I trust we all have a pretty solid understanding of how Dirty Pair works by now, so there’s no need to go into quite the same amount of detail as we did last time. Especially since The Dirty Pair Strike Again has a great deal of complex and head-spinning twists, turns, themes and motifs all its own. If you thought the first book was an overabundance of mad brilliance, this one will disintegrate your brain. In a good way.
First of all, I just want to say this book has possibly the most amazing opening chapter in the history of literature. Four years have passed between the first Dirty Pair book and this one, and, as if sensing that we’d missed the girls when they’d been away, Haruka Takachiho tosses us one of the most captivating, over-the-top action scenes I at least have ever read. Kei and Yuri are sitting in the 3WA headquarters with their testy chief after their latest successful, yet disastrous, mission. The chief chews them out for destroying an entire planet (which of course wasn’t their fault) and the Angels play along with exasperation. Yuri goes through an elabourate routine of mock-grovelling while Kei openly rolls her eyes at her idiotic superior and tries not to break out giggling at Yuri’s masterful performance. Then, out of nowhere, the entire freaking front side of the building explodes and in fly a bunch of flying shadow ninjas in jetpacks firing indiscriminately at everything in sight.
What happens next is nothing short of sheer poetry. Kei and Yuri fall back to the roof of the 3WA building where they take off in single pilot needle-nosed rocketship jet fighters and pursue the shadow ninjas throughout the entire city, as Kei naturally gives us a truly riveting play-by-play commentary. Power plants and chemical refineries are utterly razed by the firefight, causing gigantic explosions that reach into the upper atmosphere and level whole city blocks in a single blow. The Angels dogfight with the shadow ninjas in the skies above major metropolitan centres, weaving in between Blade Runner skyscrapers before straight shooting out of city limits and soaring over expansive fields and rolling meadows. And then, best of all, Mughi (who, need I remind you, is a giant sentient alien cat beast who is also chief engineer of the girls’ starship) charges headfirst into the fray, leaps fifty feat into the air, snatches said shadow ninjas out of the sky in mid-flight and then field pitches them straight into said skyscrapers, toppling them like bowling pins made out of Jenga. It is a breathtaking, awe-inspiring scene of inconceivable carnage and indescribable beauty.
And on top of that, it’s an utter jaunt to read, keeping you smiling every step of the way. Kei is as sassy, snarky, sharp and whip-smart as she’s ever been, and her comic timing is dead on. Her storytelling is a spectacle unto itself. Not only is it absolutely hilarious, it effortlessly and vividly evokes the kind of cinematic splendour I didn’t think was even possible to convey through prose, and it goes on like this for fifty-four whole pages.…