This is the final Dirty Pair movie. The final Classic Anime. The final performance of Kyōko Tongū and Saeko Shimazu as Kei and Yuri. And it’s time for us to take stock of just how far we’ve come and where we might be going from here. Because while Dirty Pair does not end with Flight 005 Conspiracy, a very important part of it does, and this is where the Lovely Angels bid Vaka Rangi farewell: Transcending our narrative one last time in search of their next adventure together.
The existence alone of Dirty Pair: Flight 005 Conspiracy is something of an oddity. In the years since the release of Dirty Pair: The Motion Picture in 1987, the franchise had been slipping into more and more of a decline popularly, falling ever more out of the public eye as audiences and tastes began to change. There’s a marked dropoff in, say, promotional material and tie-in merchandise from the release of The Motion Picture, through the OVA series to this movie that tracks alongside Dirty Pair’s inescapable slide into obscurity. In fact, there was next to no promotion for Flight 005 Conspiracy at all, with no significant ad spots in magazines I could find and nothing except a soundtrack CD and a small calendar to go along it. Even the LaserDisc cover is the most unassuming and humble of things: While even Original Dirty Pair got unique, elabourate and colourful sleeve art for each volume, here we only have a simple illustration of the girls set against a solid colour background and the title printed in basic, no-frills font in a tiny corner at the top of the sleeve.
Of course this is not at all to insinuate the series’ quality had been declining in parallel, the contrary, in fact: I’d argue the run from the premier of Original Dirty Pair to now is a strong contender for the single greatest run of stories in all of Dirty Pair. Yet it seems like even as animated Dirty Pair came into its own, gradually leaving its own indelible mark on the series as a whole, viewers started to grow less and less enamoured of it. It’s not like this is anything of a surprise, considering the TV series, debatably the most well-known and well-loved version of the franchise, was canceled before all its episodes could be produced. I suppose you could point the finger at Dirty Pair being science fiction that trends more or less to the traditional side of things as the culprit behind its fall from favour, but I don’t think that really explains it: Plenty of other sci-fi shows that had just as traditional roots went on to be far more successful. For an especially poignant contrast, look at Star Trek: The Next Generation, the popularity of which only continued to steadily climb during this exact same period.
No, I’m far more inclined to blame shifting demographics. I think viewers overlooked Dirty Pair and left it behind in favour of newer and more exciting series as the popularity of shōnen anime and manga exploded in the late-1980s and early-1990s owing to the increasing dominance of the so-called “otaku” subculture in the discourse.…