At the end of the 21st century, Earth had to confront the problem of population increases combined with shortages in resources. Development of the Moon was seen as the way to solve the situation. The Moon's mineral resources reinvigorated the Earth and brought prosperity. However, the achievement of that vision proved painful for those who'd left their home world to settle on the Moon.
One of Man's greatest dreams has become a nightmare for those who have been forced to live it out. Shun Nonomura doesn't realize it, but he's about to discover a weapon—one that can overthrow the oppressive Monopolice and bring freedom to the lunar colonists. The growing resistance movement is quick to adopt it, along with its creator, into their ranks as they rally around the mysterious alien monument known as Dallos...
Dallos was made in 1983 by Studio Pierrot, becoming world's first OVA series. It was also the directorial debut of Mamoru Oshii, who would later go on to direct such films as Angel's Egg, the first two Urusei Yatsura movies, and Ghost in the Shell.
The OVA. A very important part of anime history. With the advent and rising popularity of VHS tapes in the early 1980s of Japan, OVAs were straight to video anime which grew widely popular amongst anime fans and helped to become the backbone of the industry for quite a while. While the lack of censorship also meant a lack of quality control leading to an influx of terrible animation it was also an opportunity for new talent to emerge and be celebrated such as was the case with the earlier Gainax shows like Otaku no Video and Gunbuster. But the OVA that started it all
was Dallos, produced by Studio Perriot way back in 1983.
It was also the directorial debut of Mamoru Oshii who was currently working on the Urusei Yatsura TV series at the time and would later go on to direct Angel's Egg in 1985 and even the Ghost in the Shell film in 1995, so the OVA looked promising enough but unfortunately this OVA, outside of its historical significance, offers very little in the way of substance.
Set in the future, Dallos tells the story of an ongoing conflict between the people of Earth and the people of the moon who were sent to said place as a means of using the moons resources in order to prolong life on Earth. However, feeling that they're under the tyrannical rule of the earthlings, the people of the Moon fight back leading to an all out war on both sides. And that's where my main piece of criticism stems from; I simply do not care what is going on.
Neither side of the conflict has any characters to feel a damn for so its hard to care for anyone who is fighting on screen. Never do any of the main characters on both sides of the conflict project any kind of goal or type of mentality into winning this war and instead feel like lifeless robots, especially Shun who joins the rebellion just because. Its hard to feel the narrative weight of this struggle for independence when none of the characters are interesting to watch. The only kind of interesting character was Alex whose ideology and personality were a bit more fleshed out then the rest of the cast but still felt way too underdeveloped.
Another problem is the really bad pacing and lack of any flow between any of its scenes. The show moves at break neck speeds throughout its duration making it hard to keep track of or care for whatever is going on. Shun joins the rebellion for hardly any reason and not enough time is given to fleshing out his character or his ideals leaving him feeling like a bland robot. There is so much going on in this show that it's hard to keep track of without feeling like a mess
The main problem I have is with the show is how the themes and ideas are presented and how they all seem to clash awkwardly with one another. Nothing really feels all that developed or plays out in a satisfying way since none of the ideas presented are given any time or room to breathe. One idea that was never explained was in regards to a machine-like thing called Dallos that can apparently control the moon and even has its own type of consciousness. All we get are really vague speeches about how its a symbol for peace and nothing else beyond that. It could have been great if more time could have been spent on it, which is a shame too considering how well directed it is.
One great thing about this OVA however is the animation and the music. The general look and design for its characters and world are all great and there is no shortage of highly detailed mecha suits throughout the show. The action is very well done and entertaining to watch, even if I don't really care much for what is going on. The action scenes themselves were enough to keep me entertained throughout the show. Similarly, the music was great too with lots of tracks to keep you pumped for that 80S STYLE!
In conclusion, Dallos was a noble attempt at creating a action space show with lots of voilence along with some underlying themes of oppression but needed more time to work properly. As a spectacle alone I would recommend it if only the downtime wasn't so boring.
How could a show with ravenous cyberdogs and rocket-propelled moon-skiing be anything other than great? I guess when the story is less about those novel ideas and more an epic tale of Proletariat v. Bourgeoisie in Space.
Earth hasn’t been the happiest of planets these days. Lacking sufficient energy and dealing with increased pollution meant we had to look outside our pale blue dot to survive. Fortunately (or unfortunately as Dallos shows) that last hope happened to be a little dusty ball orbiting roughly a quarter-million miles away.
Sometime in the 21st century, the Moon was heavily colonized and turned into the biggest mining operation this side
of the solar system. Things are finally getting better on terra firma, its inhabitants able to regain the idyllic days they used to know. Life on the Moon could hardly be worse. The Lunarites used to be hailed as heroes back home, but now everyone is so used to the return to prosperity that no one pays them any heed. Worse still, the ruling party on the Moon itself is treating them like worthless insects. So what is a subjugated group supposed to do?
Apparently if you’re not part of a union, it’s best to grab a gun.
Which is just about where I start asking little logical consistency questions I probably shouldn’t. Why are there any sorts of armaments on the Moon to begin with? Certainly there were no indigenous tribes of lunar rocks that needed quelling. That whole ‘vacuum of space problem’ necessitates that a strong infrastructure be developed before a single person is living lunarside. So wouldn’t you just arm your law enforcement with batons or cattle prods and call it a day? Aren’t you worried that a stray bullet or laser rifle pulse would blast a hole in the city’s protective dome and vent everyone faster than the air escaping this plot? And why the devil do you need fast hover cars with retractable stilt-legs when the population’s preferred form of locomotion are feet and the subway. And you do know where the latter stops occasionally, don’t you?
Characters also take a backseat in Dallos’ plot-driven narrative. It’s all about the struggle of the rebel workers against their overlords. Everyone is merely an archetype: the impressionable youth, unsure which side is right; the rebel leader with his insistence that the Lunarites deserve independence; the villain who must confront these rebels and a growing suspicion that the establishment may be unjust. While there are moments when they are conflicted as individuals, there is hardly much proof that they are anything other than pawns in the story’s telling and are ultimately interchangeable.
Even the plot feels strained. Granting that the present situation is sensible without argument broaches the question: why is this happening? Is there any benefit to the maltreatment of the Lunarites? How are they being hurt? All the men have barrel-chests and forearms as big as thighs, so they are obviously not being starved. There isn’t much romance going on, but there is nothing pointing to the fact that people are forbidden from falling in love and starting families. As best I can figure, the Lunarites just aren’t allowed to go back to Earth, but no one really seems to want to other than the nostalgic elders pining for halcyon days. This lack of concrete evidence really hampers one from hating the ruling body or cheering on the rebels.
Since this has been dubbed the very first OVA, I feel like I’m treading on hallowed ground and to be critical is to be sacrilegious. The plot and characters are shallow. That much is clear. The technical and artistic production, however, is fantastic. The animation is surprisingly fluid and the action constructed better than shows that were made a decade later. It’s violent, without being graphic. People die, but the carnage is understated. Costume design is… a little absurd, but forgivable.
Only in the 80s can you still get away with giving a girl a pink spacesuit without being laughed at or having your face slapped.
Instead of a desiccated series of moonbases on the lunar surface, the inhabitants live in built-up craters encased in bubble domes. There’s a breathable atmosphere, blue sky and clouds, and homes erected all along the inner walls that look like adobe pueblos out south-western America. Call it terraforming on a tiny scale, minus the greenery.
There really is a Man in the Moon too. For some reason, left unexplained, a mechanical face rests at the bottom of one particular deep crater. The Lunarites think it might be a god. Despite the mystery we never learn much about it, although I will say that it results in maybe the single coolest visual change to occur in an OP. Great imagery is the best Dallos has to offer. At one point we see a statue depicting a host of people either climbing towards, or being crushed by, the Moon. Even the lunar graveyard is hauntingly poetic, impotently staring at the planet it cannot reach and unable to turn away due to synchronous rotation.
The music is so totally 80s. You just can’t not love it. From the grand sweeping orchestration of the OP with its violins and flutes to the slightly-poppy synthesizer bits throughout. It makes you wonder why dramatic moments in today’s shows always have to sound so, well, dramatic. Where has the sense of fun gone? Why can’t action have a happy theme song?
Dallos stops short of being a space-based rumination on communism, but it also stops short of a lot of things. What moments of poetry and introspection exist are not woven into a pleasing whole. I can’t recommend it, but I can’t dissuade you from it either. If you’d like a quick two-hour hop into an action-centric show, you’ll probably be entertained. Anyone searching for further depths will only find the cold depths of space.
Despite being one of his first works, it is clear that Mamoru Oshii already had a flair for directing an anime with intricate political subplots, heavy themes of existentialism and intense combat.
However, it becomes clear; even from the first episode that all the ideas and concepts Mamoru Oshii had for Dallos was more fit for a 25 episode Tv series rather than a 4 episode ova. While the story is nicely interwoven with several subplots, half of them, including the many too-spontaneous acts of rebellion the the failure to explain the titular Dallo's true purpose are awkwardly explored and then disposed of altogether.
only good thing I can give Dallo's story is its sense of scale. While the political situation is hardly well fleshed out, it is still enough to give the already epic combat scenes more punch. The action in most anime is usually more battle than total warfare; Dallos achieves the latter.
In such an overambitious plot, one thing is inevitable. In typical Oshii style, the characters end up slaves to the plot and central themes of the anime, having basic personalities and only reacting to the demands of the story. However, the character animation is absolutely superb and would tell you otherwise! Quite a shame.
It is quite clear now that this is a very flawed Ova and a underwhelming effort by Oshii; so why my high rating of 9/10?
Its the music and the art. The art isn't the greatest, though I am quite certain it was the pinnacle of art and animation for its time. The art designs are very above average but hardly jaw dropping.
The music on the other hand is absolutely perfect, to my tastes at least. Solidifying my opinion that early 80s/late 70s had the best music of any period of anime due to the residual influence of 70s pop music (which also happens to be the best decade of music). The Ost covers sweeping orchestra's mixed with memorable jazz funk fusion tracks. One of the best anime Osts I have ever heard.
In the end, Oshii's perchant for creating engaging military anime, the similarly militant/ space opera aesthetic of the art and especially the great music has a sum greater than its parts. Memorable scenes are created such as the cyborg dog attacks, armoured paratroopers, the raining of bullet casings, the light shows put on by Dallos and the moon graveyard (from the box art) to name a few. While many other animes are objectively superior, Dallos' memorable moments have an emotional impact that far surpasses them.
This ova may be interesting for anime history buffs who want to see the first ova made but it is a must watch for fans of military focused, sci-fi retro anime!
After watching Dallos, I was a tad disappointed.
I put too much hope in it, I suppose...
Think about it: the first ever OAVs, an ambitious director - Mamoru Oshii - who successfully directed at first Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer, a newborn studio, some noteworthy collaborators like Hiroyuki Namba...
So why did it bomb ? In my opinion, this title was full of potential, but clearly misguided. Studio Pierrot is not Madhouse, if you catch my drift. While SP's staff isn't incompetent nor inexperienced, they're not flawless. Look at animation: it is painfully ropey, specially during action scenes. I'm not exacting about it, but it frankly remains
a key aspect, in this very case. Too bad because they're not too shabby, apart from that...
I'll be abrupt though: Dallos would even be way better if they were more unobtrusive. Instead of focusing to McCoy's radical group combat against Moon's directorship, drama needed more work. In fact, I can hardly sympathize with miners' disputations: they don't seem to starve to death, they live on nice, spacious, clean adobe houses with all their families, they're allowed to worship Dallos, they have a beautiful park with frisking swans...
Of course, a miner's life is far from being paradise, but this is close to be the best that can be offered to them. ID headbands for everyone ? Isn't this because of said terrorist group ? If earthlings are proslavery, it doesn't show well.
Now, allow me to draw a parallel between Dallos and a book from Emile Zola, Germinal. In the latter, workers' daily life is depicted with heaps of details. As you finish to read, you get their motivations to stand against their rulers: mutual and blatant incomprehension, miserable wage just high enough to survive, absurdly high working hours, no possible labor union, outdated conditions of work...
You understand what I imply by "misguided", now ? That's right, I think it could have been finer if half of serie was centered around average Lunarians point of view, putting aside actual battles. Hell, even Dallos point of view would cut it. In the actual anime, we're left clueless about its condition. Is it a monument, a temple, an actual God ?...
To think it's only scripted as a sentient battlefield is sad.
And you know it's bad when you find yourself rooting for Alex Riger in place of Doug and Shun ! Yay, they're supposed to be the good guys, after all.
Imagery is beautiful. Shots of the moon stations, vessels, Dallos Itself...
But as I stated it doesn't particularly strengthen the drama. Definitely lacks depth in that regard. Same with the characters, they try to sound stylish, but I don't stick with their respective ideology to begin with. They're boring for the most part.
The sole breath of fresh air is Alex. Because he's not your generic evil bureaucrat. At some point, he even questions legitimacy of his function. That makes him remotely likeable, unlike rest of the cast. Also, he may have tight jodhpur pants but he has sideburns. Sideburns are manly, therefore it's dope :s
I don't have much to say about character design. It's simple, functional, devoid of out of place fantasy. It's good by my standards. On the other hand, general mecha design betrays title's age. Not like it's important since storyline doesn't dwell on showcasing different technologies used by our futuristic civilization, anyway.
Music wise, it's groovey. Synthetic boogie will accompany you throughout the four episodes. Deal with it. If you don't have a knack for it, Hiroyuki Namba's score will likely annoy you. As an enthusiast retro watcher, I do enjoyed it. In any case, opening theme has my total approval ! It has that mystic and yet dramatic tension tied to it...
Too bad entire soundtrack wasn't composed with that main idea in mind.
All in all, it's an affair of genre development: Oshii wanted to appeal both scifi fans and drama lovers at the same time. Former aspect isn't far from being subpar, latter isn't very well conducted, not enough to highlight Dallos' contribution in Japanese animation History.
It's a forgettable, inconclusive, sometimes tedious show. I can't say it blew my mind. However, it's unfair to say it completely sucks. It doesn't...
Not too demanding science-fiction afficionados who digs depressing ends to their animes would surely wanna keep it for rainy days.