Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure
High school student Kazuki Yotsuga is an ordinary boy with one notable exception - he can see into a parallel world different from our own, seeing mecha right before his eyes. This attracts the attention of the beautiful Mitsuki Sanada, the most popular girl in his school. She introduces him to her eccentric father, who ends up transporting Kazuki to the other world he's been seeing as a result of his daughter's accidental action. In this world he's a stranger to his own family, and eventually ends up staying with Mitsuki and her "father" (who is not related to her in this world and serves as a commander).
Soon enough, Kazuki finds out that he can pilot a mecha, an ability usually reserved for girls. Soon he meets Yayoi, a woman whose life he saves during his first mission as a pilot of a mecha. He also meets D, an intelligent, quiet bioroid who often is seen with Kazuki. Soon he also re-mees up with Mitsuki, the only other person other than himself from his original world.
Kazuki, Mitsuki, and D now must work together to take out the evil Rara family, who want to take over the parallel world. Because if Kazuki and Mitsuki want to get back to their own world, they'll have to fight to do so.
Neon Genesis Evangelion was very big in Japan in the late 1990's / early 2000's. Though far from a rating success in its original run on T.V., word-of-mouth and U.S. sales helped propel the series to popularity that wouldn't be equaled for quite some time. Soon after, nearly every major Japanese animation company made their own "response" to Evangelion over the following years.
Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure is made by AIC, the company best known for Tenchi Muyo! and El Hazard, and even features many of the staff members of those series. But despite a similar group of archetypes to Evangelion (Kazuki = Shinji, Mitsuki = Asuka, D = Rei, and Yayoi = Misato), Dual! (as I will call this series for the rest of this review) manages to be far more worth my while than the often depressing angst-fest that practically ruined Evangelion for me.
Archetypes aside, though, this show couldn't be any less like Evangelion. For one, it always keep moving - with the possible exception of episode 5, there is no filler in this series. Dual! has only 13 episodes to tell its story, and it wastes little time in doing so. One episode of special mentioning is episode 8, which starts out with a shocking reveal that turns the series completely upside down.
Although the parallel world is in trouble by enemy attacks, most people live ordinary lives just like anyone else. (Even the villains, as we learn in episode 8.) It just happens to also be a world with occasionally destroyed buildings and frequent robot fights, is all. This might in part to the series director being Katsuhito Akiyama, who also directed the magical girl parody Magical Project S (which, believe it or not, could pull drama when the need arised). He manages to bring to us a world that's neither a cheerful wonderland or an apocalyptic mess. The mecha are a prevailing factor in the series, but are not the central focus until the final episode. In fact, a sizable chunk of the series is spent outside of battle, giving the time to flesh out its characters instead. And while the designs aren't as interesting as 'Gundam or even 'Evangelion, they're not bad, and move fairly fluently. Dual! is also mercifully sparse on angst until its final quarter - Kazuki's reactions to the world around him, and his getting scared by it, seem perfectly normal given the circumstances. Heck, if I was transported to a world where not even my own parents knew who I was, I'd freak out, too!
Dual! initially starts with a small cast - Kazuki, Mitsuki, and her father Ken. The cast soon expands, though. First we meet Yayoi, whom Kazuki saves early in the series' run. She soon after returns as his homeroom teacher, as well as a sort of parental figure of sorts for him, Mitsuki, and D, the quiet, deadpan bioroid. Unlike Rei Ayanami in Evangelion, though, D has actual character interaction, plus she actually talks and provides an actual role in the series. Mitsuki's father, Ken, is the same in both worlds - an eccentric, weird guy who cares for the people around him, as well as an inventor. Soon enough all these characters live under (or next door, in Yayoi's case) to each other, much to Mitsuki's chagrin. Overall, I quite like the cast of Dual!. Kazuki is a bit of a whiner, but he does grow as a person later. D could've been window dressing, but she has her own motivations and worries as well underneath her stoic expression. Even the "bad guys" aren't as flat and two-dimensional as they at first seem. There is ONE exception, though - the main heroine.
Unfortunately, I now have to talk about the one thing I really disliked about Dual! - Mitsuki. My main beef with her is that the writers couldn't decide whether they wanted to make her Kazuki's friend, love interest, or both. Initially tolerable, her character soon mutates into one who gets jealous and bitchy at the drop of a hat, belittling Kazuki for no reason other than the fact that she can do so and that he can't fight back. Probably her greatest moment is her trying to get rid of Yayoi by forcing her into a marriage interview without her consent, all for the sole purpose of getting her to not be around Kazuki every morning. The catch though is that Kazuki, D, and Mitsuki herself also also fighting enemy mecha not far outside of her marriage interview, so our stubborn tsundere tries with all her power to prevent the enemy from coming near the area where Yayoi is having her marriage ceremony, lest it be called off. Kazuki and D pretend to slip up for Yayoi's sake...but Kazuka is then punished by both Mitsuki and Yayoi, forced to go without food while everyone eats dinner in front of his face. What the hell? And later in the series, when Kazuki meets a new girl later on - one who, unlike Mitsuki, is actually nice to Kazuki - Mitsuku's jealousy of the girl nearly results in Kazuki getting killed!
Aside from Mitsuki, the only other character I didn't care for was the mother of the Rara family, who later becomes your stereotypical baddie who manipulates her own child against her will.
Dual! came out in 1999, a time when anime was slowly leaving hand-colored animation behind, but before most switched to digital coloring. While most of the series is colored by hand, some scenes (such as Kazuki starting up his robot) are done with digital coloring. The effect should look good, but the sharp contrast in coloring makes it feel out of place instead. Not that the show has aged bad, mind you - the character designs are appealing enough, and the animation budget holds up the slack for the times that it needs to.
A look at the credits will also reveal the names of quite a few voice actresses who are now big names, here in their early 20's. We have Rie Tanaka (Chobits, Azumanga Daioh) as Mitsuki, Megumi Toyoguchi (Full Metal Alchemist, Bamboo Blade) as Rara, and Chie Nakamura (Naruto) as Yayoi. I don't know if this is their best work, but they all do a good job despite their young age. The rest of the voice cast do a great job as well. Even the usually gruff-sounding Kenichi Ogata (Genma Saotome, Ranma 1/2) sounds a little more loose and relaxed, making his dialogue as the invading, somewhat comedic commander that much more fun.
So overall I quite like Dual!. It's ironic for a series that takes quite a few of its ideas from Neon Genesis Evangelion, it is far superior to that series, managing to tell a well-rounded, entertaining story with great characters, good art, and a satisfying ending in a mere 13 episodes. I recommend checking it out even if you don't fancy mecha anime. I sure don't, and I quite like it.
Masaki Kajishima's first (and only) mecha series turns out to be a great one, managing to tell a whole story in a mere 13 episodes. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Kazuki, Mitsuki, and D pilot robots, so of course you expect violence (more so in the final episodes). And due to the large female cast, fan service isn't uncommon, either. Teenagers and up.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Dual! Parallel Trouble Adventure © 1999 AIC / PIONEER LDC
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