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[ a parent's guide to anime ]

[ rated pg ]

Dirty Pair Original OAV

A Parent's Guide to Anime
Rated: PG

Parental Guidance Advised

Reviewed by Terry Hancock:

Dirty Pair is a show I took a long time to get around to watching, because I was mislead by the title to think that it would be a very "adult" title, or at least to have a lot of fan-service.

This was a misconception -- the "Dirty" means "violent or carelessly destructive" NOT "pornographic". And this is the reputation of our heroines who prefer to call themselves "The Lovely Angels" and are "Trouble Contractors" for the WWWA, a far-reaching galactic government agency that investigates serious, and usually very difficult to solve crimes. Like a secret service or intelligence agency, they do a lot of undercover work.

Dirty Pair owes a lot to Star Trek and James Bond, which it borrows from extensively. A careful viewing will show a lot of Star Trek references in the background, and there is even a character named "Q" who is clearly a reference to the James Bond character with the same appellation.

I prefer the subtitled version of Dirty Pair, which is very nicely done. The dub version has two major problems: First of all, it is an entirely new audio track -- all of the sound-effects and music were apparently redone (I can only imagine that original multi-track masters weren't available to the dubbing studio) and the result is a bit flatter and less satisfying than the original as a result. Second, the dub contains a lot of unnecessary profanity. There's simply no reason for them to cuss as much as they do, except that the translators thought it would suit the American market. The voice actresses for the English dub did a fine job, though, and the production is generally okay. If you don't mind your kids hearing the profanity, the dub will be easier for them to follow.

Parent's Guide Rating:

yellow (parental guidance advised)

Taken as a whole, Dirty Pair should be regarded as a "PG" work, but individual episodes are "G" or "M". I've outlined the OVA episodes below for convenience.

The dub version of Dirty Pair has a lot of profanity, as mentioned above.

Overall, there is always a lot of "action" in Dirty Pair, but the actual amount of on-screen violence is pretty small. The pair are typically in very revealing bikini-like costumes, which are apparently their "normal clothes" in a futuristic society where this is apparently unusual, but not shocking. There is essentially no sexual content, though, although there's a fair amount of casual romance.

Dirty Pair owes a lot to both Star Trek and James Bond, which it borrows a lot from and/or spoofs a lot. Like both shows, it's mostly about the story and the action, and relies relatively little on cheap thrills or gore to make its point.

Like Bond or Kirk, Kei and Yuri have romances that typically last an episode or less. Then they get separated from the love interest via violent death, betrayal, or just bad circumstances. If these relationships ever went beyond a romantic date, though, we certainly don't see it happen.

Individual Episodes:
Considering the 2-volume 10-episode OVA series from ADV, my policy has been this: as a whole, it should be considered "PG", but some episodes are "G" and some are "M":

Disk 1:
Prison Uprising (PG)
Gun violence. Guards being killed by prisoners, and then prisoners being killed by marines. This is mostly in the background of the story, since the main story is about Kei & Yuri rescuing the Warden. The violence, is, however, particularly mean-spirited in this show, and that's the main reason I won't let my kids see it.

A Totally Wasted Halloween Party (G)
A terminator-like robot goes wild in a city where Halloween is celebrated a lot like Mardi Gras is in Rio or New Orleans. Lots of costume humor. Comic violence involving a lot of property destruction, but nothing graphic. And although to the mature viewer it will be obvious that a lot people would've gotten hurt in some of that, it's not depicted. This episode is just wacky, and it is definitely my kids' favorite.

The God's Challenge (PG-13, maybe M)
This one is really creepy, and there's a lot of blood. The people on the planet live an agrarian, simple, highly-religious life. They apparently worship a rather Christian-like God, but in fact their "God" is some kind of artificially-augmented alien life form, who manipulates the people through fear. The particularly gross concept is that all of the people have "memory metal" bars surgicaly implanted in their bodies which can be triggered to kill them apparently through "divine" (and gory) means.

But They're Only Children! (PG)
Although there's plenty of guns and military hardware in this one, and a lot of threat of harm, there's very little actually objectionable violence. The problem is that most of the real violence is perpetuated by children on adults (bad imitative behavior), and most of the threat is that they will be betrayed and killed by adults (including their own parents). Since being betrayed by your parents is a very serious anxiety for children, I can't recommend this one for kids.

Nobody's Doing it Anymore (G)
"Meteo" is a roulette-like casino gambling game, except it's played by hurtling asteriods at a protoplanet. Supposedly, it's completely unriggable, but Key and Yuri find out that this one actually can be (and is) rigged. They are sent in mainly to retrieve "one of their own" who's apparently become addicted to the game. Fun hijinx, undercover work, and nobody really gets hurt.

Disk 2:
Wedding Panic (G)
Yuri gets romantically involved with the scion of an organized-crime counterfeiting ring. There's some gunplay in this one, but nobody seems to actually get hit, and things end pretty well for the Lovely Angels. The ring is exposed, Yuri breaks up with her new boyfriend in that tragically romantic way you'll know from many a movie. Not my favorite, but there's no reason the kids can't see it.

Revenge of the Muscle Lady (PG)
"Hustle" stands for "hard muscle", and is apparently some kind of super-steroid drug that people become addicted to. Worse than that, the bigtime peddler is ex-WWWA and an old rival of the Lovely Angels. Lots of hand-to-hand, no-holds-barred fighting (some as sport), drug abuse, and one significant killing -- the Lovely Angels kill Sandra at the end (you might say she accidentally killed herself, but it's ambiguous). The fact that they show no remorse or regret for this whatsoever bothered me a little. But basically this one's okay.

Sleeping Beauty (G)
This is my personal favorite. At the begining, a lot of people on a ship are gassed and then killed, and some are shot. This is however, mostly not too graphic. A young girl witnesses this incident, and then is ejected into space, and into cold-sleep. She is discovered decades later by Kei and Yuri, who then proceed to investigate where she came from and what happened in order to find her family. In the end we find out who betrayed her father and that sets up a perilous situation for the girl. The perpetrator falls into a vat of some liquid that kills him, but this is essentially an accident, and isn't graphic.

Red Eyes are the Sign of Hell (M)
This one is just gross. An arms dealer puts cybernetic implants into the brains of captured prisoners of war and uses them to instigate violence on both sides in order to promote his arms trade. Full of disgusting military violence, including attacks on non-combatants. We meet one of the controlled soldiers, whose psychological trauma is evident. Kei & Yuri kill the arms dealer in revenge for all of this at the end, which is a disturbing concept -- revenge killing as "justice" is a common theme in Japanese stories, but it doesn't sit well with me, especially as an example for my kids. This one is deeply disturbing and uncomfortable.

We are Space Truckers (G maybe PG)
Lots of cargo shippers are disappearing along a routine trade route, due to piracy. The Lovely Angels go undercover as "truckers" to investigate. In the end we find out that a dirty police-chief has conspired with a big corporate shipper that wants the "little guys" out of the way, and is prepared to do anything to achieve that. Not too much on-screen violence, but a lot of murder is implied ("disappeared" truckers). There's also a story about an ex-con who repented his crime but is technically a fugitive, which might make an interesting discussion topic.

Dirty Pair is actually a very Westernized story, drawing so heavily as it does from Western science fiction and spy-cycle fiction. So it won't give you very deep insight into Japanese culture.

But it can be seen as an interesting window into women's issues and the depiction of women in science fiction. Kei and Yuri are, after all, very empowered people. Yet they are also portrayed as sex objects. Or is their attractiveness and forthright sexuality merely part of their overall personality as powerful women? (No one ever complained about James Bond being sexy). Is this a positive or negative stereotype?

In "Sleeping Beauty" we get a glimpse of Kei dealing with potential motherhood issues as she tries to get through to the little girl

And I for one, felt there was a constant tension regarding how the story was changed by having women doing these things instead of men, given that most of the stories in the genre have male protagonists. Is it merely because Kei and Yuri are "easy on the eyes" to the show's probably mostly male audience, or is there something deeper here?

In Wedding Panic, Yuri apparently decides to get married and seems to have been completely on the level with her "mark", even though she has to work against him professionally. When they break up at the end, she seems to genuinely regret it. But did Yuri intend to give up her career for marriage, or was she planning to continue? And we'll never know what she told the guy!

Moreover, Dirty Pair is good science fiction, which is a bit unusual for anime, where shinto magic too often seems to substitute for physics. As an SF work, Dirty Pair should rank rather highly -- along with Star Trek, Dr.Who, Babylon 5, and other SF genre TV/Movie series. I would seriously recommend Dirty Pair as an early anime for cross-over science-fiction fans. Especially since the best Japanese SF is animated.

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