Dirty Pair

From the opening on, you know you’re handling a dangerous couple of girls. Seeing them is like a game of Russian roulette! Shouldn’t you stay away? The answer is no. Kei and Yuri, the Lovely Angels that mean people call the Dirty Pair, are sassy but friendly and likable, and make their classic anime a classic. Dirty Pair began in 1980 as a light novel series, and while that meant limited art, Dark Horse published the first two volumes of the source work in English for those so interested. It even spawned some Western comics (we won’t read those) before inspiring a legitimate manga in 2010. Most fans though, it’s safe to say, got to know the Dirty Pair through the 1985-1986 anime adaptation that goes for 26 episodes, and its sequels. From the fast-paced first episode on, the premise is fairly simple. Kei and Yuri, both in their early twenties, hold high-paying careers as the Lovely Angels, a duo of “trouble consultants” or TroCons for the WWWA, or World Welfare Works Association, a sprawling enterprise relied upon by clients throughout the galaxy in the mid-22nd century space age. TroCons do a variety of jobs that require the skill sets of undercover agents proficient in armed combat. Already veteran TroCons when the series begins, the Lovely Angels always complete their assignments. Unfortunately, clumsiness or poor luck often lead to devastation in their wake, sometimes bringing loss of life far outweighing whatever good they tried to accomplish! Thus the popular nickname “The Dirty Pair”, which really gets on their nerves.

So, should Kei and Yuri be fired, even be behind bars for their wholesale negligence? True, they might rush to fit in a date set for that afternoon, or bill unconscionable sums to the WWWA expenses account as they visit a casino. They never let work get in the way of girlish fun when they can help it. But, as we learn by watching them, not only are they good at what they do, but they harbor real concern for their clients and those they encounter on their missions. Highly fashionable as they are—a major attraction of the anime is seeing how they dress up for elegant occasions—any airs they put on never sour their characters. Red-headed Kei is, of course, the fiery one with a preference for buff, tough guys, while Yuri affects more refinement and goes for more sensitive, learned men. Contra convention, Kei’s bust is slightly larger. Yuri is the more intelligent, and is given a startlingly high, genius IQ, yet Kei isn’t far behind; she can always follow Yuri’s train of thought, and the two get along like best friends. There’s a refreshing dearth of backbiting and bad blood between the Lovely Angels, which helps them cooperate ably.

Dirty Pair has plenty of attractive space age scenery. The initial ending is incredibly futuristic, in a laid back, cool way very close to today’s retrowave art. The Dirty Pair movie Project Eden with the series’s best production, is a classic example of cyberpunk; however, the color palette is too grimy and dark for a hour’s exposition of this great pair, and as fantastically the action scenes are done, leaving much exposition to the incoherently rambling villain, his motives hard to understand, makes it hard to connect with the plot. The first OVA, Affair on Nolandia, is a genuine masterpiece. Along with a metropolitan space colony setting, much of the special takes place in an extraterrestrial wilderness, where Kei and Yuri befriend Missnie, a dear little girl and world class loli boasting psychic powers worthy of a Gundam girl. Affair on Nolandia boasts some of Dirty Pair’s most exciting fighting and some epic explosions.

The setup provides opportunities for jetting to one colorful locale after another in a way sometimes like the later Cowboy Bebop, only not so gritty or jaded, with leads you’ll love to root for against even the most intriguing foes. It’s no wonder there’s also an OVA second season of 10 episodes, following much the same formula, and a second special, Flight 005 Conspiracy, about a missing interstellar passenger liner: a strange choice, as there was already a two-part case about a missing starcraft in the televised series, but with a series this good there is no redundancy.