Sunday, November 23, 2014

“And I think it's gonna be a long, long time/'Till touchdown brings me 'round again to find...”: No Need to Listen to the Bad Guys. We are Space Truckers!

What could I possibly say? This was perfect. A perfect story serving as a perfect capstone to a perfect show. Words fail me trying to convey the mixture of emotions I'm feeling right now.

There really could have been no better way for Original Dirty Pair to go out. A finale that knows it's a finale and knows the promises it must reaffirm. Who else could Kei and Yuri be but Space Truckers? Sure, they're technically undercover again, this time to infiltrate an independent truck company on the verge of folding due to corporate pressure, but it feels a little bit different this time. There's no obvious diegetic guise the girls slip into here, and they certainly don't seem to be acting very hard. Indeed, Kei and Yuri are for one final time handled perfectly, and this might be the story that shows their relationship in the best and purest light. They're just being themselves here, which is the boldest, most brazenly revolutionary thing they can do. And they clearly relate to and empathize profoundly with the truck drivers, and why wouldn't they? They share a common bond as travellers on the cosmic highway, as fated to be alone together as they are to constantly journey from place to place. The title “No Need to Listen to the Bad Guys. We are Space Truckers!” couldn't have been more accurate: It's as apt a summary of the episode itself as it is a crystal clear statement of purpose for Dirty Pair on the whole.

(And notice how, in the teaser for this episode, it's *Yuri* who gets the most excited about becoming a trucker, saying it's something she's “always wanted to do”. Try as she might to pass herself off as a romantic, refined Yamato Nadeshiko heroine, at heart Yuri is just as much a working class wanderer and voyager as Kei is, and her true colours shine the brightest and most vibrant of all.)

We've seen Space Truckers in Dirty Pair before, in “Lots of Danger, Lots of Decoys”. But that episode, much like the TV series it's from, had an extremely goofy, tongue-in-cheek tone to it. That wasn't a bad thing, and a lot of the first Dirty Pair show was laugh-out-loud funny. But this time it's played a bit more serious and a bit more sophisticated. Not that there aren't still laughs to be had, of course, but the comedy tends to come more in light doses delicately woven into the fabric of the narrative itself, rather than shoved front and centre in slapsticky glory. There's an elegance, nuance and sense of mature dignity to the writing here that really sells the quiet tragedy of Uncle Jayd and the truckers, and Kei and Yuri effortlessly fit right in. This has been a signature of Original Dirty Pair from the beginning, but it's so very important that this episode in particular embodies this sophistication as well as it does, because of its delicate subject matter. We know from subtext dating back to The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair where Kei and Yuri fall in terms of the class, gender and labour wars, but this is the first real time that's *explicitly laid out* for us. It's crucial this happen now, in the finale, and that it happen as elegantly and deftly as it does, because this means the show leaves us reaffirmed in our loyalty to it as well as to Kei and Yuri themselves.

One of the things I immediately noticed and that brought a smile to my face is this episode's soundtrack. It uses all of the memorable cues from not just Original Dirty Pair, but the Dirty Pair TV series as well. This hasn't been the first time Original Dirty Pair has recycled music from the old show, but it feels particularly appropriate here, especially considering the cuts they went with. The score fees like a Greatest Hits collection of all of the best Sunrise Dirty Pair music, with the exception of the tracks from the movies. Which is appropriate, because, as much as Original Dirty Pair was most definitely it's own show, it also felt like an extension or reimagining of the TV show. This feels particularly special and meaningful, because “No Need to Listen to the Bad Guys. We are Space Truckers!” is as much a delayed finale for that show as it is a finale for this one.

Remember, this came out right about the same time as With Love from the Lovely Angels, due to the latter being stuck in production limbo for three years, and the shunting of everything to OVA means Dirty Pair and Original Dirty Pair are intrinsically linked (even with the last episode of the former ending with a teaser for the first episode of the latter...done in the latter's style). What this all means is that “No Need to Listen to the Bad Guys. We are Space Truckers!” is very much the end of an era for Dirty Pair: There's one last movie in the pipeline, but that's more of an epilogue than anything else. This story then in many ways marks the official end of Sunrise's Classic Dirty Pair franchise, at least in collective memory. It's the final episode of the final episodic series done in this style, and the penultimate work in that style period. Adam Warren's Amerimanga is only a year away now, and Sunrise will strike back with its own comprehensive reboot Dirty Pair Flash five years after that. And while Haruka Takachiho keeps writing novels starring Kei and Yuri for another twenty years, the series never again reaches the levels of popular, commercial, critical (and dare I say aesthetic) success it saw here.

The writing on the wall couldn't be any clearer than the fact this is the very first episode not to end with a cheerful “Next time on Dirty Pair” trailer from the girls. Samhainn is over.

Fittingly, “No Need to Listen to the Bad Guys. We are Space Truckers!” also feels like a Greatest Hits collection of everything that makes Kei and Yuri so wonderful: They take down an incestuous corporate-state power in the form of a giant shipping conglomerate that's working hand in hand with pirates and local police to forcibly stamp out independent truckers (as in, using *lethal* force) so they can monopolize the merchant's trade. They despise corruption but, as Kei herself says, what they hate even more is people who abuse power to oppress others. The girls promise that selfish people like that are always doomed to fall, and they can speak with conviction because they know that, as the Lovely Angels, it's their calling to act on behalf of the universe to ensure that they do. And so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that the universe of Dirty Pair is one where banal evil will always fail, because that's what the universe of Dirty Pair is all about. Kei and Yuri help people because they heal them. Their mere presence allows situations to improve for everybody.

But more importantly, Kei and Yuri aren't just divine agents of positive change, they're divine agents of positive change because they're *good people*. They love, they understand and they forgive, and that's as important as anything else. Kei and Yuri show Jayd how to move on with his life without forgetting his past actions by both fighting *and* caring for him. And while they pretend-fight about the technicalities of the statute of limitations at the end, this is simply the expected trappings of a performance by “Good Lawkeepers”...And of Sunrise Dirty Pair. They very clearly would have let him go regardless. But ultimately conscious intent is unimportant here: Kei and Yuri make things better simply by acting and getting involved. This is what makes Kei and Yuri utopian ideals: Through living the life they're meant to and that's healthiest for them, they've become role models worth meditating on. This is the whole reason the girls have the trans- and posthumanist symbolism of the Glorified Body surrounding them: Kei and Yuri are here to teach and to learn and to make the universe a better place by doing so.

Astrologically speaking, Kei and Yuri are a fire sign and a water sign, respectively. Both fire and water are symbols strongly associated with fluidity, mutability and change. Change can come in many forms, including that of death and destruction. And we all know what tends to follow the Lovely Angels no matter where they go. But death is as natural a part of life as birth, and sometimes worlds have to be destroyed before newer, better worlds can arise in their place. This is reflected in Tarot as well, where the symbol of Death is usually seen as a sign of the impending end of one stage of life and the beginning of a new one. Similarly, Kei and Yuri have also been associated with the Tower, representing imminent and traumatic change, usually in the form of the collapse of a familiar and stable structure. But then again, sometimes such things must first fall before things can change for the better. And the Tower can also represent a transcendence and freeing of the mind and spirit: Apparently, the “Triple Goddess” flavour of Tarot refers to the Tower as “Kundalini Rising”.

As Glorified Bodies whom we can learn from and aspire to be but whose presence can frequently lead to catastrophic, yet needed, change, perhaps the real purpose of the Lovely Angels is to help bring forth the next stage in human evolution. Singularity Archetypes in the form of divine, utopian ideals. After all, it's said that the Singularity looks like the apocalypse to those below it. Who's to say role models aren't goddesses, or that trying to better yourself isn't a form of growing enlightenment? Who's to say we really won't transcend our current forms as the end result of simply trying to be better people?

I know I have Dirty Pair: Flight 005 Conspiracy to look forward to, but as good as I expect that movie to be and even though I fully realise it's going to be an even more sombre occasion and a more fitting place to eulogize the series' material Soda Pop Art wing, I need to take some time here to say a few words about what Kei and Yuri mean to me personally. Because Original Dirty Pair is special. Over the months I've spent trying to study and learn from it, Dirty Pair has very swiftly positioned itself as one of the very few things that transcend arts and entertainment for me. This is more than a show for me. It's images, emotions, experiences and ideas I would catch fleeting glimpses of throughout my life and try to distill out into something without realising it already existed somewhere. It's happy memories of the way life should be.

Things seem to happen to me for a reason, and I discovered Dirty Pair during the most uncanny of times, where the lessons and ideals it represented seemed to manifest themselves directly within my material, physical life. In some strange way, I almost *really do* feel as guided by Dirty Pair as I would be by a goddess or a spirit guide. And it's been this show that's spoken to me the loudest and the clearest: Original Dirty Pair is utterly perfect and an absolute work of art. From beginning to end, it's everything I ever wanted out of episodic visual media and everything I hold the most dear, and it came into my life precisely when I needed it the most. This will be something I'll always remember, will always hold close to my heart and will keep returning to time and time again. Kei and Yuri gave my life direction and purpose-I'll never forget that.
“I can't say anymore”

1 comment:

  1. Love the essay and love the video. Thanks so much Josh for sharing your journey of the Angels with us. I can understand the experience of them being a "spirit guide" or similar as I have had the same thing happen with works of art at prominent moments in my life (Swamp Thing, the works of Moebius & many others). If you had not shared their work here I would never have heard of them.

    Love the callout in the title also to Rocket Man, making the links from past Trek to future Trek. Also I think the show did a callout to Ripley in Aliens with the juggernaut suits. Nice.

    One amazing moment in the animation that might have been easy to miss appears at 8m 54s, just as Yuri is in her spacesuit shooting her weapon and shouting "damn you!" If you are able to pause it in time it looks to me like she is shooting a lotus flower out of her gun. I *adore* the idea that the Angels are shooting enlightenment and rebirth at their targets!

    Good stuff, cheers Josh.