Saturday, April 21, 2018

Dallos HD

If you track Erik's laserdisc releases, you'll know that he ripped the Dallos special. I wanted to subtitle the special, but that required revisiting the original Dallos OVA scripts and piecing them together, with excisions, to fit the special's reduced running time. Rather than just go over the existing scripts, I thought it might be more entertaining to move them onto HQR's high-definition (720p) raws, which were taken from a KIDS TV broadcast. So that's been done, and this release is the result.

In my original blog on Dallos five years ago, I was rather harsh on the show. Back then, I was viewing it in the context of all the recent anime I had seen, and it seemed very derivative. In fact, the reverse is true. Dallos came first, and it has been imitated numerous times since. If I use a historical perspective on what anime was in 1983, Dallos is far more interesting and original than I had thought.


Dallos is set in the 21st century - our own! The backdrop is an Earth ruined by overuse of resources. In desperation, the Earth government creates a colony on the Moon to exploit the resources there. After sixty years, the gamble has paid off, and Earth is prospering again. However, there is a high cost: the colonists on the Moon are treated as little better than slave labor. While the older generations of settlers, who still remember Earth, are resigned to their fate, the third generation - born and raised on the Moon - see only the merciless oppression and lack of opportunity. They organize a guerilla resistance movement to fight back. The colonial government responds with even greater repression, which in turn creates more resistance. (Does this sound familiar?)

As the story opens, Shun Nonomura is an apolitical teenager more interested in "fiddling with machines" than in flirting with his girlfriend Rachel. Shun inadvertently shows Dog McCoy, the leader of the guerillas, how the Moon's mining equipment can be converted into effective weapons. Dog and his followers kidnap visiting Earthling Melinda Hearst, who is the fiance of the head of lunar Security, Alex Riger. Alex uses the incident as a pretext for intensive operations against the guerillas. Shun and Rachel are swept up in the conflict, which escalates into outright war involving the civilian population of the Moon.

Brooding over these proceedings is a giant machine called Dallos, which looks rather like a mechanical facemask. The early settlers discovered Dallos and worshiped it as a god, but both Alex Riger and the guerillas regard it as a relic. However, when the conflict spills into Dallos itself, it proves to be a true deus ex machine, coming to life and taking out its wrath on both sides. This brings about an uneasy truce. It's clear, though, that the conflict will resume, and Shun and Rachel must decide where they stand. Unfortunately, that's where the story ends.

Dallos is often called the first OVA (anime released directly to consumer video media), but that was an afterthought, not the original intent. Dallos was intended to be a long TV series, of at least 26 episodes (and probably more). The four episodes we have were intended as prologue. This is evident from the numerous plot threads that are planted and left unresolved, such as the story of Shun's older brother Tatsuo, and the political machinations within the Moon government. We'll never know how the story was supposed to unfold; no plot synopsis or summary has been published.

Sasaki Hideki (Shun) played the lead role in Gauche the Cellist; otherwise, his resume is very short. Ikeda Shuichi (Riger) played Char in Mobile Suit Gundam, Gilbert Durandal in Gundam Seed, Ulrich Kessler in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and Azuma in Starship Troopers, an Orphan release. The deep-voiced Genda Tesshou (Dog McCoy) played Colonel Muto in Joker Game, Moloch in Yondemasu Azazel-san, Rei in the Urusei Yatsura franchise, Moguro Fukuzou in New Laughing Salesman,  "Oyaji" in this year's Mitsuboshi Colors, and the loyal lieutenant Galbreath in Next Senki Ehrgeiz, an Orphan release. Sakakibara Yoshiko (Melinda) played Sir Integral Hellsing in both versions of Hellsing, as well as Paula in Condition Green, an Orphan release. The director, Mamoru Oshii, would go on to direct many famous anime works, including Ghost in the Shell, Gosenzosama Banbanzai, and Sky Crawlers.

This version of Dallos has been little altered from the original release in 2013. Some lines have been tightened, and more line breaks have been inserted for readability. The original translation was done by laalg and has not been revisited. In particular, it does not reflect the recent R1 DVD release. I edited both versions and did a little typesetting for this one. CP and Saji QCed the original release; Calyrica did a release check on this version. The raws were encoded by HQR from a KIDS high-definition TV broadcast and are probably the best we'll see unless Dallos gets a Blu-ray release.

On this round, Dallos impressed me a lot more than it did back in 2013. The space scenes look great, although the character animation can get rather funky. The story is interesting, and the god-machine Dallos no longer seems like an arbitrary plot contrivance. You can get his release from the usual torrent sites as well as from IRC bot Orphan|Arutha in channels #nibl or #news on irc.rizon.net.

One final note. If you like Dallos as much as I do, I'd urge you to buy the R1 DVD, as I did. It's not expensive, it has a fascinating interview with Mamoru Oshii and others involved in the production, and it includes the context-setting "pilot film" not included in other releases.

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