Anime Review: Dallos

Dallos is an anime that reminds me a lot of what got me into anime in the first place. I came into anime as a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and I came in through OVAs and films like AkiraDemon City Shinjuku, Ghost in the Shell, and Record of Lodoss War. So, when I found out that Dallos, an anime considered to be the first OVA (or one of the first alongside the Cream Lemon series), and which was directed by Mamoru Oshii (who also directed Ghost in the Shell and Angel’s Egg – which I’ve previously reviewed), had been licensed by Discotek Media, and later made available for streaming on Crunchyroll, I put it on my to-watch list.

As far as the premise of Dallos goes, it borrows a little bit from the concept of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, in particular the book’s first act. The anime is set on The Moon. As with Heinlein’s novel, the moon has been built as a colony to provide needed materials (ore and other raw materials) to Earth. However, in Heinlein’s book, the moon’s colonists were political dissidents and prisoners, while in the original colonists were workers who chose to work to build the lunar colony, with the agreement that they would settle there.

The protagonist of the series, Shun Nonomura, is a third generation inhabitant of the colony or “Lunarian”. While the first two generations have a distinct sense of loyalty to Earth – the first generations having gone to the Moon to work for the betterment of Earth, and the second generation having inherited their parents sense of obligation – the third generation Lunarians don’t have the same sense of obligation. They have never seen Earth – indeed, the colony is on the dark side of the moon, and the Lunarians are forbidden to travel to the moon’s near side so they could see the Earth. The main unified belief among the three generations is a reverence to “Dallos” a mysterious giant head, built with incredibly advanced technology, that was uncovered during the development of the colony.

The lack of personal experience of Earth or ability to travel to Earth, combined with the poor treatment of the colonists by the administration, has lead to a revolutionary movement in the settlement, and this leads to the focus of the story, as Shun and his childhood friend Rachel, are caught up in the separatist movement lead by Dog McCoy, which is contending with counterinsurgency efforts by the civil administrator, Alex Leiger.

The first half of the anime borrows a lot from films like Battle of Algiers, as it follows the efforts of the revolutionaries as things escalate further and further, and Shun is brought more and more involved, before the last two episodes in the series bring things into open revolt and almost into something resembling a real-robot anime.

I can’t really review this show without getting into the ending. The ending of the series feels like the end of an act break, as opposed to an actual satisfactory conclusion. There has been a narrative arc, with rising action to a climax, and then some denouement, with characters being in different places than they were at the start of the series. However, it doesn’t really have any resolution. The moon is still under the thumb of Earth (and things are about to get worse), and in spite of Dallos itself becoming a major part of the conflict which changes things dramatically in the series final part, not only do we not know what Dallos is, no-one is taking this as an incentive to make a more concerted effort to find out what Dallos is.

It feels like this show was pitched as a 12 episode OVA, and early in production they decided to make it a 4 episode series instead, and if it did really well, it would get another 4 episodes, but it never did quite well enough to get those final parts. Unfortunately, co-writer Hisayuki Toriumi passed away in 2009, so I don’t know if we’ll really get a resolution to this story.

If you’re planning on picking this up, Dallos is available from Amazon and RightStuf.