Dirty Pair: Project Eden
The Dirty Pair have a long and convoluted history. Originally created in novella form by author Takachiho Haruka, the female agents of the 3WA law enforcement team were animated by the Sunrise production team in 1983, making a cameo appearance in the Crusher Joe film. Kei and Yuri made the big time with a TV series in 1985, but their show was cancelled 24 episodes into its 26-episode season. Despite the setback, the Lovely Angels retained their popularity, eventually spawning a series of OVAs, a 1987 film (Project Eden, which I'm writing about today), and a "cuter" version years later called Dirty Pair Flash. The escapades of these interstellar scantily clad women with attitude have varied over the years and their personalities have undergone transitions, which explains why I've never bothered to see much of Dirty Pair Flash. I really have no interest in that project, which offers what I've experienced to be a silly reinterpretation of a couple of my favorite anime characters. However, the original incarnation of the Dirty Pair is something to behold, and Project Eden is one of their better entries. Although the film is not their best adventure, it's still a smile-inducing spell with the fiery duo.
As the film starts, the girls are investigating a smuggling ring selling Vizorium at exorbitant prices. Vizorium is an incredibly rare mineral that's fundamental to space travel, and the black market is soaring. At the same time, the planet Agerna, known for its Vizorium mining, experiences a rash of attacks from slimy creatures resembling one of H.R. Giger's nightmares. Are the two connected? Kei and Yuri are determined to find out. With the less-than-enthusiastic help of smuggler and small time crook Carson D. Carson, they get to the source of the troubles--a crazed scientist determined to bring a dormant species of creatures to life or die trying. Will they succeed in stopping the lunatic's plan? If everything around them blows up anyway, does it really matter?
Project Eden looks pretty good on the small screen, though it lacks the detail and finesse of what's typically expected from an anime film. It doesn't diminish the enjoyability of the picture, but those expecting the gorgeous look of a modern movie will be disappointed. The soundtrack was fine in 1987, though it's a bit dated watching it now. And, of course, your opinion of character design a decade and a half ago might influence your take on the film. Kei and Yuri are darn cute to my eyes, but they don't reflect modern sensibilities on how anime characters are supposed to look.
With those issues in the way, why is Project Eden worth seeing? Simply, it's a great deal of fun. If you've never seen the original Dirty Pair at work, you deserve to watch at least a couple of their adventures. For better or for worse, the Dirty Pair are the epitome and finest example of the "girls with guns" genre. They have a habit of destroying everything that stands in their way, but in such a way that you can't help but laugh. And in Project Eden, the characters are given more room to breathe. There's not the urgency to wrap everything into a 20-minute package. And their trademark humor is still quite evident, even though it's not the focus that it became at times for the TV show. For a long time, this was the only Dirty Pair adventure available commercially in the US, and it was not a bad choice.
However, if I were to have to choose my favorite Dirty Pair adventures, Project Eden would not be at the very top. The plot of the show could work in an hour-long show, but at 80 minutes, it's too long. (That's quite a surprise, considering that many great Dirty Pair episodes have only the most threadbare plots.) The length factors into a few other problems the show has--not bad ones, mind you, but ones in comparison to the best TV episodes. Project Eden is missing the frantic kinetic energy that powered their most exciting and gut-bustingly funny adventures. Without it, Project Eden doesn't ever quite hit maximum speed. The characters also have some minor personality issues, particularly Kei, since she usually has far too much gumption to swoon over one of her prisoners, even an attractive fellow like Carson D. Carson. Are these bad enough to make the movie a problem? Absolutely not, but they make it less than what the film could have been.
As a side note, Project Eden is a bit more violent than the Lovely Angels' other adventures. Although stuff blowing up in most goofy fashion is part and parcel for any Dirty Pair adventure, a bunch of creatures get killed in provocative fashion. Lasered, slashed, blown up, you name it, and green monster guts splay across the screen more than once. Mature viewers will not have any problems with it, but it's more graphic than what regular viewers might be used to.
So my final thoughts? Until recently, I'd only been able to see it in untranslated Japanese. Now that I've seen it in English, my opinion has gone up considerably. Dirty Pair: Project Eden is a good entry in the original Pair's adventures, certainly worth picking up. If you can get ahold of some of the TV episodes, I'd suggest starting there to give you a better background in the characters and their frenetic hilarity. But once you've done that, make sure to catch Project Eden.
Dirty Pair: Project Eden -- violence (some graphic), brief nudity, fan service -- B+