Saturday, April 27, 2013


Dallos is a four-part science-fiction show often called the first OVA (original video animation, or direct-to-DVD release) in history. Orphan Fansubs retranslated the show at the request of BakaBT's Al_Sleeper. His request was entirely justified; the existing subs are pretty inaccurate. The new translation is by laalg; I did the editing, retiming, and typesetting (not much); CP and Saji QC'd. The raws are by AFR. The aspect ratio is  712:480 anamorphic; on playback, it shows as 712:528 (4:3). (Thanks to Tyroz for pointing out that the aspect ratio is correct.)

Like most of the shows that Orphan works on, Dallos is no neglected masterpiece. Other reviewers have pointed out its faults - the low-budget animation, the cheesy background music, the stock characters, the derivative plot. Accordingly, I don't see any reason to re-iterate them. Instead, I'd like to focus on other aspects.

Japanese science fiction is often a commentary on contemporary Japanese society. Dallos posits not only a conflict between the oppressed settlers on the Moon and the Earth government, but also between the original generation of settlers, who came from Earth and still see it as their home, and the third generation, who were born on the Moon and know no other home. The "ojii-sans" (old-timers) worship the mysterious machine Dallos as a god; the youngsters consider it useless. While the old-timers will, if pushed hard enough, resist with traditional means (slowdowns, strikes), they will not resort to violence against "mother Earth" - their ties and their sense of indebtedness are too strong. On the other hand, the youngsters (called guerrillas in the show) see only the injustices in their lives and are determined to fight back. Is this, perhaps, a reflection of the conflict in Japanese society between the generation that fought and lost World War II in the name of a god-Emperor, and the post-war generation that knew nothing of it, regarded the Emperor as an irrelevant symbol, and began rebelling in the 60s?

This interesting dynamic is undermined by several major problems, though. The first is the title "character", the god-machine Dallos. As long as it remains inert, it works effectively as a means of contrasting the attitudes between the generations, and Dallos maintains a remarkably even-handed view of the generational conflict. However, when it begins to function as a deus-ex-machina, its value as a symbol is lost, and it becomes just a mechanical plot contrivance.

Second, the story stops just when it seems ready to start. Dallos only covers the first clash between the guerrillas and the government. It ends in a temporary truce forced by Dallos's nick-of-time intervention. The guerrillas intend to continue fighting. The Earth government concludes it must use greater force. And the show just stops. Perhaps Dallos was intended as a precursor of a TV series that would continue the storyline, but in its present state, the ending is a major letdown, and the final shot as much a nuisance as a mystery.

Dallos needs to be viewed in the context of early 1980s science-fiction, before the creative explosion started by Akira and other anime sci-fi masterpieces. As with Submarine 707R (another Orphan project), don't expect too much of it. It's intermittently entertaining. That's really the ultimate verdict.