Off the printed page and into motion...

 

Some history

By 1984, the first DP book had been out for four years and the reception given both to it and the Angels' cameo in the Crusher Joe movie (which was Nihon Sunrise's first original theatrical anime production) the previous year indicated that an animated series for broadcast television might enjoy some success. Studio Nue, together with Sunrise Productions, produced the new series, which was originally broadcast in the second half of 1985 through NihonTerebi (NTV).

There is good reason to believe that production arrangements did not come easily. While the character designs for the series were approved by July of '84, the press kit announcing the coming release didn't appear until the following February. It is possible that DP was not an "easy sell" to a television network. Although the stories were popular with science-fiction fans, a network is interested in reaching a broader audience. The level of violence and some of the darker matters touched on in the stories may not have been deemed suitable for broadcast, particularly at "prime-time". Further, unlike many other titles adapted for anime, there simply was not a large existing run of material: the production team would have to write stories completely from scratch, stories which would have to be acceptable to the broadcasting network.

Whatever exactly the reasons were, the debut broadcast of the Lovely Angels didn't occur until 15 July 1985, by which time there were simply not enough weeks remaining in the calendar year for a 26-episode run. Only 24 episodes appeared by the end of December. The two stories designated as episodes #25 and #26 were not even scripted by the end of 1985, and were only completed in the autumn of '86. These were released in January 1987 as an OAV video, "From the Lovely Angels with Love" and show the greatest sophistication in terms of story writing, rendering style, and animation of the series.

Most of the historical details of the print stories were jettisoned. Takachiho has remarked something to the effect that "the animators threw away the novels," but he has seemed willing to accept the changes that come with transferring the idea to another medium (not the last time this would happen; Takachiho himself was not involved much with the broadcast series). The television episodes "tone down" the darker aspects of the novels and often play up the comedic features, sometimes even running to the slapstick, particularly early in the series, likely in order to be acceptable to broadcast "standards and practices" of the time.

Many of the stories are take-offs on Hollywood or other movies, TV shows, other science-fiction stories and so forth. The overall conception is much in the spirit of spy thrillers and sci-fi shows of the 1960s and '70s, rather than of, say, police procedurals. Dokite Tsukasa, the series director, is a great fan of Star Trek, which shows in a number of aspects of Classic DP. And, of course, the internationally best-known fictional espionage agent of the period left his mark as well.

developing one of the most famous logos in anime

 

A great deal of the specific character detail and domestic life of the Lovely Angels had to be invented, since there was little basis in the print novels to which the series writers could refer. Details of the WWWA, Chief Gooley, and Elenore City all had to be invented. The Angels' robotic assistant, Nanmo (possibly a pun on nanimo, meaning "nothing" -- perhaps as in "created out of nothing"), was also introduced for this series. Its presence would seem to be inspired by the regular "fifth member" of Crusher Joe's team, Dongo. The design is perhaps inspired by those of fellow small robots such as R2D2 and Huey, Louie, and Dewey of the cult '70s SF movie, Silent Running.

 

I have read various reasons given for why the broadcast ended in the way it did, one relating to weak audience ratings, another suggesting disagreements among the creative team as to the direction later stories should follow. In the Anime Grand Prix, apparently an annual viewers' poll conducted by Animage, Dirty Pair took first place in 1986, taking one-eighth of the over 10,000 votes cast, putting it ahead of Zeta Gundam, Remember my Love (the third Urusei Yatsura movie), Touch, and Dancougar. Here is a special illustration done by Dokite Tsukasa to mark the occasion.

However, a network such as NTV would be interested in sufficiently high ratings. While the series was undoubtedly popular with anime and science-fiction viewers, DP then (as now) tended to lack adequate attention from general audiences.

The suggestion that there was a dispute over how to continue the series is of interest because the TV episodes do present a progressive development of the Angels' character. (There are, of course, the unstated problems concerning budget and level of commitment on the part of Sunrise.) Early on, the Pair are a bit frivolous and have something of a tendency to mess up their cases. As the series advances, however, they become gradually more competent and responsible, but also more independent of their employing institution and its rules. While retaining a strong sense of justice and morality, they sometimes resolve their cases in ways contrary to the WWWA's or the client's wishes, arriving at clever and sophisticated solutions in their own inimitable style. (In episode 1, the Angels save Elenore City by essentially wrecking its rebellious central computer and tipping the megastructure in which they live, the largest building in the city. By contrast, in episode 26, they achieve a successful hostage rescue that their employers had utterly given up on, without aid of their own ship and weapons, or even Mughi.) This approach would be revisited nine years later in the DP Flash series.

While the series was still in production, as a sort of "hook" for non-fans of the anime, a project was undertaken to produce an OAV (still a new thing back in '85) which was closer in tone to the more serious "hard SF" of the novels; its end-of-year release was to coincide with the conclusion of the TV episodes. This was Noorandia no Nazo <Mystery of Nolandia>, which, while being a fairly good DP story, gained only limited popularity, even with fans of the broadcast series, possibly because of the sizeable departure from the television series in both story tone and visual style.

Probably because of this outcome, all of the later Classic projects returned to a style more in keeping with the TV version. The next outing was the theatrical feature Daatipea (often referred to as "Project E.D.E.N.") released in March 1987, an effort to do a movie-length story in the style of an action-adventure spy thriller. (Even the background music [BGM] makes a number of sly references to the theme and BGM of the earlier James Bond flicks). This is certainly the most technophilic of all the Classic stories, which has tended to mislead many anime fans somewhat as to the "spirit" of DP. The movie is a genuine romp; its only real failing, in my opinion, is that some of the supporting characters are intriguing enough to succeed in overshadowing the Angels.

With the growing market for directly-marketed videotape, anime was no longer beholden to the vagaries of broadcasters' schedules and standards. A ten-episode OAV series was released in 1987-8, described as a "new taste" of DP. There are new uniform designs for the Pair, a new ship design (which had become a sort of tradition by then), the removal of Nanmo, and changes in the conception of the WWWA and Elenore City. The series follows a story continuity that is completely independent of the developments in the TV series. The episodes run the gamut in tone from rather silly (#2) to romantic (#6) to quite grave (#9), setting a trend for things to come for DP in later years.

The final OAV, Bouryaku no 005-bin <Intrigue of Flight 005>, released in January 1990, is a sort of curious last hurrah for Classic DP; it received nothing like the promotional barrage given to all earlier Classic outings. It once again returns to the form of a spy/police thriller. While it possesses a fair amount of humor early on, "005" is an effort to tell a serious DP story, its tone becoming, by the conclusion, more somber even than Nolandia. (It can also be seen as the stylistic precedent for the first DP Flash series four years later.)

Each of the visual media versions presented at this site (Classic, comix, Flash) departs significantly from the original conception of the Pair portrayed in the novels, each in its own way. But it has come to be the case, at least for a large number of older Western anime fans, that Classic is the "proper" version, the one against which the others are compared; it was also part of their introduction to anime for a great many of them.

 

The series is known in Europe, with broadcasts having aired in 1989 in France on FR3 (as "Dan et Danny") and in Italy in 1992 on ODEON (as "Kate e Julie": "Kei" would sound too much like "Che?" <"What?"> there), where it was withdrawn after 21 episodes because of objections that the series was too violent. In more recent years, Classic DP broadcast episodes, "Project E.D.E.N.", and "Flight 005" were run on the Locomotion channel, seen in Spain. Portugal, Mexico, and Brazil, starting in 2001 (until ?). Dan et Danny was revived on Nomade in France around the same time. Perhaps the widest broadcast audience for Classic DP ever was achieved by the Showtime Beyond channel (July 2002 - January 2004), presenting the OVA series. All of DP anime has been shown in Japan via the Internet since 2002, most recently through the Bandai Channel.

Most American fans have long known the TV and OVA episodes through imported tapes in private hands or shown at anime clubs and conventions or through fan-subtitled copies, a situation that changed with the 1999 translation of the OVAs into English through ADVision; the three "movies" followed soon thereafter. Dynamic Visions released at least a portion of Dan et Danny on VHS around 2000, then on DVD a bit later. VAP produced a series of DVDs containing the TV and OVA episodes during 2000, with Bandai Emotion putting "Project E.D.E.N." on disc during that time. More recently, VAP released a complete boxed DVD set of all the DP anime episodes in November 2006, while Bandai Emotion at last made "Nolandia" and "Flight 005" available on disc that same month. A German-dubbed set of the "movies" on disc also appeared in that year.

 

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