Dirty Pair is Iyashikei

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Jan 232012

That “iyashikei” stuff. According to that bastion of abomination, TV Tropes, iyashikei is all about “soothing” or “healing ” the audience.

You know what does that for me? The Dirty Pair.

Yeah. Let’s run with this.

Most of these shows revolve around a small cast of characters and the “daily life” shit the do. We see them go through their daily routines. These routines rarely change. There’s not much in the way of development. It’s all about maintaining the status quo and providing the audience with a reliable escapist “release.”

That’s exactly what happens in The Dirty Pair. Kei and Yuri, the titular duo, are very static characters. They start off as variations of the brash, Barbarella-like space chick, all about kicking ass and sexing it up. No matter how many times they get into bad relationships with dudes, run afoul of space bandits, or accidentally blow up planets, they turn right back around and do the same exact shit the next episode. Dirty Pair has the same repetitive, reliable narrative structure that’s inherent to the iyashikei genre. By seeing the characters interact in the same way week in and week out (or in some 20-something minute pattern over the course of several hours if you marathon the damn thing like I did awhile back), you get to “know” them.

The catch is that Dirty Pair and these other iyashikei series find “comfort” in different ways. Something like, say, Tamayura is all about the slow pace and gentle atmosphere and nostalgia and all that stuff that, quite frankly, bores me to death. I guess you could call it comforting in the same way that morphine is comforting, since it dulls your senses and lulls you into an artificial sense of dreaminess. Least that’s how it makes me feel. I ain’t gonna deny anyone their feelings if they genuinely love this stuff.

The comfort derived from Dirty Pair is the sort of visceral explosion-lust that I feel from 80′s action movie shit. It isn’t “exploring” the stylings of the action genre the way something like Black Lagoon or Kill Bill does, it simply is that genre the way people describe iyashikei anime as being pure emotion and atmosphere. In that sense, Dirty Pair is also pure emotion and atmosphere, with the catch being that said emotions and atmosphere all revolve around guns and punching.

That’s what I find comforting and familiar– pure over-the-top violence. And all of that is symbolized by one particular episode of the series.

I wrote about it during last year’s 12 Days thing. During one of the early episodes, the Dirty Pair’s antics results in an entire planet exploding, and this is played off as a gag. By having an entire world destroyed and having said “tragedy” be little more than a joke is as heartwarming to me as when people gushed over that little kid in Usagi Drop doing something especially cute and all of their paternal/maternal instincts kicked in.

So I get y’all when y’all get all mushy over this heartwarming stuff. I just have to see an entire civilization perish for those emotions to kick in.