What They Say:
THERE’S A REBELLION BREWING ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON!
Shun Nonomura is a young man out of Monopolis, a sprawling miner’s colony on the lunar surface. His people mine helium-3 and other essentials for the Earth but in the late 21st century, Earth’s resources are depleted and the planetary government has resorted to authoritarian rule to get what they want. As the put-upon miners, including Shun’s own family and friends, start to organize a revolt, they come under attack from Earth’s new lunar commander: Alex Leiger, a military man unafraid to use force to put down the uprising!
As Shun’s idealism and Alex’s chilly pragmatism clash, Monopolis is thrown into chaos. The last, best hope for victory lies within a mysterious alien artifact that the humans worship as a god – Dallos!
Released in four parts starting in December 1983, DALLOS is an early directorial effort by the great Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, Patlabor), which made history as the first anime OVA (original video animation) ever created.
The audio sounds good in Japanese stereo 2.0. No distortions here. Oh, and no, the English dub from years past isn’t present on this release. (It wouldn’t fit anyway.)
As this is the very first OAV ever created, the picture still holds up The cel animation holds up fine and colors are vibrant and steady. The nuances of old-school sketch-line animation are still fun to watch. The subtitles are colored and detailed appropriately, which makes them easy to read as needed.
The front cover has a lonely astronaut walking through a a massive graveyard on what is presumably Earth’s moon as the planet can be seen in the distance, with the title masthead in the upper portions. The back has the text from the “what they say” segment with screencaps from the videos in the top and middle sections, and a listing of extra features and production credits at the bottom.
The menus have the opening sequence music playing with the poster and masthead in the backdrop. There are texted playback options in lower thirds. Easy to read.
The pilot movie is an interesting history about how man emigrated to space following some of the real-life developments in space exploration. It talks of generations building various mining areas and terraforming some sections of Earth’s moon. It speaks to eventually descendants wondering why they’re working for a world they’ve never seen as well as the mystery of one station they’ve built up.
The “Remembering Dallos” segment has a lot of info from director Mamorou Oshii and the animation and production team. We come to learn how they decided to do an anime straight for the home video market with the conscious decision not to make anything with higher production quality than theatrical films so as not to hurt that industry. It’s an 18 minute video that is very fascinating material for animation junkies.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This release brings back a lot of memories I remember the late 80s when I’d just started collecting anime that I’d learned was sitting on the shelves of Blockbuster Videos at the time. Much of it had been edited down and found in the kids’ animation section, as Celebrity Home Video had taken several titles to make them more marketable for the U.S. At the time I first found this one, it was done up as a single movie entitled Moon Station Dallos, though much of the footage had been cut out and the story was a bit more difficult to follow.
Watching this version though many years later with the extras listed above, it’s an entirely different experience, as we start off in the middle of an open city where police are chasing an apparent group of criminals, who wind up at desolate area outside of town. Single officer named commander star shows up and, with lethal fighting skills and serious strength, wipes out the group. The other officers catch up and note one of the group named Dog McCoy is missing and went into an area called Level 3, where it’s supposedly difficult to arrest even known criminals.
Star leaves as he has to prepare for an official from Earth.
This is where we learn the city we’ve been focusing on isn’t on humanity’s homeworld, but is a moonbase, called Monopolis. The place looks like earth city with blu skies, sunlight and breathable atmosphere. The focus shifts to a young man named Shun who’s working on a mechanical arm. Suddenly a dog comes to attack but Shun defends himself. Afterward, a mysterious man pops up and says something about using mine tools as weapons. Shun and Rachel note police are in town with their dogs looking for someone.
They encounter Dog, who may be leading a revolutionary movement in line with many people who’ve been working to mine entirely on this and other moon bases but with no knowledge of what life is like on Earth. There has been some unrest before, which likely involved Shun’s brother at one point. Through various adventures, the group winds up in a section of the moon with strangely advanced technologies with an advanced (and seemingly sentient) defense system. Meanwhile, the local government begins to clash with more and more protestors and events get more brutal and a bloody over the course of the series. This is highlighted at one point by a pack of vicious tracking dogs, cloned from Alex’s own pet Geronimo. Shun makes his way through all these elements though and comes to learn the true nature of the colonists’ past and what his role could potentially be for the future.
Studio Pierrot is known currently for popular anime such as Naruto and Bleach, but they established a distinctive style in the 80s on works like Saber rider (AKA Star Musketeer Bismark), Mysterious Cities of Gold, Area 88 and Urisei Yatsura. Fast moving scenery backgrounds behind detailed mecha and weaponry became staples of 80s anime, and Dallos was likely an influential work for its animation style as well as its format. There were uses of blood that couldn’t be shown on TV anime (where all blood was white and well, um… organic scenes weren’t as graphically depicted.)
The story though feels disjointed a bit and we don’t get entirely a sense of resolution at the end of things. The characters grow a bit but sometimes feel stiff and useless. I got the sense this might be based on some events in other parts of the world just from the foundations of the story but not much progression other than some of the discoveries Shun makes. The action sequences are fun at times to take in, especially for the concept of people skiing on the moon surface to get around. It’s also nice to see some early aspects of Oshii’s work in a colorful environment before he established himself as a master of bleak worlds with movies like Patlabor 2, Ghost In The Shell and Jin roh among others. You do see some of his early themes of oppressive government vs citizens in this series as well. He uses some odd music choices throughout the series as sometimes seemingly joyful music pops up in the most dire situations at times.
Dallos is a decent series but not a great one by any stretch. For a historical prospect, this is a very solid release to have in wanting to learn how anime progressed and evolved for artistic techniques and economic profitability during the 80s. On its own merits, Dallos could’ve used a re-write during production to clean up a couple screenplay issues, but it’s still enjoyable for nostalgia of 80s anime style at least in order to understand how the OAV format began to gain traction and viability. Therefore, I do recommend grabbing it when you can.
Japanese Language, English Subtitles, Pilot film, Interview with series creators
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A+
Released By: Discotek Media / Eastern Star Inc.
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony Playstation 3, Samsung 720 HDTV, Marantz reciever