I’m a Dirty Pair fan, and not particularly ashamed of it. Yeah, it’d be a lie to say the series doesn’t sometimes pander to the horny male audience. But within an entire medium that sometimes seems solely dedicated to pandering to the horny male audience, Dirty Pair seems pretty respectable.
In fact, there’s even a case to be made for discussing Dirty Pair in a feminist context, which I’ll be doing a little later, if you’ll indulge me. Yes, the Lovely Angels sport the same gravity-defying bikinis we see all the time and sometimes find themselves inexplicably naked, but listen: the girls are reasonably intelligent, full of confidence and they get the job done. I almost see Dirty Pair as a kind of proto-Buffy: these girls are intensely feminine and they can kick some ass.
If you’re not familiar with Dirty Pair (and you can probably be forgiven for it; even the slack-spaghetti remake is 15 years old now), it chronicles the adventures of Kei and Yuri, a duo of “trouble consultants” for the space-age police agency 3WA. Kei and Yuri call themselves the Lovely Angels, but they’re more infamously known as the Dirty Pair, ‘cause they cause a mess (i.e. blow shit up) wherever they go.
Project Eden, released in March of 1987, is the sole Dirty Pair film. It was directed by Koichi Mashimo, who had few credits to his name at the time, but went on to direct things like Dominion Tank Police, Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Noir, and a whole mess of .hack properties. Production, like all the Dirty Pair projects (and Crusher Joe, another creation of author Haruka Takichiho), was handled by Sunrise.
Timeframe-wise, Project Eden is sandwiched between the TV series (and the standalone OVA Affair of Nolandia) and the 10-episode OAV series. Confusing enough for you?
Luckily, Dirty Pair isn’t too chronological, nor does it concern itself with “canon.” The girls swoop in, cause lots of collateral damage, and save the day. The conflict this time revolves around two rival mining colonies, Uldas and Edia.
These mining colonies are set up on the same planet, rich in Vizorium, the mineral that, in the DP Universe, powers spaceships. It’s pretty important stuff and fetches a load of cash on the black market. One of Uldas’s Vizorium refineries has been destroyed, and it blames Eidas.
The two colonies are hilariously obvious stand-ins for the U.S. and Soviet Union (remember, this film was released in ’87). Uldas’ president wails about their five-year plan, while Eidas’ president boasts about his free-market economy, works on an assembly line and wears plaid. Imagine a member of the UAW as president.
None of this matters after the first few minutes because, as Kei notes, the Lovely Angels don’t particularly care who did it, they just want to solve the thing and go home. As it turns out, the factory was attacked by a hoard of Vizorium-hungry, Giger-esque creatures.
These creatures, we learn, are the creations of Dr. Wattsman, a zany guy who’s trying to cultivate the species that will replace humans as dominant in the universe. Despite his best attempts, though, he’s only been able to create these Alien knock–offs.
The Lovely Angels eventually find their way to Wattsman’s hideout, but only with the help of Carson D. Carson, an infamous Vizorium thief, who Kei falls for.
(Haruka Takichiho has a thing for awesomely over-the-top English names. Here we have Carson D. Carson; Crusher Joe’s main villian is named “Big Murphy.”)
As an admirer of the riot grrl aspects of Dirty Pair, this is where the film starts to fall apart for me. I don’t recall the girls ever relying so heavily on a male; here they’re practically lost without him. And Kei, who typically leaves the swooning to Yuri, has really got the hots for our man CDC.
Again, if you’re willing to do some real analytical stretching with me, I’ll even posit that Kei might be a lesbian. (I doubt I’m the first person to do it, either). She often notes her bad luck with men, acts in a masculine way and, hey, the hair. Lesbian or not, with Carson we see Kei weakened, which I don’t really dig.
Plot-wise there’s not a lot more to say without covering the entire film. Indeed, the plot is pretty thin. What might have made for a great 30-minute OAV episode is stretched here to 80-odd minutes and suffers for it. A lot of the film plays like a music video, as Kei and Yuri battle an endless supply of those Vizorium creatures in slow motion while (admittedly pretty catchy) pop plays in the background.
That’s the best way to appreciate Project Eden, I think: as a music video. The thing I like most about the film is its aesthetic. The color palette, composed almost entirely of pastel blues and neon pinks, looks pretty damn awesome. The character designs, almost wholly unchanged from the series (and a welcome return after the bizarrely ugly designs of Affair of Nolandia), look pretty sharp. And the film opens with a super-stylish James Bond-style intro. Not too shabby.
I have a certain nostalgic affinity for Project Eden: as a youth, I wandered into the anime room at a local sci-fi con and saw a brief, out-of-context clip of the film that stuck in my mind for years. It was one of the catalysts for me seeking out this damn anime stuff in the first place. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the back story I’d created in my head for this clip was far more interesting than the film itself.