Dual! is one of the series I appreciate more as time goes on. While much of the anime made in recent years can easily be watched and forgotten with no real story to remember, Dual! crafts a narrative that is actually memorable.
A self-sustained story in its own right, Dual! further ties into Kajishima Masaki’s larger universe. It ties into the same timeline as the Tenchi Muyo OVA series and directly sets up events that happen in Tenchi Muyo GXP, and possibly Spaceship Agga Ruter depending upon to whom you listen. Despite looking very much like 1990s Japan Kajishima says this takes place 1 million years in the past. While I can’t figure out how that is supposed to make sense, he wrote it, so we’ll take his word for it.
Imagine going to school in Japan a million years ago with everything exactly like it was in the 90s. Then imagine having vivid hallucinations of massive mecha destroying the town and freaking out like it’s happening for real because it’s real to you. Then one of the hottest and nicest girls in school wants you to come over because she wants to hear all about it. That’s where it starts.
Turns out her dad is a mad scientist that already whipped up a machine in his basement that can bridge these dimensional gaps. Like the old “trust me baby, I’ll just put the tip in” line, just a peek turns into a trip into said crazy mecha dimension.
"You can't die on me now, I just got here!"
The biggest shortcoming is that things happen too quickly. Kajishima envisioned Dual! as a 26 episode epic, but only got 13 and an OVA. Rather than trying to do everything at hyperspeed he picked and chose which storylines to feature. It leaves the viewer wanting more, which is preferable to a series overstaying its welcome if you have to pick your poison.
Younger viewers give Dual! a reputation for being an Evangelion knockoff, but that is more of an oversimplification of it airing a few years after Eva and the girl with an attitude pilots a red mecha, to say nothing of Kajishima starting to write it years before anyone had heard the word Evangelion.
Hurr hurr, a mecha, it's a Gundam ripoff.
While Evangelion is serious throughout with one comedic romcom segment towards the end, Dual! has more of a balance between drama and comedy. Even serious situations and antagonists are lightened with Kajishima's comedic style. The conflict is well defined and operates under rules that would minimize suffering in any modern armed conflict. The protagonists have positive traits. The bad guys aren't Jews. The differences are numerous.
Where Dual! really shines is in how it excels at things that just aren't done anymore. For example, one of the girls has an omiai scheduled at the same time and a place a battle is supposed to take place. Now, the rational thing would be to reschedule it, seeing as civilians all evacuate to avoid being accidentally killed before giant mecha start tearing the city apart, but not this time. The omiai must go on to eliminate the competition! What really makes it how the guy she is being set up with acts like everything is completely normal, despite a crazy mecha battle happening outside in an extremely contrived and forced location. The deadpan nonchalant acceptance of the situation takes it from something that may not work to being memorable years later.
Another source of Dual!'s nostalgic appeal comes from the female characters all managing to be likable and desirable without having to constantly show off the goods with gratuitous fan service. Now as a healthy heterosexual man I have absolutely nothing against displaying the female form in all its glory, but the girls in Dual! have an appeal that would make you actually want to spend time with them, as opposed to having some fun with them before sending them on their way.
Oh yeah babycakes, cook that food.
There are even fun cameos hidden if you look for them.
Retro Anime Night Returns
Yes, boys and girls, it is once again that time of the month. Dubcucks be warned: we'll be watching my fansubs of Dual!, so you will get both the authentic anime experience and an accurate translation. You will even get the full Dolby Digital audio experience of the R2J DVDs because I don't transcode. These things be like Kryptonite to dubcucks. Then again, you dubcucks might as well evolve or die. Once we're done with the klaxosaurs we're coming for you.
This Saturday night. August 11. 7PM EDT.
* required browser add-on: