Yup, it's not so hot.
Although, we do seem to be experiencing a kind of averaging-out of the show's quality. There are numerous good bits intermingled with more then enough not-so-good bits to land this one at decisively mediocre, but at least it's not another catastrophic derailment. The girls aren't really right again, landing more often then comfortable in a depiction that reinforces their inaccurate pop stereotypes, though there are a number of scenes that do balance this out some. Much like last time, the show is trying to combine slapstick humour with a darker and more serious tone, but its not as effective here. There are specific moments that really stand out, like the comedic shootout in hotel in the first act, which contrasts with the dramatic storm on the police station at the end where Gooley is gunned down by the crooked chief who set the 3WA up, but this episode can't mode shift to the same degree last week's could, and this ends up giving the impression of a story that, in spite of its individual successful setpieces, never really comes together in a cohesive form.
But the quality argument isn't an especially captivating one anymore: Another thing “Pardon Us. Trouble's On the Run, So We're Coming Through! “ shares with “Come Out, Come Out, Assassin” is that it's a further step in the development of Sunrise's version of Dirty Pair: Mixing light comedy with drama and heady sci-fi concepts is a theme that will be dealt with explicitly (and far more effectively) in the second series and two of the three movies, Dirty Pair: Affair of Nolandia and Dirty Pair: Flight 005 Conspiracy. Looking at Sunrise stumbling over this now really isn't much help to us except as an example of what amounts to a rough draft. Part of this may also simply be do to the fact it's functionally impossible to sustain momentum over a 30-episode season of *anything*, and even Dirty Pair isn't immune. This is why it's such a wise decision on the part of Sunrise to slice the episode count for the second series by two thirds, but now I'm in real danger of spilling my hand too early in my attempt to avoid talking about this episode.
No, what's of more interest to me at this point in the show's history is a theme I noticed and touched on briefly in the last mediocre outing: Who exactly, is this show for and what makes it unique among Dirty Pair adaptations?
The answer seems, at first, obvious: Surely fans who wanted to see the next logical step in the evolution of Kei and Yuri's dynamic and their narrative universe, right? But it's actually a more complex and muddled issue then it might seem to be at first glance. We'll talk about it in considerable more depth when the time comes, but one of the things that's revealing about Affair of Nolandia is that it was explicitly made for and marketed to fans of the light novels who didn't like the first series, and the movie pretty clearly sees that audience as “hardcore science fiction fans”. So, by being made in direct contrast with Affair of Nolandia, one could be forgiven for assuming this show is for more general audiences. And yet the show itself apparently struggled in the ratings such that it was canceled before all of its episodes could be aired, and even today its legacy exists almost exclusively within science fiction (not even anime and manga) circles. I have to wonder if some of the wheel-spinning the show has been doing in recent weeks isn't in part its own reaction against conflicting and sporadic audience numbers, especially as it otherwise seems so strange given the imperious confidence with which the show stormed out of the gate at the opposite end of the season.
Because this really is frustrating and hard to watch. When the show had been mediocre in the past, namely in “Do Lovely Angels Prefer Chest Hair?”, it still *worked*. That episode wasn't terribly memorable or exciting, no, and Graves was an absolute pain in the ass, but at least he was clearly *supposed* to be a pain in the ass and the episode on the whole was largely inoffensive. With “What? We're Heinous Kidnappers!”, The Little Dictator! Let Sleeping Top Secrets Lie”, “Leave It To Us! The WWWA is a Wonderful Job” and, well, this one, it's really hard not to read these efforts as the show losing the plot and forgetting what its core themes and characters are (and that's not touching on the absolute calamities like gambling addicts and Racist Chinese Chef Stereotypes). Watching a show you *know* is incompetent and cack-handed flounder and flail about is one thing, but seeing a show you know for a fact is capable of absolute greatness and has furthermore demonstrated it quite recently squander its potential is unbelievably aggravating and it makes you wonder what the heck is going on.
I think one thing to remember over everything else is that Dirty Pair should probably always be fun. It can blast off to the ends of the universe, reshape narrative reality and plumb the depths of inner space to reveal fundamental human, spiritual and cosmic truths with the best of them, but this series needs to remember its sense of humour and lightness above all else. After all, what's the point of doing a show about two intergalactic crime-fighting professional women wrestlers and a giant alien cat beast who blow up planets together if it's not going to embrace how ridiculous (and ridiculously awesome) that premise is, in addition to all the other good things it does? Key to this is also remembering what its humour is actually about,who its laughing with...and who it's laughing at. Without fail this show's weakest episodes have been the ones where it's laughing *at* Kei and Yuri rather than with them. Dirty Pair should always be fun, and this simply isn't.
But this too belies not just the way in which the show is able to wrongfoot itself, but of its own metafictional reality. This is another example of the external world in some sense letting Kei and Yuri down, as the material production of the show isn't aware of its own potential, and even here this is an example of Dirty Pair's diegetic truths transcending textual boundaries: Just as the human world never appreciates Kei and Yuri for who they are and what they do, so will the world of media Soda Pop Art frequently be unwelcoming to the Lovely Angels. Their own show isn't always up to the task of encapsulating and conveying their magicko-symbolic power. Even when it is its truths are falling on deaf ears, and this is why there are only eight episodes left. Perhaps the show itself could even be likened to the figure of a harried and despondent secretary of the phantom desperately trying to take down signal flashes from the ether.
Having assumed the mantle of primal figures of change and creation, perhaps Kei and Yuri's recursion extends to the ether of symbols and images itself, and this is where their true destiny lies after all.