Dual! Anime Review
Dyuaru! Parare-runrun Monogatari
Dual! Parallel-happy Tale
US Release By
Evangelion-ish Sci-fi Comedy
14 25-minute episodes
1999-04-08 - 1999-07-01
What's In It
- Gunfights (very large scale)
- Catfights (well, subtle ones)
- Super Technology (this is Pioneer)
- Big Robots/Mecha (very big, and lots of them)
- Weird (toward the end)
- Violence: 1 (mild)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 1 (mild)
Kazuki Yotsuga is a quiet but relatively normal high school kid. Relatively normal, that is, except for one thing: Fighting in the streets, battling outside his school, destroying skyscrapers, he watches giant, ghostly robots silently wage war. Watches, and writes down the drama that only he can see. It never gets him anything but shunned by his classmates until one day Mitsuki, the most popular girl at his school, takes an interest in him. It seems her father, a mad scientist with a theory about parallel worlds, thinks there's something special about what he sees... and it's not long before poor Kazuki is stuck in the middle of a war in a crazy parallel world.
Quick ReviewSwitch to Full Review
Yet another ensemble comedy by the makers of Tenchi Muyo, superficially following the same oft-used harem formula. This one also happens to neatly parallel Evangelion in the basic premise and character descriptions, and while this is no doubt intentional it's actually much more of a light Pioneer re-make than a parody. While the series isn't entirely successful at blending relatively low-key character drama and humor on the subtler side of wacky, it offers enough vague background plot, fun, modern characters, and interesting variations on the theme to end up being a generally enjoyable series. Attractive AIC visuals (including a sufficient helping of giant robot action) and a quality Japanese voice cast with plenty of variety round out the picture.
It's not a memorable series, but if you like El Hazard-style ensemble comedies with a healthy dose of drama, light giant robot shows, or are wiling to give a light but relatively straight-faced Pioneer take on Evangelion a shot, you might get a kick out of Dual!
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Yet another ensemble comedy by the makers of Tenchi Muyo, superficially following the standard formula: A normal, slightly nerdy guy suddenly becomes the love interest of many unusual and very attractive women, and somehow ends up living with them. Throw in some weird, loosely-explained plot and you're done. Past the premise, though, it would be more accurate to describe Dual! as a parody/remake of Evangelion, which is both more interesting and more enjoyable than I was expecting.
The Evangelion parallel is rather obvious--there are ill-understood EVA-style robots battling in eerily empty cities, our protagonist has a similar, slightly numb air to him, and the rest of the main cast loosely fit the descriptions of characters from Evangelion. Once things start to come into focus, it becomes clear that Dual! isn't so much an Evangelion parody as a wildly-different (and less clinically insane) Pioneer-style take on the concept--past the basic framework, it pretty much goes its own way. You'll certainly have more fun watching it if you put it in the category of "blatantly derivative but different."
Dual! starts with an interesting and appropriately strange concept, a schoolboy with a problem: "I see mecha." Aside from an unintended Sixth Sense reference, this makes for some creepily cool imagery--giant robots silently involved in fierce ghostly battles in the middle of the city. Before long, he finds himself in a parallel world where the mecha are quite real, providing similar vaguely disturbing images of battles superimposed on everyday life (the first of many EVA references), and getting the series off to an intriguing start.
This is also where the series kicks in its comedic twist--the epic "war" turns out to be an embarrassingly petty and rather lame waste of energy. Although there is some emotional wrestling about how to handle the situation, as much of the human drama turns out to be whose cooking Kazuki will decide to eat at dinner. All this is backed by lots of Pioneer's trademark weird-and-wild plot, doled out in vague hints and partially explained fragments as the story progresses. It's fundamentally all pretty silly, and nothing ever does get explained completely, but it's still fun to piece things together from the hints.
Unfortunately, this combination of drama, vague plot, and classic anime comedy doesn't come together as satisfyingly as it could have.
On one hand, there's a lot of surprisingly low-key character-driven drama, which properly compliments the important-seeming things going on in the story. This is handled quite well, in that the characters' reactions aren't over-the-top and several have motivations that go past surface-deep. On the other hand, some major points in the story are (intentionally) downright silly, several others hinge on minor issues stretched out into overly dramatic plot points, and still other parts are funny but just don't make a whole lot of sense.
Many series have managed to successfully pull off mixed-mood stories, but the low-key drama is so closely paired with humor on the subtler side of wacky that I was left a little uncomfortable with the transitions.
Dual's biggest problem, though, is that it fails to exploit its hilarious potential. When you've got a suit designed to make your male hero look like a cute girl and you only pull one really funny moment out of it (albeit a subtly hilarious one) before it becomes a source of drama, you're taking yourself too seriously.
Had Dual! gone all-out with the humor, it would have undermined the serious parts, but I think the drama still would have worked. Even if it hadn't it would have been a heck of a lot more fun. At least the series uses its "bonus" episode to end on the right note--after a rather strange and fairly heavy climax, the extra 14th episode starts out looking like a too-cleanly-wrapped-up conclusion (exactly the kind you'd expect), then takes an entirely unexpected turn toward the hilariously bizarre. That left me with a good taste in my mouth.
In the end, I did enjoy Dual! The story and humor are part of the reason, but what made Dual! stick in my mind is what Pioneer does best--characters you can't help but love. Even the requisite cute normal girl has a bit of a twist, and the rest of the bunch has a distinctly worldly air that sets them apart from the standard assortment of cute girls stuck on one guy. There's Asuka-parallel Mitsuki, who's slightly cold, matter of fact, and short-tempered, but still a remarkably believable normal girl; rough Misato equivalent Yayoi, a teacher older and more mature than the average high-school love interest with an ambiguous but apparently more than platonic interest in Kazuki; and the obligatory Rei reference, the outwardly emotionless alien D. The romantic interplay between them is a distinct overtone throughout, though it's never overt and feels somewhat more realistic than in most similar series.
I particularly liked D (and no, I'm not a Rei fan) because she shows no exterior signs of emotion, and barely speaks, but clearly expresses through her actions that she has emotions--you just don't see them in her face or hear them in her voice. I enjoyed that twist on this sort of character.
Our "everyguy" hero starts out as quite an introvert and doesn't warm to the concept of being part of this whole mess for quite a while, but is still enough of a geek to think the giant robots are cool. Even the whacked-out leader, far from a Gendo parody, has an interesting blend of serious commander and mischievous mad scientist. There are several other more two-dimensional characters (who're also a lot of fun), but the primary crew is a solid, quirky bunch with an unusually realistic air.
Rounding out the characters is a very solid Japanese cast consisting of (at the time it was made) mostly new faces (er, voices). Unlike a lot of newer series with low-budget, no-name voice actresses who all sound the same, it's a crew I hoped to see more of--there's quite a bit of variety, and they also sound relatively natural and less stereotypically "anime." The range runs from Rie Tanaka as Mitsuki, who wavers between dryly annoyed and a normal girl, to D's almost-robotic monotone, supplied by Ai Uchikawa. The wackier characters--the two Professors, for example, voiced by veterans Ryunosuke Ohbayashi and Kenichi Ogata--have similarly distinctive and fun voices. All in all, the cast stands out both for their diversity and the solid mix of comedy and dramatic acting.
The character designs are also noteworthy; Kazuki looks exactly the same as Tenchi, Makoto, and all the other AIC boy-hero clones, but the rest of the cast is distinctive, original, and quite attractive. The clean, modern-style art has the crisp, appealing look that you'd expect from AIC. The backgrounds are a little stark on occasion, but in the case of the intra-city battles that works as something of an advantage, contrasting the tidy locales with the large mess the robots inevitably make.
A bigger annoyance are a couple of oft-repeated computer animated robot launch sequences that don't mesh with the rest of the animation. Fortunately, the actual battles between the vaguely EVA-styled robots are smoothly animated in traditional cel art and plenty exciting. There's enough action to keep mecha-heads satisfied, although a few of the attacks are a bit too wild for my taste, and the inevitable climactic battle toward the end gets out of hand. Speaking of mecha-heads, the robot designs may not be terribly original (except for one big, flashy one), but they do feature high heels, of all things.
As far as soundtrack, it's mostly lack of music that sets the tone for the many low-key scenes. What music there is, composed by Seikou Nagaoka, is high quality; despite being small-scale, it isn't synthesized, and ranges from a melancholy piano theme to slightly funky little tunes for more amusing scenes. The opening is a lively, old-school song (that actually relates to the plot!), but the end is an unremarkable acoustic guitar piece accompanied by some rather odd, intentionally crude computer animation.
When all is said and done, Dual! is notably more serious and mellow than its formula implies. Even so, it has a healthy portion of humor, plenty of vaguely explained and very weird plot, and a lot of very likable characters. It's a bit short for a series like this--by the time the status quo is established, we're on to the finale--but is enough fun that it left me wanting more when it was over. If you like El Hazard-style ensemble comedies with a dose of drama, light giant robot shows, or are wiling to give a semi-humorous take on Evangelion a shot, you might get a kick out of Dual!
Have something to say about this anime? Join our newly-resurrected forums and speak your mind.
If you like Dual, you must check out El Hazard--it's got the same mix of comedy, drama, romance, wild plot, and even an alternative world (of an entirely different sort). The only thing missing are the robots. Then there's Tenchi Muyo (the OAVs in particular) for a slightly lighter space sci-fi take on the theme. And of course I already went through the similarities with Neon Genesis Evangelion, though that series is entirely serious and, famously, gets drastically weirder toward the end. Finally, I'll single out Generator Gawl, another series with high-school kids in a slightly strange world, although that series features more monsters than mechs and is more serious as well.
Notes and Trivia
As with most AIC series, Dual! is an original concept, developed by Masaki Kajishima. There is no manga adaptation.
The first 13 episodes were originally aired in Japan on the cable network WowWow, but the off-the-wall (and somewhat raunchier) 14th "bonus" episode (aptly titled "Final Frontier") was a separate special. It also includes cameos by several characters from the Tenchi Muyo franchise.
The relationship between Dual! and Tenchi Muyo! goes farther than just AIC heritage and an exclamation point in the title--Dual! includes a number of subtle references to the Tenchi universe (mostly the OVA continuity), and the creator has gone on record as saying that it is effectively set in yet another alternate timeline. One of the mecha from this series also appears briefly in Tenchi Muyo GXP.
The original Japanese subtitle, "Parare-runrun Monogatari," is an odd play on words combining "parareru," a Japanization of the English "parallel," and "runrun," an Japanese onomatopoeia meaning "happy" or "bubbly." If anything, it sounds sillier than the series actually is.
US DVD Review
The DVDs are among Pioneer's better discs of this vintage. They include crystal-clear Japanese and English 2-channel soundtracks and more or less flawless video. As an extra each disc includes several detailed data files on various characters or robots from the series, written from the perspective of the characters. There are also sketches, and on the fourth disc a very cool little interview with the Japanese voice actors and a couple of Japanese TV spots. Plus, as an added touch, each of the inserts that list the episodes and chapter stops has a simple recipe based on one of the four main girls' cooking style.
Pioneer rates it 13-up, but with a few bits of mature humor and some violence being the only objectionable material, for most episodes that's probably too strict.
Violence: 1 - A lot of hugely destructive and dramatic battles, but in the entire series nobody dies.
Nudity: 2 - Nothing significant, except for the last episode.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Mostly nothing at all, but a couple of early episodes feature relatively mature humor as does the final one.
Language: 1 - Not bad.