Saturday, February 12, 2011

Video Backlog: A Week with the Lovely Angels

As I finally got part two of the Dirty Pair TV this week (thank you Right Stuf), I decided to yet again watch all of the show from start to finish (well except for "Flash". I ain't watching that ever again!). This is one of my favourite shows (I’m definitely a Kei fan more than a Yuri fan), and I was really looking forward to watching it on commercial DVD for the very first time. Bye, bye VHS fansubs, off to landfill you go!

“Dirty Pair (TV Series and “With Love From the Lovely Angels” OVAs)”Publisher: Nozomi Entertainment (Right Stuf, USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Subtitles
Length: 26 Episodes x 25 minutes
Production Date: 1985, 1987
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

Finally after being a fan favourite for over 20 years, Dirty Pair makes it to DVD in English. For whatever reason, ADV never released the TV series despite releasing every other Dirty Pair anime including “Dirty Pair Flash” 25 years after its original broadcast run and yes, it does look a little creaky and sometimes the animation is woeful, but the stories have lasted the ravages of time. Another big surprise is the dialogue, which is rather clever and witty at times. I was also stunned at how the show uses tropes and turns them on their heads. The designs by Studio Nue are for the most part really good, though the Lovely Angel ship is a bit of a dog, and some of their earlier work is far superior to this show. It does feel like a fresh show even though it’s well past the average age of most anime fans today. The series is completely episodic except for a two parter towards the end. I think this is both a strength and a weakness for the show. There are certainly are a few duds in the series, but most episodes are a lot of fun. Also why is no one surprised when two buxom women show up practically in bikinis with cleavage galore? Such a ridiculous show really. Only 24 episodes were broadcast before the show was cancelled. However the show returned with a vengeance with reruns and video releases (the show won Animage’s Anime Grand Prix by a landslide in 1986). In 1987 the two part “With Love From the Lovely Angels” video was released which is essentially two extra TV episodes (though they are newly animated OVAs). While the first is fantastic, I though the second was little weak. The DVD versions (both R1 and R2) have a newly animated scene which removes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Lum and Ataru Moroboshi (“Urusei Yatsura”) cameo which was in the original video releases (I have bought the fabled “The Big Settlement of Dirty Pair” VAP laserdisc box set, so it’s no biggie). This is rather odd as the Shinobu Fujiwara and Sara Yuki (“Dancougar”) cameo is STILL left in episode 16 (and it’s a really blatant cameo as well). But enough whinging, now to the score; despite a quarter of a decade passing, the show is still great. 8.5 out of 10.

"Dirty Pair: Affair of Nolandia"
Publisher: ADV Films (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 57 minutes
Production Date: 1985
Currently in Print (as of writing): No

Let’s face it; this is the suckiest thing in the Dirty Pair catalogue (aside from “Dirty Pair Flash”). Seeing as the original TV series was axed, I don't know how the franchised survived after the release of this OVA. The new designs really suck, especially Kei (why is Muhgi black? You can barely see him at times) and the story, while rather interesting, somehow seems quite laboured. I only realised on this viewing that Kazunori Ito of Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, 1990’s Gamera and Dot Hack fame did the screenplay for this OVA. The OVA also marks the last time we see Namo. Strangely our little robot friend never appears ever again (discounting the “With Love From the Lovely Angels” OVAs released a year after this). Look I know this OVA is more in line with the original novels and “more realistic”, but it’s not as fun as the TV series. Period. Still, I liked it more than previous viewings. 6.5 out of 10.

"Dirty Pair (movie, aka Project EDEN)"Publisher: ADV Films (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 81 minutes
Production Date: 1987
Currently in Print (as of writing): No

I think this was the first Dirty Pair anime I saw and owned. Well actually I can’t remember if I bought the Streamline dub of this first (used VHS US import for $50 from a dodgy pizza shop/games arcade/pool hall in town back in the mid 1990’s) or saw “005” at the local anime club. The film is really, really fun, but rather empty. It’s one of the last great candy coloured 1980's anime films. Like an extended 1980's music video with a plot. "Wings of Honneamise" released in the same year and "Akira" released the next really changed the look of anime films. The designs are ramped up and look so much better than previous incarnations, especially the mecha from Studio Nue’s Kazutaka Miyatake (love his stuff). The ADV DVD is 16:9 but the film was shot in open matte. However it's framed quite well unlike other open matte anime films of the 1980's which were cropped for cinema release. I have the laserdisc of this movie (an old Bandai Visual/Emotion disc from 1987 or so), so I’m not too annoyed with this format. Was never sure why this film was dubbed “Project EDEN”, as the title cards on the film clearly say “Dirty Pair”. Gorgeous looking, fun film, 8.5 out of 10.

"Dirty Pair (OVA)"Publisher: ADV Films (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 10 Episodes x 25 minutes
Production Date: 1987 - 1988
Currently in Print (as of writing): No

For the most part a fantastic follow up to the TV series. I read that these 10 episodes were actually made for the Italian and French markets to extend the TV series for broadcast release in Europe, but were released more than two years before those broadcasts took place, so that’s a false rumour. Seriously Kei's big hair is getting bigger and Muhgi's tail is getting bigger in sympathy. I had previously only seen the first two episodes in this series (on VHS in the very late 1990’s), but only managed to snap these episodes up on DVD a few years back. This series is a little slow to start, but soon ramps up to full speed and has some episodes which are better than the original TV series. The only problems I had here was the bitchiness between Kei and Yuri in some episodes. Also didn’t like the colour design choices for the girl’s uniforms, but I can live with that. Some of the earlier episodes are rather weak here, but the last few are pretty damn good. The animation was more TV quality rather than OVA, which was disappointing. The mecha designs, especially the Lovely Angel where superb. Annoyingly ADV didn’t translate the episode titles properly. For example the last episode is titled “Bad Guys Need Not Say a Word – ‘We're space truckers!’", but ADV leaves it as “We Are Space Truckers”. ADV also has alternate angles for episode title cards, but they seem to force back to the English title card if you’re watch the original Japanese and then part way through they don’t soft sub the title cards. Annoying as hell. Anyway, I enjoyed this, 8 out of 10.

"Dirty Pair: Flight 005 Conspiracy"Publisher: ADV Films (USA)
Format: Region 1 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English Dub and English Subtitles
Length: 59 minutes
Production Date: 1990
Currently in Print (as of writing): No

A fantastic way to finish off the franchise. Much, much more a serious outing this time around. Probably more in line with the novels. There is a lot of humour early on, with Chief Gooley finally going insane after dealing with the Lovely Angels for so long. The plot is quite involved (for a Dirty Pair anime) and there are a number times where a lot of dialogue and plot is delivered. Instead of the 60 minute runtime, perhaps this OVA could have been extended by 20 minutes. Still, there’s a lot of really good action sequences and it’s really engaging with never a dull moment. Again Studio Nue gives us a bunch of great new and revamped mecha designs and Yuri and Kei’s uniforms revert back to the movie incarnations. Only one niggling complaint here; Mughi. He becomes more comedic early on in the OVA, which is a bit distracting and out of character. This OVA seems to be either disliked or loved, which I always found a bit odd. Perhaps it’s because it’s a more serious outing for the Lovely Angels. While I love the earlier incarnations (with perhaps “Nolandia” being the exception), I really, really enjoy this OVA much more than anything else in the series. You can really feel the love that’s been poured into the OVA by everyone involved. I’m assuming they knew that this would be the last outing for the Dirty Pair, so they made it as spectacular as they could. I adore this OVA. 9 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 21 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).

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