Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“The fault is not ours, but in our stars.” The Vault or the Vote? A Murderous Day for a Speech

I really, really hate it when Dirty Pair is bad. Probably more so then in any other series. And this one is really, really bad. As in, actively unwatchable. This episode gets pretty much everything wrong it was possible to get wrong, and is a serious contender for the worst Dirty Pair story ever.

I'm not going to waste any more time on this then strictly necessary because this one genuinely, properly makes me angry and offends me on a personal level. The plot is boring crap about a possible assassination attempt on a presidential candidate due to give a speech at the 3WA headquarters. There's a modicum of interesting content here about there being two ways to disappear a person, physically killing them and erasing their social records such that they're no longer part of the capitalist system and thus never existed, but it's never developed upon enough to merit pursuing it to any serious degree and I honestly don't care enough to make the effort. Racist Chinese Chef Stereotype shows up again, as does a particularly shocking blackface character in the soap opera Kei is watching in the beginning of the episode, and this is all compounded horrifically by the main plot going out of its way to infantilize, belittle and dismiss the Angels in the most blatant, upfront and disturbing ways imaginable, in particular Kei.

The show attacks them at every possible level, and it's no longer in on its own joke. Kei and Yuri ask for overtime and get brutally shouted down by Gooley, who is, need I remind you, by this point completely beyond redemption and yet is someone whom this show bewilderingly *still* thinks we're going to sympathize with, accusing them of being spoiled, irresponsible and wasting the company's money to the point he actually makes them cry. And the girls get *no* comeback to this-We're not meant to side with them *at all*. This becomes a recurring theme throughout this episode, the “joke” being that Kei is apparently careless and addicted to gambling and blows all her money at the casinos and by compulsively making bets with people she can't uphold. Yuri, meanwhile, is of course depicted as mature, responsible, demure and altogether more competent and together then her hapless partner. Aside from making light out of a kind of addiction that real people actually do suffer from, this is retrograde and wrong on a very basic and fundamental level.

It is flatly out of character for Kei to behave this way, and unlike when Yuri seemingly acted out of character several weeks back, this time it's provably a misreading that reinforces a false notion of who these characters are and how the logic of the series works. The idea likely stemmed from Kei being Sagittarian, as Dirty Pair's series bible is basically written out of astrological signs. Sagittarians are supposedly bad gamblers and are advised against picking it up, so what probably happened is someone took a look at that and decided to write the shittiest possible script around it. But that's making assumptions about Kei based on the most literal, unimaginative and hurtful conception of her character possible: Just because she's not supposed to be good at gambling doesn't mean you have to make her a gambling *addict*-That's not funny, respectful or necessary.

And furthermore, had anyone bothered to crack open the original novels, they'd have found out that Kei doesn't even like gambling in the first place! She spends a lot of time at an arcade machine in “The Case of the Backwoods Murder”, but that's because she was pissed off at the game's AI, not because she was addicted, and I hardly think coin-op arcade games count as gambling anyway. I know the show and the books are separate continuities, but even in cases like this there are still basic, essential, irreducible things about characters that transcend any given interpretation or manifestation of the story, and you have to be loyal to those things, otherwise why bother telling the story at all? And either way, even in the third episode of this very show, Kei displayed reticence about going undercover at a casino...and it was Yuri who wound up blowing an obscene amount of money at blackjack because she sucked at it and Kei was the one calling her out! And this episode has the nerve to portray Yuri as the grown-up one who avoids the sins of gambling? Did the animators and writers even bother to watch their own show? The only assassination going on here is of Kei's character.

Again, I don't want to sound like I'm dragging Yuri across the coals or demonizing her to glorify Kei-That wouldn't be any more right. However, like I said, I'm partial to Kei in particular and am sensitive to how she's treated to begin with, but I'm also very much opposed to what I see as the prevailing trend in Dirty Pair fandom of idolizing and lusting after Yuri while laughing at her buffoonish and loudmouthed partner, which is something this show does actively encourage in its weaker moments. Because the fact remains Yuri is very much connected to the Yamato Nadeshiko archetype, and thus the hegemonic, patriarchal, classist and reactionary conception of ideal femininity. Yuri is obviously a subversion, but an alarming number of people fail to pick up on this, and through their attitudes to her and Kei, mainline fandom tends to wind up reinforcing the very outmoded ideas Dirty Pair is trying to tear down. Because the elephant in the room is that part of the reason Kei doesn't meet conventional standards of beauty and femininity and thus will always be marginal even when compared to Yuri is because she has darker skin.

Now it becomes *even worse* that Racist Chinese Chef Stereotype gets dredged up alongside a straight-up minstrel character. The show's sloppy and careless racism has now managed to turn it against and hurt Kei herself. Because, aside from the obvious misogyny, classism and anti-youth sentiments, the fact is the deeply uncomfortable connotation of the way this episode lashes out at Kei is that it's OK to make fun of her because she isn't white. And I'll go ahead and say that, because I don't mean white in a Caucasian sense: Skin colour is still important in racist conservative Japanese culture: Part of the whole Yamato Nadeshiko ideal is that she has “lily-white skin”, after all. Even Yuri's name can be translated out to mean “Lilly”, and I'm not engaging with this line of thought any further because it's beginning to make me very sad.

Once you manage to turn Kei and Yuri against one another and out-and-out glorify the exact things the Angels are supposed to be fighting against, it's pretty much all over. This is the point the original anime completely loses any claim to being the definitive version of Dirty Pair. The only comfort I can muster is that at least Sunrise's other branch is busy working on that movie.


  1. I thought that the *comedy* Chinese chef was outrageous and terrible. Thumbs down for this episode for me.

    1. This one is simply atrocious. Like, it actually got me balled up with rage. The only remotely positive thing I can say about it is that the show never gets this bad again.

    2. Yeah totally awful, with not many redeeming qualities. Glad to hear it never gets as bad as this again.