Dirty Pair takes the space opera genre and turns it over on its head. While using tried and true tropes, it creates a story that feels fresh and unique. The story’s focus on fun makes it the perfect feel-good anime when life’s got you down!
Space bounty hunters are nothing new in anime. Series like Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop really popularized the idea of people in space taking on bad guys. Even those draw from Star Wars! In general, as far back as the 1980s, there have been some pretty good science fiction anime series.
However, Dirty Pair stands out as one of the most enjoyable of these.
This anime mixes action with comedy and is more lighthearted than gritty. It has aged pretty well. With a huge resurgence of interest in anime from the 80s and 90s today, a whole new group of people are learning about this series. Let’s learn more about Dirty Pair!
What Is Dirty Pair?
Dirty Pair started out as a novel in 1980, written by Haruka Takachiho. The story takes place in the far future year of 2138. Humans have traveled far into the galaxy and inhabit many colonies. When trouble arises, the World Welfare Works Association, or 3WA, sends in agents called “trouble consultants” to solve these problems for a small fee.
The series focuses on two trouble consultants. Kei and Yuri call themselves the Lovely Angels. However, the Lovely Angels develop a reputation for causing collateral damage during their missions. This gives them the more notorious name, of the “Dirty Pair.”
The only reason why Kei and Yuri still have a job is that most of the time, the damages are never always their fault. They just have really, really bad luck. Plus, despite their reputation, they are ready for a mission whenever one arises!
However, they definitely don’t clean up after themselves.
Dirty Pair’s History
Takachiho’s work was so well received that the novel got an anime adaptation in 1985. Many fans regard this as the most faithful adaptation in terms of the original text. After a run of 26 episodes, Dirty Pair would get numerous movies from 1985 to 1990. It would also get a reboot anime called Dirty Pair Flash.
The series’s first movie was called Dirty Pair: Project Eden. The film teamed Kei and Yuri up with a thief to stop a mad scientist. This scientist plotted to use his mutant army to take over the galaxy. Dirty Pair: Project Eden was released in 1986 and received a mixed reception for both its premise and voice acting.
American comic company Studio Proteus would eventually get the rights and produced a comic of the series before the rights were bought off by Dark Horse Comics. Then in 2007, Tokuma Shoten would release a retelling of the original novel series called The Great Adventures of the Dirty Pair, which would get an English translation in 2019.
What Are Kei & Yuri Like?
Our protagonists are polar opposites of each other. As a result, they bicker and make fun of each other. However, this quirky pair-up works well despite the collateral damage overall.
Kei is the tomboy gunner of the 3WA and prefers to shoot first and ask questions later. Plus, Kei has a very short temper. Every time an opportunity to take the easy route occurs, her first idea is to blow it up or shoot it till it’s dead.
Meanwhile, Yuri is almost the exact opposite. She not only carries unconventional weapons like throwing cards and whips but is also more feminine and has a habit of being flirty with “cultured men.”
Kei and Yuri’s chemistry is very similar to the buddy cop trope. In this anime, the trope works really well. It’s enjoyable and Kei and Yuri both have their strengths and help each other grow.
No Mission Is Ever the Same
What makes Dirty Pair very appealing is the variety of each episode. No repetitive storylines here!
Premises are similar, sometimes. Kei and Yuri are often called for missions that no one in their right mind would take. The paths these missions take, though, are always unique.
One storyline might be Kei and Yuri taking on a rogue AI that’s destroying an entire city. In the next episode, they’ll be taking on an army of intelligent rats with their own army of cats. No, this is not a joke, it’s an actual episode. It’s awesome.
The only similarity that each episode has is that Kei and Yuri often get in over their heads and end up making a mess. Although it’s not intentional, it is hilarious to see these two professional agents somehow make things harder than they should be. However, they aren’t afraid to try their best despite their reputation.
Dirty Pair Was Actually Not Very Popular At First
While Dirty Pair has a fair degree of earned popularity now, it actually wasn’t super popular when it first aired! Why was this the case? There are many answers, but the biggest is that it came out at the wrong time. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was also airing during this show’s debut, which was huge competition.
Another issue was that this was at a time when anime was still fairly new to western audiences. It wasn’t until the early 90s when Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon that anime finally started to make an impact in the United States. There were already a huge amount of sci-fi American cartoons and TV series. This made it hard for Dirty Pair to stand out.
Despite its struggle to find an audience, Dirty Pair still won Best Work in the Anime Grand Prix in 1985.
Where Should You Start?
The series has so many different iterations and comics that it can be confusing. Where on Earth to begin?
Reading the original novel isn’t necessary, although it might be an exciting read for anyone interested in the roots of the Dirty Pair. The omnibus is also a good route for beginners, in our view. It has a unique art style, the jokes feel very fresh, and it’s about as close to the original novel as it can get.
The original anime still holds up very well despite being over 30 years old. Hence, why we made it our recommendation for new watchers. It’s episodic, so it’s easy to jump in at any point.
As for Dirty Pair Flash, it’s kinda hard to recommend. Unfortunately, it does away with a lot of what made the original the fun romp it is. In fact, it almost feels like a different series entirely.
However, for those who want a deeper exploration of topics, Dirty Pair Flash could be a good option. If you’re into zany antics and belly laughs, though, you could do without watching it though.
Dumb Comedy, Still Good
Overall, Dirty Pair has a lot going for it. This series really cashed in on the whole “girls with guns” genre that would end up becoming popular. Fans of both 80s anime and sci-fi will find something in this diamond in the rough.
Despite the title, there is hardly anything “dirty” about this series. In fact, Dirty Pair can be a needed distraction from the stress of life. It also has some great feel-good moments. Don’t expect an overarching plot or deep psychological character development, but hey, our brains need fun, too!