Thursday, May 29, 2014

Advent of the Angels: The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair

It seems at first glance obvious that I should cover anime and manga at this point in the project. After all, isn't the breakout of Japanese media in the United States a major part of the 1980s entertainment landscape and a defining event in the history of Nerd Culture? Well...not exactly.

Firstly, according to the observations and inferences I've personally made studying Nerd Culture, the foundational moment as it pertains to anime and manga didn't happen in the early 1980s and wasn't even due to the rising popularity of people like Hayao Miyazaki: Instead, it can be traced to the 1990s and Neon Genesis Evangelion (which was already a unique and transformative piece of anime in Japan) if you were a part of proto-Nerd Culture, or shonen (boy's action entertainment) stuff like Dragon Ball Z if you were everybody else (though some bleedover did occur).

And secondly, the Dirty Pair franchise, of which The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair (actually, a compilation of the first two Dirty Pair stories serialized in science fiction magazines) is the inaugural work, is at once neither anime nor manga and both them and many other things all at the same time. Dirty Pair concerns the continuing adventures of two scantily clad female secret agents named Kei and Yuri who solve cases in the 22nd Century after mankind has become a sprawling alliance of a thousand star systems as part of a tag-team partnership aided by their giant hyper-evolved sentient pet cat alien and chief engineer Mughi, but who also have the dreadful misfortune of leaving trail of utter devastation in their wake. It is also a massively important part of this project because it leaves an indelible mark on the history of science fiction from this point on.

At this point, you presumably have (at the very least) two questions. “What even is this? This sounds insane” and “Why in the name of the Prophets are you covering this on a *Star Trek* blog?” spring immediately to mind. To the second question, the truth of the matter is, believe it or not, Dirty Pair is the secret history of Star Trek in the Long 1980s: The two franchises are so intertwined and interconnected during this period and reference each other so breathtakingly frequently that it's actually impossible to talk about one *without* also talking about the other.

This is famously due in part to two particular members of the Star Trek: The Next Generation creative team who were profoundly inspired by Dirty Pair. Namely, Rick Sternbach and Mike Okuda, who are *massive* anime fans, ran an anime CompuServe group and who would show imported Japanese films on VHS to the rest of the Next Generation creative team whenever a shoot dragged on into the wee hours of the morning, which it frequently did. But Dirty Pair itself has very strong ties to Star Trek as well, to the point it's been called the Japanese version of Star Trek: The anime based on the book series makes regular, screaming obvious shout-outs to the Original Series and the first Dirty Pair movie is *actually called* Dirty Pair: The Motion Picture. And this is just the tip of the iceberg: We'll be examining how both of these franchises shaped and influenced one another a great deal as we go along.

As to the first question...Well, allow me to explain. Because Dirty Pair is one of the greatest science fiction series of all time, and I mean that absolutely sincerely.

The story of Dirty Pair begins, perhaps unsurprisingly, with its creator, Haruka Takachiho. In the mid-1970s, Takachiho was a young science fiction writer who had just started his own imprint called Studio Nue. Takachiho's work comprises a shared constructed universe and technically begins with his Crusher Joe series, which debuted in 1973: Crusher Joe, like the later Dirty Pair, is a series of what's known as “light novels”: Roughly analogous to what Westerners would call “young adult fiction”, light novels are illustrated books of about 40 to 50,000 words primarily aimed at people about 14 to 21 years old. But for our purposes, the key date comes five years later when Nue was an established publisher and Takachiho took a visiting colleague of his, A. Bertram Chandler, to go see a wrestling match with fellow Nue staffers Keiko Otoguro and Yuri Tanaka. As it so happened, the foursome went to an All-Japan Women's Pro Wrestling match, and performing that night were the famous and beloved Beauty Pair. The four got to joking, and Chandler eventually told Takachiho “Those two up there may be the Beauty Pair, but the two with you ought to be called the Dirty Pair”.

This one night out inspired Takachiho to create a spinoff of his Crusher Joe series with two female leads instead of a team of male ones, and named his new heroines Kei and Yuri after his co-workers. Though, as they will not hesitate to remind you, their official tag-team designation is “The Lovely Angels” they have the pejorative nickname of “The Dirty Pair” because of their cruel and undeserved reputation for causing chaos wherever they go (in truth, they're the most effective and talented agents in their operation, but things completely out of their control always seem to have a knack for going wrong in the most horrifying and spectacular ways imaginable). Also, Kei and Yuri work for the World Welfare Works Association, also known as the WWWA or 3WA (and anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention for the past few entries will immediately grasp the significance of this), an organisation tasked with solving any kind of problem that could pose a threat to the continued well-being and material social progress of the human species.

So, if it's not obvious by now, the fist notable thing about Kei and Yuri is that they are in fact implicitly coded as professional wrestlers, and this has a lot of really interesting contextual ramifications. First of all, this means by definition they are theatrical performers both diegteically and extradiegetically, and this is really obvious when you look at how Kei and Yuri are characterized across all their appearances. Let's start with Yuri, because she's the easiest to get a handle on: Yuri is deliberately based on the Yamato Nadeshiko, a concept in both Japanese theatre and in regular society which describes the archetype of the traditional, aristocratic, ideal Japanese lady (as determined by patriarchal Neo-Confucian 19th Century norms). A true Yamato Nadeshiko would be an elegant, graceful, humble and certainly upper class lady who genteelly obeys and dedicates herself to her family (her father, brother or husband, of course). She would also be characterized by her domesticity, wisdom and a serene and immovable inner strength that allows her to effect change without drawing attention to herself.

But remember Yuri is a performer, and this isn't who she really is. Yuri's not *actually* a Yamato Nadeshiko, but is in fact playing the role of one (it's her wrestling gimmick, if you will), and crucially she plays it a bit wrong: It's clear she's trying and definitely looks the part with her Lilly-white skin, delicate frame ( least when compared to Kei) and long, dark hair, but she gets flustered and loses her temper far too easily (making her amusingly prone to snapping and breaking out in a ranting tirade of insults) and, as is revealed in the second story of this book, actually comes from a very rural and working class background. Not to mention the fact she works for the 3WA flying about space in a starship, dispatching hordes of mooks with laser beams, martial arts moves, remote controlled killer playing cards and heat rays and just generally doing things that are the precise opposite of what a Yamato Nadeshiko is supposed to do.

Which brings us to Kei, who is no less interesting but altogether more complex and subtle in the way she displays this. Kei and Yuri are frequently, and inaccurately, described as having a “Tomboy and Girly-Girl” relationship (I use the term “frequently” very loosely here because Dirty Pair is criminally obscure these days, but when Kei and Yuri do get talked about they're talked about this way). This is a misreading of the series I feel because firstly Yuri is far more nuanced a character then the label “Girly-Girl” would lead you to believe she is, and Kei isn't quite a stereotypical tomboy either. She's definitely more masculine then Yuri, though: She's too tall, too broad, too muscular, her hair is too short and and her skin colour is too dark for her to fit conventional standards of beauty. She's also has a knack for mechanics and engineering, though she pretends she doesn't, is more superficially outgoing and hot-blooded and is usually the first to take action in any given situation.

Kei then is based on a different archetype of Japanese theatre: The rural working woman who is loud, uncultured, unsophisticated and unladylike. But, just as with Yuri, Kei is a performer too and she gets just as many opportunities to act stereotypically emotional, vulnerable and “girly” as Yuri does...and *also* just as many opportunities to kick astronomical amounts of ass. And, in contrast to what her role might have you assume, while she doesn't talk about her past much Kei does imply that she may have had a more urban and cosmopolitan upbringing than Yuri did, although this tends to manifest in her having more “street smarts” than her partner instead of being more educated or refined (though Kei may also be lying or embellishing here for reasons I'll touch on a little later). Ultimately though, *both* Kei and Yuri are working class characters because Dirty Pair is technically about them jobbing for the 3WA who, thanks to their reputation, are frequently less than friendly to their star agents.

Which actually makes a great deal of sense, because professional wrestling is in truth a very working class occupation from the perspective of the performers: Unless they're one of the big-name celebrity wrestlers, it's unlikely the average performer is going to be taking home a huge paycheck, especially not after the medical bills for the frequently very real injuries kick in since at least the WWE has no health insurance. Smaller promotions can't afford to shell out a lot of money on a regular basis, and many performers today, even those who work for the big-name promotions, end up having a day job on top of moonlighting as wrestlers. All in all, Kei and Yuri are extremely lucky to work for a promotion that's able to front any expense and to live in a future where invisible molecular nano-skins exist that shield them from any injury. So, even if they are constantly shafted by their bosses, they're at least more or less taken care of in the long run.

Another consequence of being so rooted in the logic of professional wrestling is that Dirty Pair is allowed to be action sci-fi entirely unproblematically, and can then go on to blend this with spy-fi, Golden Age sci-fi and detective stories. This isn't actually as gigantic a leap as it sounds like it is: Though it spanned the same period of time, Japanese Golden Age science fiction is not the same thing as Golden Age Hard SF in the United States. Although Haruka Takachiho is on record saying the purest, most authentic science fiction is the sort penned by Isaac Asimov, I find this statement rather confusing because that actually doesn't fit with either the history of science fiction in Japan or Takachiho's own positionality as expressed elsewhere, and is certainly not what Dirty Pair is. Although Japan had serialized science fiction magazines just like the US did and Dirty Pair in fact debuted in one, the tone and general themes of these magazines were very different; far more interested in examining contemporary society and its issues through the lens of a speculative science fiction world then imagining some idyllic fetishized technoscientific futurist paradise, as US writers were wont to do.

There were of course cautionary tales about unchecked technoscience akin to Frankenstein (or, a more contemporary example from this period might be the works of Michael Crichton, though think more Golden Age musings about ideas and concepts and less 1990s techno thriller), but much of the science fiction of this period simply used the fantastical setting as a way of exploring the present by highlighting and emphasizing specific motifs. And, like me, Takachiho himself has a background in the social sciences and humanities rather than hard science and engineering, which alone makes him sort of unique in the field of science fiction writers. Japanese sci-fi is also distinguished from Western sci-fi in that the magazines that serialized it were frequently geared just as much to detective stories: In fact, the distinction at first was not “sci-fi” or “detective story”, but “regular” (pertaining to the solving of a mystery or riddle) and “irregular” (everything else). So, that Dirty Pair is a series of mysteries in a futuristic outer space setting with the added twist of working by pro wrestling logic, from which it gains its action overtones, isn't all that strange, especially given wrestling's popularity at the time.

This also means that, thanks to its focus on examining cultural issues in a high-tech society with an emphasis on the underclasses and the trappings of detective fiction, Dirty Pair is actually some of the first cyberpunk, predating most of the earliest Western examples of the genre. And, after all, William Gibson once famously said of Tokyo “Modern Japan simply was cyberpunk”. But one thing that differentiates Dirty Pair from Western cyberpunk is the way in which it utilises its detective story heritage: Western cyberpunk is very often indebted to film noir and is thus focused on the perspective of the lone, hard-broiled private eye: A romantic male antihero who wanders through the neon canyons of his city, perpetually fixated on the seedy underbelly of the world. Dirty Pair is basically the opposite of that, starring two upbeat and friendly, though seasoned, female heroes and featuring a great deal of colourful explosions, ludicrously overblown action setpieces and comedic misadventures. Even the deduction aspect is thinner here, with most of the mysteries hinging on plot twists nobody could be expected to see coming. But that's not the point of Dirty Pair: Its true strength lies in the ideas it deals with, the implications of its world-building and the heart and soul of its two protagonists.

But though performativity and its unique setting are both major aspects of Dirty Pair's impact and legacy, there's one other consequence of the series' mash-up of professional wrestling and science fiction, and as far as I'm concerned it's the most important of all. Remember, Dirty Pair was coming out in a world where professional wrestling was more popular than it had ever been before, and arguably would ever be again, especially in Japan, where women's wrestling was overwhelmingly dominant. And remember how Kei and Yuri are ultimately based on the Beauty Pair, beloved pop culture icons and role models to teenage girls across the country. Combine that with the fact Dirty Pair began life as a series of light novels, and we immediately have to conclude that Dirty Pair should be seen as an explicitly feminist work of science fiction specifically targeted to young women. This may well be the lynchpin of this series for me, as I can't think of another science fiction work this progressive, this inclusive and this intelligent (and Dirty Pair is very, very intelligent) whose primary demographic is explicitly young women.

(Even the girls' uniforms are telling: Illustrator Yoshikazu Yasuhiko overtly modeled them on both the outfits worn by female wrestlers of the time and the Mod fashion of the 1960s: Kei and Yuri are at once a callback to the utopian and futurist youth cultures of decades past and unquestionably youth icons for the 1980s as well. They embody the solution to the problem of what both youth culture and science fiction were supposed to do with the neoconservative revolution of the Long 1980s: Science fiction heroes for The Next Generation.)

If we dig deeper below the contextual associations that float around the series and into the books themselves, this becomes even more evident because Dirty Pair very clearly comes out of feminist sci-fi fandom on a structural level. For one thing, the books are all told in the first person: Kei is actually our narrator, and she is deliberately an unreliable one to boot. She goes off on tangential bits of exposition, jumps back and forth between topics with no regard to linear narrative as if her mind is constantly changing gears on the fly and frequently interjects her own opinions on all sorts of things: This makes it really interesting when she describes things like the 3WA, which she declares isn't an independent police force or private military contractor even though that's precisely what it acts like, and United Galactica, which she assures us is nothing like the inherently flawed Earth-centric Federation that existed beforehand, even though in practice it's not entirely clear how it's any better. One gets the sense at times Kei is trying to justify and legitimize the existence of monolithic and confusing institutionalized systems she's wound up working within for herself as much as for us.

Also interesting is how Kei describes herself in comparison to Yuri, who, given the structure of the series, we naturally don't get an unfiltered look at. To us, Kei spends a lot of time putting Yuri down: She berates her abilities and perceived aloofness, though even so she frequently seems to subconsciously let slip how she truly feels about Yuri, which is obviously a profound sense of love and loyalty. In describing their time at university where they first met, Kei talks about how she and Yuri instantly felt a deep sense of connection with each other, and swiftly decided that they were going to spend the rest of their lives together no matter what, and were concerned about how to make that work in the outside world before the 3WA scouted them both. Kei's seemingly conflicted opinions about her partner can very easily be explained once you realise that she's self-consciously telling a story and also actively flirting. With you, personally.

Kei obviously loves her partner dearly, is extremely protective of her and knows that there's nobody else in the universe who will ever be as close to her as Yuri is (this is in fact reiterated on a textual level: Kei and Yuri share a psychic link that gives them fleeting flashes of clairvoyance when they touch each other. They are *diegetic* soulmates), but she doesn't want you to know that. She'll spend two whole pages describing both her and Yuri's physical appearance in *extremely* detailed and lascivious terms, even stopping mid-sentence to gawk at Yuri, and then a few chapters later, apropos of nothing, will suddenly go out of her way to criticize her readers for assuming she and Yuri might be lesbians.

Kei knows she's not conventionally attractive while Yuri very much is, so when she tells her story she'll take opportunities to paint herself in a positive light and her partner in a more negative one to make herself appealing to her audience. On top of that, even though the Lovely Angels are basically the people the term “sexually ambiguous best friends” was invented to describe, Kei also knows this isn't going to win her any admirers among men or society at large, so she downplays that as well  because she knows you're reading and has a pretty good idea of what you might want to see (It might be worth recalling here the unfortunate bias that still exists in Japanese society against non-heterosexual identities, which is a major topic in the news as of this writing and would have been even more pronounced in 1980. And again, stressing the fact that Kei would not be considered attractive by conventional standards of beauty). But still, she loves Yuri too much and doesn't have the heart to out-and-out vilify her, so she's only committed to this halfheartedly at best.

What this all means is, delightfully, Dirty Pair actually takes the tropes, motifs and structure of one kind of traditional sci-fi fanfiction and kicks it into the territory of Long 1980s medium aware postmodernism, and this is what cements the series' connection to feminist fandom. Kei being an unreliable narrator overtly trying to pick up her readers is a total riff on the concept of the Mary Sue excused by the fact that Kei *is* in fact an unreliable narrator, and an utterly sympathetic one at that. Furthermore, since she's relating all of this in a very meandering, conversationalist way this means Kei is actually an oral storyteller as well, with all that goes along with playing that role. Kei and Yuri's relationship also at once plays off of, inverts and elevates the idea of slash fiction: They both reject the Male/Female, Dominant/Submissive heteronormative power structure by being nuanced and multifaceted characters who each have a mixture of traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine traits. And, though they're not textually a romantic couple, by virtue of their psychic link, their deep friendship and the simple fact they are the two protagonists means that in a very real sense they are closer to each other than to anyone else and the centre of the narrative universe.

Indeed, I don't even think it's a problem that Kei seems to think her audience is exclusively male while Dirty Pair is obviously intended for women: Given the way the Master Narrative of science fiction fandom plays out, it's unsurprising that Kei might assume other women wouldn't be interested in hearing her and Yuri's stories. The books' female readers would be expected to immediately recognise this and relate to Kei and Yuri as a result. There's also an obvious bisexual and bisexual erasure theme to Kei's erratic behaviour here that might be worth paying attention to: Aside from Kei likely positing a male audience and trying to cater to that, it's perhaps notable that in the stories themselves the Angels have men-of-the-week just like the original Star Trek had girls-of-the-week. Hell, maybe Kei *does* see women in her audience and is just trying to keep her options open, albeit clumsily, if understandably. I could go further along these lines and start talking about reconceptualizing what sexuality is and what it describes, but this piece is getting out of hand as it is.

Is it worth actually talking about the plot of The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair at this point? Well, I suppose I'd better, even though plotting is, as of right now, the absolute least interesting thing about Dirty Pair. Not that the plots are bad, they're all jaunty and well-told space adventure stories with a lot of twists that make them stand distinctly apart from the expected norm, it's just that there's so much else about this franchise that's worth studying before the plots themselves, though they do get more intricate and symbolic as the series goes along. As I mentioned in the introduction, The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair is actually a paperback collection of the first two Dirty Pair stories, the titular “The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair”, Kei and Yuri's debut story, and its immediate sequel “The Case of the Backwoods Murder”.

In the first story, the Angels are called in to investigate an explosion at a processing plant on the planet Dangle that occurred under mysterious circumstances. They eventually discover it's the work of saboteurs working for a shadowy cartel known as Lucifer who feel that they and they alone posses the right to decide humanity's future and would impose an authoritarian rule over United Galactica by rigging an election on Dangle, the economic and industrial heart of the federation. In the second, the girls are on the case of a murdered John Doe on the remote planet Lamier when Yuri runs into two childhood friends of hers, which makes life extremely complicated for Kei. At the same time, there is a rash of terrorist attacks across United Galactica using a stolen doomsday device colloquially known as the space smasher, a truly terrifying weapon of mass destruction that doesn't just destroy its target, it distorts the space-time continuum around it such that it is literally erased from the timestream meaning it never even existed to begin with.

Worth commenting on briefly here is the nomenclature of both the Angels and some of the other people and places described in the book. This becomes a much more pronounced theme as the series goes on, but it's noticeable in this first book as well. There is, for example, a lot of intentional meaning in Kei and Yuri's names and biographical details: Exact birthdates are given for both Angels, down to the month, day and year, and these dates are incredibly significant, because they provide a valuable shorthand for reading the characters' personalities. Kei and Yuri are actually provably built around both Western and Chinese astrological signs (a not uncommon occurrence in Japanese fiction) and are in fact imbued with a great deal of magickal symbolism right from the start. Even their names, though in part inherited from Haruka Takachiho's real-life friends and colleagues, still say something about who they are and the roles they play.

(This would taken another entire essay to explain, so it's a good thing the absolutely wonderful Teatime in Elenore City fansite did that for me already. Anyone remotely interested in learning more about this series would do well to exhaustively peruse that site-It was unbelievably helpful to me in researching this project. Maybe I'll write something myself about Dirty Pair and astrology someday.)

For our immediate purposes though, the name worth paying attention to isn't “Kei” or “Yuri”, but “Lovely Angels”. It would be tempting, yet irresponsible, especially given the fact the girls square off in this book against an organisation named “Lucifer” (who are clearly the Angels' rival heel faction, in case you didn't pick up on that), to project a Pop Christian reading onto Dirty Pair. This isn't what's going on for a number of very good reasons, one of which is this series hails from Japan, a country where Christianity comprises about 2% of the population (in fact, that one of the victims in the first story happens to *be* Christian is shown to be something unusual, flagging it as a clue to the perpetrator's identity). Pop Christianity simply cannot manifest in a climate like that. But what of the name “Lovely Angels” then? Are we not to read Kei and Yuri as humanity's guardian angels come down to protect us and shepherd us into a new age of utopia?

No, we're not.

Remember how angels were described in the Old Testament and you start to get a better idea of what's going on with Dirty Pair: There, angels were blindingly radiant, indescribable, unknowable beings with multiple wings and faces or “wheels within wheels” with eyes all along their outer rims who spoke with the divine voice that could level the landscape. There's a reason that the angel in that Bible verse Linus from Peanuts likes to quote says “fear not”. Angels may speak righteousness, but they're not something you want to run into personally. And now it maybe starts to become clear why our Lovely Angels seem to be dogged by utter devastation at every turn, which is obvious even here: The first story begins with a giant passenger airship crashing into a major metropolis, destroying the city and killing everyone and ends with a space station crashing into a planet and wiping out an entire continent (a clever, if gruesome, nod to Skylab's forced re-entry in 1979). Oh, and the second story ends with an entire planet being erased from existence (yeah, spoiler alert: The space smasher case is connected to the murder mystery the girls are investigating).

But, as Kei and Yuri are always quick to remind you, all of this appalling, inconceivable destruction is never, ever their fault. And it's not-The galaxy will always blame them, but one of the most important things about a Dirty Pair story, at least a successful one, is that the Angels must always remain utterly faultless victims of circumstance. They should never walk away with any blood on their hands. And they do always solve the case, its just they tend to reshape reality each time they do. Kei supposes that the 3WA works to benefit the human race and bring about positive change, and that she and Yuri are called in to cases for esoteric, almost cosmic reasons, like they're given cases only they can deal with. She's right about the second part: While it's never entirely clear that the 3WA is an unambiguously good thing and a force for material social progress (especially once the anime begins), Kei and Yuri definitely are. It's as if the universe itself is guiding Kei and Yuri to the situations that specifically require their intervention.

Kei and Yuri are thus symbolically taking on the role of angels, on a literal level because that's their wrestling tag-team name and thus the “roles” they're playing, and a mystical and metatextual one as well: Because they play the part of angels, they are angels. The image of an angel becomes an angel, if you will. But the god these angels serve is not one of the Abrahamic religions, but a more esoteric and cosmic presence, and the divine intervention Kei and Yuri bring about can be seen as the cosmic harmony that resonates within everyone and anything reasserting itself to ensure positive change happens on a cosmic scale, even if that means the odd star system-sized human settlement has to get atomized in the process. Sometimes the only way to effect change is to watch the world burn and start anew in the desolated ashlands. This, on top of everything else they represent, make Kei and Yuri extremely powerful anarchic and revolutionary figures: They'll drag the galaxy kicking and screaming into a better future if they have to.

This message is also not entirely surprising coming from a Japanese context: Many students of Japanese culture have pointed out how, even when compared to the West, Japan has a tendency to be very socially conservative, something that was likely incredibly frustrating for a generation of radical Japanese youths in the Long 1980s. Considering as well the reoccurring themes in Japanese genre fiction about the revenge of the natural order (such as exist in, famously, the original Godzilla movie) as well as the concern over emergent technology that characterized the Golden Age science fiction we discussed above, and a story about divine agents of change acting on behalf of the good of the entire cosmos and explicitly coded as futuristic heroes of youth culture who will make the universe a better place whether humans like it or not really makes a great deal of sense. This is not just material social progress, it's material progress on a cosmic scale.

(Lastly, one other level to read the Lovely Angels' tragic misfortune on is that the girls are the protagonists of the story, and this story happens to be action sci-fi. This means it requires a lot of conflict, and ideally a body count and a suitable amount of explosions. So, on a narrative level, of course disaster is going to follow the girls everywhere, because there wouldn't be an action sci-fi story without it. For what its worth, they feel absolutely awful about it and are very, very sorry.)

So, after all of that, what have we learned? We've learned what the true story of Star Trek in the Long 1980s comes from, seen the origins of cyberpunk and witnessed how utopian science fiction about voyaging starships can survive into the future. We've seen how Kei and Yuri are the logical end result of decades of generative, bottom up female science fiction fandom. Dirty Pair takes action sci-fi, professional wrestling, cosmic mysticism and the spirit of the disenfranchised youth and shoots the whole lot full of 1980s postmodernism to create something singularly, uniquely and transcendentally brilliant. The greatest work of action sci-fi of all time? Quite possibly. But one thing is certain: The bar has been set, and we've barely even scratched the surface. This is what Vaka Rangi looks like in the 1980s, so hold on to your seats. It's gonna be one hell of a wild ride.


  1. Speechless. I have nothing to contribute, all this being entirely new to me. I can only say that I find it very interesting and am excited about where the blog is going from here. Plus I intend to look up Dirty Pair for myself... which sounds odd, but there you go.

  2. I'm just going to say it: I love Vaka Rangi to pieces, and have literally no idea where it's going. I'm in. Wherever we end up.

    Also I've only seen one episode of the Anime when I was younger, and faintly recall enjoying it immensely. Like Jack, I think I'll go look it up.

  3. Thanks a lot for the nice thoughts: I'm flattered and really glad you both enjoyed the post today and that I seem to have piqued your interest!

    Dirty Pair is obviously going to get covered one way or the other, but if you want to see a more in-depth coverage of the anime series in particular, please let me know-I'm aware its sort of early, but I'll need to start planning for that soon if that's what I end up doing.

  4. Love it, love it, love it. Just thought I'd mention that Sailor Moon probably gets a good deal of the blame for the Western anime "invasion" of the 1990s.

    1. Thank you! There's plenty more to come!

      Sailor Moon occupies a strange space in anime circles I feel. On the one hand, yes, it was one of the first and biggest anime breakthroughs in the West. On the other hand, its legacy as such seems to have been erased somewhat because its target demographic was girls. To the point Sailor Moon Fandom as it exists today is a fiercely niche and cult thing, whereas both Dragon Ball Z and Neon Genesis Evangelion seem to be universally accepted as landmark classics.

    2. I'd perhaps point to Ranma 1/2 as the bridge between early 80s anime/manga arriving in the US and the breakout success of NGE in 1996.

    3. Oh yeah, I agree: I think Ranma was definitely a notable stepping stone in that regard.

  5. "I'm just going to say it: I love Vaka Rangi to pieces, and have literally no idea where it's going. I'm in. Wherever we end up."


    I have to admit I looked at the post topic originally and thought that this this may not be my thing, but you sold me. Gonna seek it out. Awesome post.

    1. I see I made a few converts here-This pleases me ;-)

      Hope you like the book. Really glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. Totally loved it. Once spare cash arrives, will be buying!

  7. Actually for this book at random in a second-hand book shop in Edinburgh yesterday! Started reading it straight away whilst lying in glorious sunshine, and I have to say I am hooked. I love the tone, the set-up, the narration style and the whole verve of it - it feels completely fresh. I was completely surprised when I noticed that it was published in 1979 as it feels a whole lot more contemporary than that. Groundbreaking stuff indeed.

    1. How uncanny! I'm glad you were able to find it, and even more so that you seem to be enjoying it so much! Should prove interesting as we move through the rest of the animes.

      I've actually just started re-reading it myself, and I'm remembering why I loved it so much in the first place.