12 Days of Anime #10: Discovering Retro Anime

Ever since my earliest days of otakudom, I had intended to get into retro anime. I kept hearing about the awesome old classics like Tenchi Muyo and Sailor Moon, but I wasn’t really sure where to start. For a long time, the oldest show I had seen was 1999’s Crest of the Stars, not counting the odd Gundam series or Miyazaki film. I was just too absorbed in modern shows to bother with anything classic. Then, this February, I ran across an article on Mania.com called “10 Great Out of Print Anime We Want Back.” Despite being rather mundane in its own right, this article had one passage that particularly intrigued me.

9. Project A-Ko

Another ‘80s title that saw release in the West in the early ‘90s, Project A-Ko is an action comedy that actively parodies other action movies. The premise centers around the rivalry between Eiko (A-Ko) and Biko (B-Ko) who constantly fight over the affections of the bubbly Shiiko (C-Ko). The popularity of Project A-Ko spawned a few followup OAVs, though none were as well received as the original. But its irreverent humor and ridiculous premise are prime examples of the type of insanity anime was able to get away with in the 1980s.

Dusty is a huge fan of cheesy 80s action movies, and I’ll admit I somewhat enjoy their wacky, over-the-top nature. I mean, Schwarzenegger might be a horrid actor, but seeing him casually toss buzzsaws through people’s skulls is pretty epic. Upon hearing that Project A-Ko was a parody of these kinds of films, it jumped straight to the top of my must-watch list.

Project A-ko

Needless to say, the actual film was something of a disappointment. It wasn’t QUITE as tongue-in-cheek as I was expecting, and the wildly varying animation quality made the battle scenes rather mundane. The comedy was extremely hit-or-miss, and the entire affair was irreparably damaged by the chipmunk-voiced loli from hell, C-ko. The four sequel OVAs also failed to impress, with the final one A-KO the Versus being especially horrid. But, while reading an online review of that title, I noticed quite a few critics calling it a shoddy ripoff of Dirty Pair.

Dirty WHAT? I recalled a podcast mentioning something called Dirty Pair Flash years ago, but I had always assumed it was a hentai. Does’t that title make you think of some girl flashing her dirty pair of panties at you? Upon hearing that the franchise was actually a sci-fi action comedy involving babes in space bikinis, I downloaded the first episode of the original 1985 TV series to give it a try.

And I was blown away.

Dirty Pair was everything that Project A-Ko failed to be. It was cheesy, campy and invoked the same sense of fun-filled mayhem as those classic Schwarzenegger movies. Better yet, Kei and Yuri were both very real, relatable characters whose constant verbal sparring made for wonderfully endearing comedy.  This show was so utterly steeped in 80s culture that it was hilariously anachronistic, which only added to its appeal. And, best of all, there was nary a helium-voiced kid or annoying sidekick in sight.

I was elated. Where had this anime been my whole life?

The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve become something of a Dirty Pair evangelist, pitching the show to all my friends. It also sparked in me a new passion for retro anime, which burns brightly to this day. It’s inspired me to rediscover classics like Do You Remember Love, Sailor Moon and Gunbuster. These series might be old, but they’re still fantastic… and even manage to put some modern shows to shame.

Thank you, Kei and Yuri. Without your inspiration, I never would have discovered all the amazing things classic anime have to offer.