropriate amount of destruction.
The three episodes on disc 2 are a little more lightweight; the best is the gag embedded in the title of episode 5, “And So, Nobody’s Doing It Anymore,” which is explained only at the very end of the story. Disc 3 contains the best four episodes on this set, with sharp and clever stories that may be a bit predictable but are still thoroughly enjoyable on a variety of levels. “Revenge of the Muscle Lady” pits Kei and Yuri against an old acquaintance from their academy days, and manages to be a story with a real-world moral that doesn’t feel like it’s moralizing. “Sleeping Beauty” uses the sci-fi trope of a character who didn’t age while in suspended animation, with her discovery reviving a former WWWA cold case. It’s a joy to watch Kei developing something like a maternal instinct, and the climactic third act is excellently done. “Red Eyes are the Sign of Hell!” sets Kei and Yuri on the path of a cybernetic death squad attempting to derail peace talks for a war that’s dragged on for generations; it turns surprisingly touching near the end, and it’s only weakness is that you’ll probably be able to figure out the real villain a lot earlier than Kei and Yuri do. Finally, “We Are Space Truckers!” has Kei and Yuri posing incognito as cargo haulers to aid a union of independent truckers being targeted by a conglomerate. It’s another episode that mines surprising emotional depths along with the pair’s usual antics and destructive tendencies. In the end, Dirty Pair is a show that you’d enjoy if Kei and Yuri were written as men in a buddy cop flick, or if they were wearing more sensible clothing. It’s just a well-executed, thoroughly enjoyable show that’s reasonably smart and pretty funny. The fact that the leads are two hotties in space bikinis is just a bonus.
There have been a few small changes to Dirty Pair since the last release. There’s new opening and closing credits with new, much more sonically addictive theme songs, even if they do scream “Eighties.” Kei and Yuri’s robot Nanmo has gone missing, while several other employees at the WWWA form a small supporting cast. The most prominent new cast members are Dr. Q, who provides the pair’s high-tech gear and supposedly engineered Kei and Yuri’s hairy and helpful companion Mughi; and Madame Beryl, an older woman who was the WWWA’s top trouble consultant in her day. None of these new characters are ever really introduced during the series, although they might have been in one of the several OVA movies produced between the end of the TV series in 1985 and the start of this one in 1987. Their lack of introduction doesn’t hurt, though — it’s easy to pick up who they are and what they’re doing at the WWWA from context and they remain firmly in the background.
Right Stuf continues to do right by Kei and Yuri on DVD. This set is every bit as good as the last two, packaging up three discs in a single-width DVD case. The animation is incrementally sharper and crisper than the last set, looking excellent considering the series’ vintage and TV budget. Right Stuf’s master comes from the latest remastered Japanese DVD release, and is a marked improvement over ADV’s earlier releases (Right Stuf has a comparison video at their Dirty Pair mini-site). Right Stuf also acquired the rights to the English dub that ADV commissioned, making this the first of their Dirty Pair releases with a dub track. However, after six discs and 26 episodes of hearing Kei and Yuri in Japanese, I found I couldn’t listen to the English dub because the characters just sounded wrong. This is not intended as a slight on the English dub actors as much as it’s just a comment on what my ears have grown accustomed to; the translation and English voice work was fine in the episode I sampled. Bonuses include trailers, clean opening and closing sequences, and a set of short but helpful liner notes that explain some of the more opaque cultural references and one or two little Easter eggs embedded in the animation.
The best capsule review I can give of Dirty Pair: OAV Series is the sense of disappointment when the credits to episode 10 rolled, because I still want more. After nine DVDs and fifteen hours worth of cartoons, I still want more Kei and Yuri and it’s not just because of the space bikinis. Dirty Pair: OVA Series makes a fine addition to my growing collection of Dirty Pair material, and I’m hoping that the other OAVs and the feature film get licensed and released soon.