animefringe october 2003 / reviews

Dominion Tank Police
Format: Bilingual DVD / 160 min. / 4 eps.
Production: US Manga Corps. / Masamune Shirow
Comments: Tank you!
Animefringe Reviews:
Dominion Tank Police

One of the more recent releases from US Manga Corps. also happens to be...well...an old release. From those anime fans out there who saw this for the first time on the Sci-Fi channel's Saturday Anime program, this is indeed a blast from the past. I haven't seen it in years, and before getting this on DVD I'd never heard the Japanese language track, so I was pretty excited when my happy package arrived in the mail. Though it's a bit dated and though the plot advances in a bit of a jumpy manner, this is still the Tank Police I know and love.

Before we get going too far, think about this. You're sitting in yet another traffic jam, waiting to get home, all because the pea-brained individuals in front of you lack the skill of maneuvering their silly cars at a respectable speed. Or perhaps you're in a serious rush to get somewhere, but there's no direct way to arrive at your destination, and you're essentially doomed to be late.

Maybe you'd just like to fire artillery at something.

In the future, all of these problems will be solved. And the solution, my friends, weighs a few tons and has a cannon attached to it.

Dominion Tank Police is Masamune Shirow's vision of an absurd, yet almost eerily believable potential future. The weapons criminals use to commit their crimes keeps getting more and more destructive, and it's up to the Tank Police to keep those destructive elements in check. It takes a special kind of team to operate tanks, and the characters for this series are nothing if not special.

The series can be extremely funny, especially when listening to the justification for maintaining the Tank Police. We're told that in Newport City (the setting for this tale), a crime occurs every 36 seconds. It's up to the Tank Police to make darn sure that doesn't become every 35. I especially like it when they say, "If you want peace, give us more tanks!"

Of course, this is a Masamune Shirow work, and subsequently it's easy to ignore the fully-realized science fiction world he's created to put his outlandish story into. Newport City is filled with a noxious gas that prevents its inhabitants from going out without the aid of gas masks. Underneath all of the bizarre events, there's a story about the essence of humanity and what constitutes a soul, though many people may be too distracted by the tanks tearing up the streets, causing millions of dollars of collateral damage wherever they travel.

The story is told from the eyes of Leona Ozaki, a new recruit to the armored tank division of the police department. Of course, she quickly becomes a tank addict and finds her first true love after she constructs it. Bonaparte, the affectionate name she bestowed upon her mini-tank, becomes just as pivotal a character as the alluring feline criminal duo, Annapuma and Unipuma.

Add all of these elements - a spunky main character, an overdose of destructive power, two lovely lawbreaking cat-ladies, an interesting sci-fi storyline - and toss in some unmistakably penis-shaped anti-tank pressure-sensitive land mines, and you have a uniquely entertaining show. It's true that it is a sometimes-disorienting mixed bag, with traces of romance, comedy, drama, and action as well, but it is really a one-of-a-kind series, and I can endure such confusion for Masamune Shirow.

For an older OVA, Tank Police looks much better than I expected. The colors are vibrant even if the video is a bit shaky, and the hand-drawn animation is still impressive to this day. Shirow is known for his intricate depiction of machinery, and Tank Police will not leave anyone dissatisfied in that respect. As I hinted above, the mechanical aspects of the series are given just as much care as the characters, and the devotion to detail is impressively apparent.

On the technical side of things, I do wish that we were given the option to skip the ending and opening themes. While there are chapter stops, they're more in the middle of each episode rather than at each potential stopping point the average viewer may wish to take advantage of. This can be annoying if you start watching an episode in the middle because you can't tell that you passed the entire first half.

Oh, and for the record? I'm tired of that US Manga logo. It's time to make it super-skippable or get a new one. I vote for super-skippable.

Overall, this is a classic anime release that may not appeal to all, but one that I found highly enjoyable. It taught me quite a few life lessons, the least useful of which being that you can easily make a suspected criminal confess if you tie him up and gag him with a grenade and then roll other live grenades at him.

I've become a better man after watching it, you see.

At the low MSRP of $19.99, this nice, long, OVA series is just enough to hold us over until the imminent release of the New Dominion Tank Police DVD. Good thing I've already preordered it! Give this one a chance, though, and you'll find it has a bit more depth than the scantily clad criminals on the case's cover. I promise!