Certain shows get this unfair reputation because like Icarus they dared fly too high at the wrong time. A show like Turn A Gundam played with the Gundam formula in a way that was a bit too radical to be appreciated at the time but in reflection is now well regarded as innovate and enjoyable (if a bit strange). Distance helped prove that the show had a good deal of depth and innovation with the changes it made to the “standard” Gundam show. But not every re-imagining is this diamond in the rough that is unfairly judged to a contemporary audience only to fully be understood by a later audience. Some shows just take what was awesome or endearing about the original and totally amputate it in an attempt to modernize a show. In trying to cater to a new audience they totally miss what made the original so enjoyable.
Dirty Pair Flash is a classic example of just not getting the point when it comes to a remake. I would venture to say that Dirty Pair Flash is more infamous for just how much it is hated by original Dirty Pair fans than anything about the show itself. They radically altered the characters designs when they made Dirty Pair Flash so that alone can easily turn hardcore fans against all things being equal. But the fact of the matter is that Dirty Pair Flash is just inferior to the original. The main purpose of this article it to determine why that is. The easy point to state is that Dirty Pair Flash fails as a successor to the legacy. The harder question is why does it fail.
In all iterations of the Dirty Pair franchise the general premise is the same. The Galaxy is a huge place. With humanity spread all over space there are some problems so big that the normal police and military of a planet cannot deal with them. The World Welfare Works Association sends its elite trouble consultants to handle the most difficult missions in the Universe. Kei and Yuri are infamous for while their codename the Lovely Angels reflects their perfect mission completion record their terrifying nickname as the Dirty Pair speaks to the enormous collateral damage they cause when they do anything.
Overall each Dirty Pair iteration pretty much lives in its own little world. The Light Novels, Original Anime, Manga, and Flash all sort of tell the details of Kei and Yuri’s adventures in their own way. In the light novels Kei and Yuri have some psychic powers and are friends from college which are facts that are only true in that version of the story. Even the movies play with the character designs to different degrees. So there is hardly a completely lock and step continuity between iterations. The main thing they all do is keep to a very simple formula. Kei is the sexy slightly butch hot head and Yuri is the more elegantly beautiful girly girl who can be just as mean when she gets angry. They are always partners who bicker like a mix of sisters and the stars of a buddy cop movie (and cause just as much damage as Tango & Cash.) Overall it seems like a simple formula. Gorgeous girls get into sci-fi themed trouble and take care of it with a mixture of brains and superior firepower. It would take a lot to mess up that surefire formula.
Here is the problem Dirty Pair Flash understands the broad strokes of the formula. They just don’t know how to execute it properly. Plus they are oddly victims of their own attempts to try for something more with Flash. They tried to make long arcing stories that even try to examine who the Dirty pair are as opposed to the original’s very episodic pulp stories. This was a very bad idea. Flash was divided into three parts in which two of them had overarching stories. Interestingly enough each of these parts highlights what they did wrong in their own special way.
The first part mostly seems to be Kei and Yuri vs. a dime store Brian J. Mason for 6 episodes. One of the great things about the original Dirty Pair in any iteration was that it was extremely episodic. Even the light novels were mainly self contained stories. If you did not like one crazy adventure (which happened from time to time) you could move onto the next without skipping a beat. Here you have to wait 6 episodes for this clunker to finish. The fact that Waldess and his plan are rather lame do little to help matters. I will say the way too interconnected computer system in Summer Wars has nothing on the bad network design in Dirty Pair Flash.
Also I sort of admire what they were trying to do here which was tell the story of how Kei and Yuri actually became partners despite having such conflicting personalities. It many ways this is an attempt at an origin story. The problem is that the Dirty Pair’s usually playfully catty friendship just comes off as sickly when they legitimately hate each other. So the whole first part of the series has the two main protagonists being completely unlikeable to each other and more importantly to the audience. Maybe there was a reason previous iterations of the show never dwelt on this part of their partnership.
While the next arc thankfully has a more functional Dirty Pair but weirdly sabotages its own plot in a way I could have never guessed they would even dream of doing. They have Kei and Yuri stuck on a vacation planet that simulates 20th century Earth for five episodes. Yes. A show that has the two main appeals of hot dangerous ladies and a cool high tech setting totally removes the second leg it stands on. And not for any good reason. It mostly seems like a cheesy way to avoid drawing cool mechanical designs and just place the two in the most generic and lazy of settings.
I remember discussing this arc with Narutaki and asked her what she thought could happen here to make this arc worse. She having never seen the show was able to guess it right away: Give the Dirty Pair a lame partner. They have Kei and Yuri escort a computer nerd who looks strangely like Basara Nekki. The only thing worse than an escort mission is a Milquetoast escort mission.
The third arc thankfully realizes that it is doing everything wrong and tries its best to go back to the original formula. They don’t give the Lovely Angels someone to babysit for 5 episodes (although Kei does have to take care of a baby.) The main problem is these episodes just don’t seem as fun as the old ones. I did enjoy these episodes more but even while it felt less painful it was never fun. Maybe at this point I was so burnt out on Dirty Pair Flash I could not appreciate what it was doing anymore no matter what it did. I did notice that even when it tried to do an concept that was in an earlier iteration like the boy who was obsessed with androids it just felt less fun. A certain je ne sais quoi was just missing. The last episode of Flash came the closest to feeling like a traditional Dirty Pair episode. I’m not sure how much that had to do with the episodes getting better or me just succumbing to Stockholm syndrome. But then it was over and I was finally free.
I’m not going to complain too much about the character designs. While I clearly love the original designs I at least understand how they wanted to catch the esthetics of the time with a more 90s look. As much as people complain about that change I think it is the least egregious thing they did wrong. The main problem was not comprehending why the original TV series despite being prematurely taken off the air was able to spawn 3 features and 10 OVAs. They understood the overall mechanics. They threw in a healthy amount of fan service (and even some nudity) but never a gratuitous amount. They had big set pieces for action and some breaks for goofy comedy and even a little commentary. But they missed the spark. Any time nuance or finesse was required nothing clicked. Lets be honest the original series sometimes failed in this regard as well. But a majority of the episodes succeeded. Flash always tries to reach that golden mean but never can quite find out where the balance lies.
First of all I have to thank Nozomi Entertainment for picking up all of the Dirty Pair. The TV series seemed like a pipe dream for the longest time and the OAVs and movies were getting rather expensive since they were out of print. I am glad they went out of their way to pick up any iteration of this wonderful series. If you want to have a fun time pick up either the TV series or the OAVs. They are amazing popcorn fun that you can watch individually or in a batch. The only movie I have seen in Project Eden but both Narutaki and I will review them at another date. But there is no way I can recommend anyone getting Flash. It is a pale imitator of the original and not really worth your time. It was nice of them to get it for completionist sake but overall it was the one part of the franchise worth forgetting about.