Dallos, directed by Mamoru Oshii and Hisayuki Toriumi. Four half-hour OAVs. December 21, 1983 to July 21, 1984.
Dallos is arguably not forgotten. It will never be forgotten, for two reasons: it was the first Original Animated Video (OAV) of all, and it was an early directorial work by Mamoru Oshii, the director later famous for Ghost in the Shell (1995) and much more.
Oshii had been directing episodes of TV anime series since 1977, and in 1981 he became chief director of the Urusei Yatsura TV series, also directing the first two Urusei Yatsura theatrical features. But Urusei Yatsura and the others were such team efforts, with the Urusei Yatsura anime series overshadowed by its manga creator Rumiko Takahashi, and constrained by her manga stories on which the TV anime was based, that Dallos was the first animation on which Oshii’s name really stood out.
Dallos was also the first animation created as an Original Animated Video release – what America calls direct-to-video. Before Dallos, there were only theatrical releases and TV works – almost all half-hour series. In fact, Dallos was originally planned to be a TV series by Studio Pierrot, was cancelled, and then was resurrected when Bandai Visual agreed to release the first four episodes as a direct-to-video series. It had what was to become the hallmarks of OAV releases: a production budget between a TV episode and a theatrical release, allowing higher production values than the TV animation of the time (or the opposite – they were short productions made with miniscule budgets of stories that would not stretch to a TV series); a more mature story than TV animation, which was then considered to be just for children, would allow; and no ties to merchandising, meaning that the stories did not have to emphasize toys or dolls.
However, despite its historical fame and prestige today, almost nobody watches Dallos any more. The animation is primitive by modern standards. The story is considered an imitation of the more famous 1966 s-f novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. And since it is only the first four episodes of a proposed TV series, the story is annoyingly incomplete. So the actual Dallos OAV has become forgotten.
The four half-hour episodes of Dallos are “Remember Bartholomew” (January 28, 1984), “The Order to Destroy Dallos!” (December 21, 1983), “The Uprising in the Sea of Nostalgia, Act I” (April 28, 1984), and “The Uprising in the Sea of Nostalgia, Act II” (July 21, 1984). The second episode, “The Order to Destroy Dallos!”, was finished and released first, on December 21, 1983; #1, #3, and #4 followed at approximate two-month intervals.
The four were put into the correct order in 1985 as an abridged Dallos Special 87-minute video. (The cut scenes included most of the violence and blood, and the “slow” dialogue scenes.) This was licensed in the U.S. and released in 1991 as a “Just for Kids” video movie by Celebrity Home Entertainment as The Battle for Moon Station Dallos. In the American dub, Monopolis became Moonopolis, Shun Nonomura became Shun Nomura, and “Dog” McCoy became Doug McCoy. It was not until 2014 that all four episodes were released, uncut and subtitled, on DVD in the U.S.
Late 21st-century Earth is united into a single Earth Federal Government, but overpopulation and an exhaustion of natural resources have led to the establishment of domed Moon colonies to mine it for critical minerals. The largest is Monopolis, on the dark side of the Moon. Over the years the Earth Government has become more dictatorial, treating the Lunarians as slaves, and as the Lunarians grow from Earth colonists to a third generation born there, the Lunarians grow to resent being governed from Earth. A rebel group arose among the Lunarians seven years ago, led by Tatsuya Nonomura. When rebel terrorists destroyed the end-of-the-line Bartholomew subway station, they were crushed by the Public Safety forces, and Tatsuya was sent to life in prison on Saturn.
In addition, a mysterious artefact has been found resembling a huge face gazing at the stars. It may be just the surface of something huge buried underground. This artefact, named Dallos, has been adopted by the Lunarians as their symbol, and is considered almost a god who will awaken someday to save them.
This is background. Dallos begins at the Monopolis airport where a local shuttle is landing. The revived rebel underground led by 36-year-old second-generation Lunarian “Dog” McCoy, Tatsuya’s former lieutenant, and four men plan to enter Monopolis with the passengers. But EFG police are alerted for them. They close in on their Debugger aerial patrol cars with guns and attack dogs to arrest them, but McCoy and his guerillas have already fled. They escape to the ruins of the subway’s Bartholomew station, where Alex Leiger, the new EFG military governor/police Commander, is waiting for them with his Doberman Geronimo. He single-handedly defeats the rebels, and chews out the police when they arrive. But the captured rebels do not include McCoy.
In the nearby Level 3 residential neighborhood for the 500,000 third-generation Lunarians, teen Shun Nonomura is on his parents’ roof tinkering with a mining robot’s mechanical arm, with his girlfriend Rachel, bored, with him. Shun is the younger brother of Tatsuya, but he is apolitical himself. One of the police’s dogs attacks them, forcing Shun to kill it with the robot arm. The reason for the dog’s attack is that McCoy, who the dog was tracking, is hiding nearby. He thanks Shun for helping him and disappears to the rebels’ base, taking the dog’s corpse to protect Shun (and for the rebels’ dinner).
The next day Shun, his father Taizo with his mother, his Grandfather (a first-generation Lunarian), and Rachel go to Level 3’s park. Shun and Rachel decide to go to the spaceport to see the Earth spaceship land. It arrives with Leiger’s fiancée, Melinda Hurst. They have hardly reunited after a year apart when one of the guerillas in the crowd throws some scrap metal at them. Leiger orders the police into the crowd to make lots of arrests. In the confusion Shun and Rachel are separated, and Shun is arrested as a rebel.
As Melinda and Leiger leave, she tells him that her father (later identified as the EFG’s #2 executive) has become worried about his growing reputation for governing cruelly. Leiger is pleased, and tells Melinda that if he didn’t make the Lunarians work hard, Earth wouldn’t get the minerals that it needs.
Shun is taken before Leiger, confident that he can prove he is not with the underground. Instead, Leiger tells Shun that no mistake has been made. Since Shun is the younger brother of Tatsuya, and Tatsuya was the previous leader of the underground, Shun is assumed to be the new leader of the underground. He is imprisoned in the same cell as the four guerillas arrested by Leiger the day before.
They do not stay arrested for long. McCoy breaks into their cell using a mining robot’s arm, giving Shun the credit for showing how to turn the Lunarians’ mining tools into weapons. McCoy takes Shun home, telling him that the rebels were innocent of the destruction of the Bartholomew subway station. It was really carried out by the EFG Public Safety, as an excuse to break up the underground and imprison Tatsuya. That is why they will never trust the EFG or forget Bartholomew.
Leiger takes Melinda for a tour of the mining camp. Melinda notices Dallos near the mining camp, and Leiger contemptously explains that the Lunarians have built a religion around it and worship it as a god. Maybe Earth’s scientists built it before the first Lunarians arrived to begin mining; he doesn’t consider its origins important. Leiger’s shuttle has barely landed when McCoy and his men attack it with mining mecha, tearing it open. Leiger and Melinda flee outside, but they are separated by an explosion and Melinda is taken hostage.
There is a battle with again the police attacking innocent miners as well as the rebels. Shun, who is one of the miners, destroys a police Debugger in self-defense. This further gets him noticed favorably by McCoy.
Part 2, “The Order to Destroy Dallos”, begins with a battle between the police and the guerillas in which the police mistreat all bystanders. In an emergency meeting of the EFG Governance Bureau in Monopolis, Leiger continues to insist that the growing rebellion must only be met by greater force. Vice-Consul Caterina protests that Leiger’s and the police’s increasing brutality is only turning the majority of the Lunarians’ neutrality into active rebellion, which is obviously what the underground wants. Some members of the police are seen agreeing, complaining that they are stuck on the Moon while Leiger can give orders putting them into danger while he goes home to Earth. The Consul General is blandly neutral. But as long as Leiger is the military governor and Commander of the police, there is nothing they can do, even when Leiger orders Dallos destroyed to crush the Lunarians’ spirit.
McCoy and his second-in-command Max visit Melinda, telling her that they just want equality with the Earthmen instead of being treated like slaves. Shun has by now become a de facto member of the underground, spending most of his time with them. Rachel berates him for joining them, whether he admits it to himself or not.
More heavy-handed actions by the police spark growing unrest among the Lunarians. The Governance Bureau urges Leiger more strongly to negotiate a truce, which he refuses outright. McCoy goes to prepare the underground’s defense, leaving Shun to guard Melinda. He asks her to tell him about Earth. As the rebels prepare to fight, word comes that the destroyed Dallos is repairing itself.
Leiger attacks the underground with “moon dogs”; the police’s attack dogs turned into glowing red-eyed cyborg dogs. Leiger even has his own Geronimo converted into a cyborg. (These may be taken as a forerunner of Oshii’s The Red Spectacles (1987), StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991) and the Oshii-written Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999). The attack is successful in capturing the rebels’ weapons-manufacturing factory, but the rebels escape with their hostage. Leiger finds a leather strip with Shun’s name.
Knowing that Rachel is Shun’s girlfriend, Leiger approaches her in the park the next day without identifying himself; just as a tourist from Earth. He asks her basic questions about the Lunarians’ life. He learns nothing useful, until he asks what motivates them to work so hard. When she says, “Dallos!”, he realizes that Dallos must be where the underground escaped to. That night Leiger leads a massive police attack on Dallos, finding that it has even supplied the underground with a base with a breathable atmosphere. But when the battle starts to destroy everything, Dallos begins to actively defend itself against both sides, establishing beyond doubt that its builders were aliens. Shun’s Grandfather, who has been neutral until now, leads Rachel through underground passages to meet Shun. They meet him as he is escaping with Melinda from the battle. The underground passage’s collapse buries them all.
Parts #3 & #4, “The Uprising in the Sea of Nostalgia”. (A new character, Erna, a tough woman guerilla, is introduced.) The next morning Rachel collects medicine for Shun’s Grandfather, who has been seriously injured. Melinda urges her and Shun to take him to Monopolis’ Central Medical Facility where she promises that Leiger will protect him. The others consider her naïve where Leiger is concerned. The Governance Bureau makes one more attempt to get Leiger to negotiate with the underground, but when Leiger reveals that he has asked Earth to send the Army (but it will only send one battalion), Vice-Council Caterina begins to plot to have him replaced or killed. He assures the director of Public Safety that he will have the backing of Loran Hurst, Melinda’s father, who is about to become the new head of the EFG.
A tremendous explosion destroys Monopolis’ residential area, killing Shun’s mother and Rachel’s father. Even though there is doubt as to who or what caused it, a Lunarian mob blames the authorities and revolts. Rachel joins McCoy’s rebels. The Lunarian miners call a general strike, meaning that the ore for Earth is cut off. Leiger leads an all-out attack against the underground, and appears about to win when Dallos destroys both groups. Shun carries Leiger to safety. Melinda finally convinces Leiger to leave everything to the Earth authorities.
Shun convinces Leiger to relax the law forbidding Lunarians to travel to the side of the Moon facing Earth, so his dying Grandfather can see the Sea of Nostalgia one last time. Shun finds the Sea of Nostalgia one vast graveyard of first-generation Lunarians; Shun’s Grandfather’s comrades. Shun is also very impressed by the sight of the blue Earth. But the OAV ends with a broadcast from the EFG on Earth that the Lunarians’ “disorder” stopping the mining will not be tolerated.
Presumably the original plans for a Dallos TV series would have carried the story further. The OAV’s closing credits seemed to show scenes for a next episode, including Shun fully joining McCoy’s guerillas, and the face of Dallos “waking up”.
On the whole, Dallos was good dramatic s-f anime for its time. Errors or implausibilities that bothered me were the supposed lack of interest in discovering Dallos’ origins during the previous fifty years; having none of the guerillas realize the weapons potential of the mining equipment until Shun accidentally points it out to them; the huge size of the Lunarian miners – 500,000 on Level 3 alone?; the prison “on Saturn” (the planet was known since the 1950s to be a frozen gas/liquid giant without a solid surface); and the ever-popular loud explosions in the vacuum of space.
Next week: “Forgotten” OAVs #44: COSMOS PINK SHOCK (1986)