Non-stop, non-stop, non-stop...
Is it possible that the Author was getting tired of the Dirty Pair? At a Friday session of the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention ("MagiCon") in Orlando, Florida, Takachiho declared his feeling that it was time to move on from Crusher Joe and the Lovely Angels, so that he could devote more time to his other stories and series, such as Li Sui-ryu* ("Dragon Lee") and Igyo Sangokushi ("Deformed Book of Three Dynasties"). Indeed, at the end of their fourth novel, Daatipea no Daidassou (1993), Takachiho put the Angels into storage: on return from their mission, the warp-engine of the 'Lovely Angel' malfunctions and the Pair must enter "cold sleep" to await rescue. (The fifth novel actually takes place two years earlier.)
*Li is a contemporary and colleague of Yuri and Kei, being a WWWA Trouble Consultant active in 2141 and a master of martial arts; he makes a first appearance in the fifth Classic OAV episode, which is based on a short story of Takachiho's.
Plainly, things took a somewhat different turn over the next year. In an interview late in 1993 at AnimeExpo (Animerica, 2, #5; reprinted in the book Anime Interviews), Takachiho expressed excitement over a new project, which would be a re-conception of the Dirty Pair. While certain fundamental elements would be preserved, the setting, timeline and character designs would be changed to make it quite clear that this would be a completely new set of stories. What would become clear was that the Author was taking his leave of the space-opera genre: no longer would the Angels be involved in the big, sweeping space adventures of the past.
A part of that re-conception would be that while most of the Flash stories would be animated, several would be performed by the same seiyuu on audio recordings (the four "Stereo Drama" CDs). Since these latter performances include dialogue and songs, Kouda Mariko (Yuri) and Matsumoto Rika (Kei) were chosen for their singing abilities, as well as their voice acting talents. (Takachiho has said that some of the inspiration for DP came from idol singer duos from the 1970s, such as Pink Lady.) Their vocal registers are also similar to those of Shimazu Saeko and Tonguu Kyoko from the Classic anime, but are pushed to be a bit higher or deeper, respectively; in particular, Kouda was directed to give Yuri "a voice girls would hate".
This major departure from the Classic DP continuity shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. The standards and expectations for anime design and story-telling had shifted significantly in the eight years since 1985. The younger generation of science fiction writers were influenced mostly not by written works from the middle of the century, but by the visual media stories -- television and movies -- of the 1980s.
At least as importantly, this was no longer the period of increasing prosperity of the 1970s and '80s, but the "post-Bubble" era of the '90s, a time of economic implosion and retrenchment in Japan, as in much of the rest of the world. In these new stories, there is little like the glamorous, luxurious, and free-spending lifestyle the Classic Angels enjoyed, where all manner of things could be written off to the 3WA's expense account. The Angels in this "story universe" live on a tighter budget, much as travelling Japanese businesspeople and students of the 1950s and '60s did.
The production itself struggled in the "post-Bubble" regime: Sunrise's budget of roughly 100 million yen (roughly $800,000 at the time) for all of "Mission 1" constrained the animators initially to plan about 4000 cels per episode. Ultimately, with some ingenuity, it was possible to stretch this to about 6000, which is still pretty limited compared to the glory days of 1980s OAV and feature anime . (It should be said, though, that except for Daatipea and Flight 005 Conspiracy, Classic DP was never really big-budget or top of the line, as it was always a minor part of Nihon Sunrise's production work). The Japanese economy was sufficiently rocky that even Bandai Emotion, which had lent financial support to DP anime since the days of Affair of Nolandia, dropped out after "Mission 1".
The setting for DP Flash is that of a Galactic human society recovering from a major interstellar war and subsequent social disorder; signs of improving circumstances sit alongside obvious ruins. The first set of anime episodes, which form a single story arc, are somber and often dark (in the manner of "cyberpunk" stories and movies like Bladerunner), though not completely without humor. It is in the nature of an "origins" tale, portraying the turbulent beginnings of the new Lovely Angels team. (Not once in the entire series are they referred to as "the Dirty Pair"; after this, however...). The stories in the second and third series become more varied in character and move gradually closer to the tone of the Classic series.
The level of seriousness in many of the stories can be seen as a continuation from Flight 005 Conspiracy and the tone of the DP novels. Moreover, the "germs" of many of the story ideas and plot elements (and even some of the music and songs) in Flash come from Classic TV and OAV episodes. Much as Classic DP did take-offs on old movies and TV shows, Flash often spoofs other anime of the previous ten years (it becomes something of a parlor game to identify the objects of this lampooning); it sometimes even pokes fun at the characters themselves. With the huge rage for Sailor Moon already underway, the influence from the shoujo genre is unmistakable, but is, fortunately, reasonably restrained.
It is also the case that these stories are much more character-oriented than those of the Classic series. Much as was done in the 26 Classic TV episodes, the sixteen DP Flash stories follow the personal development of the Angels as individuals, as well as their evolution as a team. Many of them are concerned with personal events in the Angels' lives and are somewhat more intimate in nature, sometimes with surprising revelations about the main characters. In some stories, the "action/adventure" aspect of the older series is sacrificed entirely, especially in the Stereo Dramas. For this anime series, Takachiho himself wrote all of the character dialogue. He also wrote the stories themselves for the Stereo Dramas.
The Flash series did passably well in Japan (otherwise Sunrise would never has launched two more "Missions" in 1995-96), but didn't receive nearly the level of audience attention and commercial promotion devoted to Classic DP. The environment for video entertainment had become very different from what it had been in the mid-'80s, when OAVs were still a novelty. Apart from the considerable shrinkage in Japanese "disposable income", which severely reduced the OAV "market", there was vastly greater competition for viewers' attention, not only from anime, but now also from the huge arena of videogames! (Gaming characters now have a "fan base" easily comparable in size to that of regular animation characters.) There was also an unanticipated "hit" that came along late in 1995 -- something called Shin Seiki Evangelion...
In addition to the video and audio tales, Takachiho has written three Dirty Pair Flash novels to date (displayed on the Novels page); the Author notes that the story continuity for these is somewhat different from that of the anime (a common phenomenon in the transposition between novels or manga and anime). Two collections of manga stories by independent authors have also been sanctioned (see the Hall of Curiosities).
"Why'd they hafta go and change the character designs?!"
Here's an interesting little item I found in the December 1989 Animedia. This is during the transitional period between what is now referred to as "old school" anime and the styles of the 1990s. The rendering of characters was moving away from the relatively "flat" modelling, with limited use of shading, to a more "three-dimensional" look, along with the larger eyes and "spikier" hair we've grown accustomed to. The face of anime was changing and, by 1994, the Lovely Angels would change along with it.
Here are Mai (left) and Yui Koujiro (right), from Juushin Raigaa <Beast God Ryger>, another series Nihon Sunrise was working on, which aired for 43 episodes between March 1989 and January 1990. I put this in here because I thought the similarity in appearance to the Flash Pair was amusing; it also illustrates how influential DP has been on subsequent female duos in anime.
"Punk" had diffused from the young people of the working-class Britain of 1975 to New York around '77 and from there to the cities of much of the industrialized world by the early '80s. "Street tough" fashions and hair dyed in unnatural and/or multiple colors appeared widely by then; not surprisingly, the style made its way into anime.
Some of the best known early characters sporting two-tone hair are Simone Rufuran of SPT Layzner (1985), Kiara Suun of Gundam ZZ (1986), and Lufy of Sonoda Kenichi's Garu Fuoosu <Gal Force> (1986-88).
I was recently shown a copy of the photojournalistic book, A Day in the Life of Japan, for which one hundred photographers documented ordinary events taking place throughout the country on 7 June 1985. I thought this image of a group of "punks" in Osaka, handing out club fliers, would be of interest, in particular for the appearance of one of its members; the photo, by Roger Ressmeyer, is on page 157.
There were apparently plans to make a significant departure in character design for the '90s, something a bit grittier and more consistent with post-Bubble urban reality. Dokite's own proposed designs for Shin Daatipea <New DP> was more in line with Classic. It was soon replaced by the two shown here, the one at left being a preliminary idea, that on the right, a rough sketch leading to the character designs (for what was by then being called Daatipea FLASH) finally approved in July of 1993.
Dokite Tsukasa, who had been the animation director and character designer for Classic DP, had been approached to work on this series. But, by 1993, he was largely involved in direction and was not available. The new character designs (at right above) are by Kimura Takahiro, who had worked on key animation for AD Police and Kimagure Orange Road and went on to do the designs for Betterman, GaoGaiGar, Variable Geo, Brigadoon: Marin to Meran (2000) and many other works in the anime and gaming worlds. While they are very controversial with most Classic fans, the Flash character designs are quite in keeping with 1990s anime practice. There was an adjustment made to them in the year between the first series (first half of 1994) and the latter two series (mid-1995 to mid-1996), making the Flash Pair look somewhat less juvenile and more believeably of an age around seventeen to eighteen.
|designs for "Mission 1" (1994)||designs for "Missions 2 and 3" (1995-6)|
Don't stop, don't stop, don't stop...
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