“…dispersed in clouds of narrative language”: R-Really?! For Beautiful Women, “Canon” is the Keyword to Escape (With Love from the Lovely Angels Part 2)
One consequence of subverting the stock Big Epic Season Finale plot four times over means that any attempt you do actually make to close your filming block off with a bang is sort of by necessity going to be unsatisfying. Somehow I think I’ve heard that somewhere before. The sensible solution would be, of course, to not do a Big Epic Season Finale plot for your season finale.
Regrettably, Sunrise do not adopt the sensible solution.
We have a hostage situation where the head of 3WA security, a painfully generic megalomaniacal villain, takes over the research firm (which is in a gigantic volcano for some reason), kidnaps Gooley and threatens to blow up Elenore City with a big-ass Lazer Cannon if he’s not given some exorbitant amount of money. The plot is bog standard “we leave nobody behind” military fueled science fiction: Kei and Yuri go against the 3WA’s board of directors to rescue Gooley and they positively leap at every single opportunity to sacrifice their lives for each other, which is supposed to cut against them bickering throughout the episode’s entire runtime. Kei gets a big, dramatic speech at the end when she thinks Yuri is killed that is meant to be a parody of such speeches, but it feels stilted, goes on way too long and is nowhere near as effective as the subtext in “Something’s Amiss…?! Our Elegant Revenge”. The episode tries to rack up tension with exasperating pulp stalling, and the villain even gets a speech of unfiltered misogyny (yielding the story’s one good line when Kei responds with “For a young guy, you sure are old-fashioned”) in an attempt to force some strangled moral out of the past 26 weeks.
This is, in point of fact, a perfectly straightforward demonstration of what it looks like when a show tries to artificially inflate its stakes to do something self-consciously “big” to wrap up the filming block: It makes everyone and everything explode in a desperate effort to send the series off on an “epic” note, and it’s tragically unaware you can’t do this with Dirty Pair. The humour is back to feeling forced and inappropriate, it’s once again a story that isn’t really about anything except its po-faced epicness, and it has other problems too. As has become frustratingly the norm for late-period Dirty Pair, while the story is on the one hand trying to make a point about how special the Angels and their bond is, it still can’t resist the temptation to make Yuri the hero. Kei bumbles around as the comic relief, sticking her foot in her mouth, and making silly melodramatic speeches with Yuri as the consummate, quick-witted foil. Then there is, of course, Gooley himself, of whom I’ve spoken far too much lately. I’ll just say that it’s probably a bad sign that the episode had me agreeing with the board of directors’ plan to cause the volcano to erupt with him in it.
(There is, in among all this, one solitary scene I did like: After sending Gooley out in the last escape pod, the girls think they’re going to die in the explosion. Yuri looks at Kei and calls her name very softly and gently as if she wants to say something, but then asks her if she’s really planning to use the God Cannon to effect their escape. It’s a sweet, tender moment of deferred confession, and the one moment of genuine heart in the entire episode.)
Another thing that’s more than a little concerning here is that, even setting Gooley aside, the 3WA has completed its transformation from “problematic” to “cartoonishly evil”. They really are responsible for everything that goes wrong here: The board of directors are a bunch of dicks, Calico has become even more ineffectual and after all, *they’re* the ones who designed and built the God Cannon, placed it a prime spot to loom menacingly over the entire city and appointed a psychopath to oversee it. There’s nobody to sympathize with except Kei and Yuri, which is fine, but the show has given up problematizing their parent organisation such that it still wants us to cheer for the girls selflessly risking their lives for them, even though now it’s stretched so far beyond the last remaining vestiges of credulity I’d called it parodic had the show been on its game this week.
So, just as it has for the past two weeks, Dirty Pair ends feeling like it’s worn itself out, which is as sad as it is sadly predictable. But this is, as someone once said, a depressing note to end things on. Dirty Pair should bring joy, and even here the story-within-the-story hides magic surprises to make us smile in the places we’re least likely to check. Namely, the God Cannon. Supposedly imbued with the power of the gods themselves, the 3WA raised what amounts to a doomsday weapon in an attempt to “protect” the people of Elenore City, as the old story always goes about those in power gambling with the lives of its citizens in the name of “safety”. But even the 3WA wouldn’t dare use it, fearful of being responsible for wielding the power it contains. Even Carlos, mad with ambitions of conquest as he is, doesn’t want to actually use the God Cannon, he just wants to threaten people with it. He gives Gooley a “demonstration”, as stock megalomaniacal cartoon villains are wont to do, and then quickly hides the thing back under his base.
The only people who actually do use it, the only people who could ever use it, are Kei and Yuri. The Lovely Angels use it to make their escape by blasting apart the research centre just in time to overload the God Cannon such that it’s destroyed with the rest of the base when the volcano erupts. The God Cannon is a weapon of mass destruction, of course, and on a material level (and especially considering the Cold War and Japanese context) such things are shortsighted and destructive and hold no place in a progressive utopia. But there’s more symbolic power here: Firstly, while it could be read as a translation error, the word in the title of this episode is not “cannon” but “canon”, and this mark even reappears in 3WA security’s monitors inside the base. “Canon” derives from institutionalized religion, and traditionally refers to a body of laws and scripture considered “official” and “authoritative”, the latter of which is a word that shares a root with “authoritarianism”. Canon is a concept universal to institutionalized religions, existing in Christianity, Buddhism, Taosim, Judaism and Genre Fiction. The “God Cannon” then, is also a “God Canon”.
What would a pantheon of gods becoming a canon of gods look like? I suspect not a whole lot different then a hierarchical church (which could be a church of ideas and social structures as much as it could be an actual religious institution) proclaiming itself the ultimate moral and spiritual authority and condemning, shunning and marginalizing anyone who disagrees as heretics and blasphemers. The reoccurring constant in all cases is a set of ideals, which more often then not tend to be reactionary ideals, elevated to a stature such that they’re taken for granted and the system perpetuates and polices itself by stamping out its own dissenting voices. If Alan Moore is correct and the Ideaspace exists everywhere and within everyone, then our ideals and gods are shaped by the mythopoeic power we project onto them, and our canon gods perpetuate tyranny and fascism in the noösphere. So, a “God Canon” would really be a “God Cannon”, a weapon of mass destruction evoking the power of the gods to wreak painful suffering and destruction upon us all.
Yet Kei and Yuri are a kind of deity as well: Marginalized narrative goddesses who mantle themselves in perpetuity so that we may know how to do so as well. And, in some of their forms, they are certainly Gods of Destruction, reshaping reality in the name of material cosmic progress. But that which they destroy is the hurtful, counterproductive, corrupt and outmoded and is to be read as part of the cycles and motions of the universe. Kei and Yuri have long been established as Tantric figures, not Abrahamic or even Norse ones: As such, they are in this episode comparable figures to that of Kāli, who in Tantric philosophy represents multiple dualities. Kāli is at once destroyer, slayer of evil forces, spirit of vengeance, figure of benevolent love and forgiveness, bringer of death, and generative energy of rebirth. In the Shaktist school in particular, which posits the figure of Shakti, the divine feminine, as the cosmic oversoul, Kāli is seen as one of the Ten Mahavidyas, all of whom are individual facets and manifestations of the godhead. She represents the goddess as “Devourer of Time”, and in some cases the supreme being herself. Symbols take the power they represent within themselves to become it.
For in becoming the agent by which the God Cannon destroys itself, Kei and Yuri have broken time, or rather, freed time from the rigid linearity that a God Canon would impose upon it. Sunrise’s first anime series can already make a convincing case to being the definitive version of Dirty Pair, at least in pop consciousness. The case will only go stronger with the somewhat cool reception the forthcoming OVA projects will receive in contrast to the success of this show and Dirty Pair: The Motion Picture, with which it shares the most similarities. Even Haruka Takachiho’s own Dirty Pair books, which actually continue until 2007, will never get this same impact or level of attention. Its quality aside, which has been growing increasingly changeable for several months now, were we to let this first Dirty Pair TV show become “the only one that counts”, we would be dooming the entire story to the Single Vision of a Master Narrative. Neither this show, nor any other work of fiction, needs, wants or deserves to be canonized this way. Canon is the authoritarian word death of storytelling, writing it in a such a way that it would die with no way back.
So while this may be an ending of sorts, and a necessary one to prevent Dirty Pair from succumbing to the tyranny of the Single Vision as the series will never be this big or this monolithic again, it’s really more of a transmutation brought upon by Kei and Yuri’s healing love: For their final magick trick, Kei and Yuri help their own show to comprehend a truth they’ve known themselves for a very long time.
Because while “R-Really?! For Beautiful Women, ‘Canon’ is the Keyword to Escape” may be the series finale, it’s not truly an ending, nor is it a new beginning: It’s both at the same time. Released two years after the show it was ostensibly supposed to be concluding, it comes out into a world where many other Dirty Pair stories exist. It can’t bring closure to Dirty Pair, because Dirty Pair will always continue so long as we have hope, dreams and love to believe in. This is not the end of Kei and Yuri’s stories, and indeed we even get a welcome first glimpse of the forthcoming OVA series Original Dirty Pair right where where it should be, where the post credits teasers used to go. The music, art, costumes and visual effects may be different, but it’s still the Lovely Angels doing exactly what we expect the Lovely Angels to be doing. And Kei and Yuri are once again on hand to ease the transition.