Case Number 03816


Manga Video // 1993 // 180 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // January 10th, 2004

The Charge

Rock on, police dudes!

Opening Statement

Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell is a dark, ponderous, and complex exploration of the nature of being. It features a sensation-seeking cyborg experiencing a crisis of self, set against coked-up criminals, rogue artificial intelligence, and corrupt corporations. Ghost in the Shell's stark brutality is offset by its philosophical meanderings through bio-computer consciousness. After watching this seminal anime, you may wonder whether Masamune Shirow has any sense of humor. His madcap manga New Dominion Tank Police puts that question to rest. This breezy cop show leaves the gate at full throttle and barely pauses its assault of quirky humor, over-the-top action, and zealous cops.

Facts of the Case

The city of New Port is besieged by hyperactive criminals, malicious cyborgs, and corrupt military contractors. The usual police tactics aren't up to task, so a special force of gung-ho cops are given tanks and set loose upon the city. Now citizens have to beware the criminals and the cops! The worst offender in this brigade of mayhem is Leona Ozeki, squad leader and co-pilot of the mini-tank Bonaparte. She bulldozes through walls, regulations, and common sense in hot-blooded pursuit of justice.

The Evidence

New Dominion Tank Police doesn't spend much time on subtlety. Leona spies a conflict, steam rises from her ears, and she barges ahead full throttle until the conflict is resolved. Her geeky teammate Four Eyes spies a new technology, his eyes bulge out, and he hacks away at the computer until he has reverse engineered it. The mayor spies a political snafu, sighs, and urges diplomacy from the bullheaded Tank Police. Plot and character both are straightforward.

This lack of nuance puts New Dominion Tank Police firmly into the cop show genre (Miami Vice with tanks instead of Ferraris). There are no morphing beings with squiggly tentacles, no luminous entities bent on world annihilation. There are gruff cops led by a hardnosed chief working hand in hand with the mayor. There are blue-collar hoods coked up on juice and raining bullets into the streets. Then there are white-collar criminals with no morals and millions on the line. All of the standbys of police drama are here: mismatched partners, the insubordinate hot shot, the scene where a frustrated cop turns in gun and badge and sets off alone.

Its gritty bent is the strength and the undoing of New Dominion Tank Police. On one hand, I appreciate the dedicated focus on the cop genre. Shirow gives cop clichés an anime twist, which puts us in a familiar framework. New Dominion Tank Police lacks the headache-inducing mental gymnastics inherent in some anime, so we can sit back and just enjoy the show.

On the other hand, the realism is poorly integrated with the madcap humor and heavy metal ethic that color the show. I can hardly count the times where a scene began with clever detective work and degenerated into zaniness (such as a frantic chase a lá Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote). Perhaps I'm too literal, but I have trouble when a character establishes personality traits then disregards them. For example, Leona is supposed to be an ambitious and smart cop. Why, then, does she constantly ignore logical warnings and barge in without backup? Or why does she cleverly nab wily criminals, then ignore them until they find a way to escape? Why does she meet every fingerprint on Bonaparte with jealous rage, then steer the poor tank through walls unnecessarily? Intelligence rarely oscillates so rapidly.

Most of the episodes conclude with deus ex machinas. In one instance, the sharpshooter has to make one key but difficult shot to save the city. Hmmm...will he hit the target? How about the powerful new tank that molests the city and mows down cops left and you think that when Four Eyes scans the schematics, a weak spot will emerge at the last minute? "Of course! We can simply {action} the {technical sounding enemy tank part} while we {diversionary police action}!"

If you don't mind such details, you'll probably enjoy New Dominion Tank Police. It achieves the elusive balance between action, character development, humor, and tension. There are few dead spots in the story. Anime is subjective, but New Dominion Tank Police has a sizeable following of dedicated fans.

The image quality is workmanlike, clean but unimpressive. The colors are stable but not saturated. In other words, you'll be able to guess the vintage of New Dominion Tank Police with a quick glance. It isn't yellowish like many '70s and '80s anime, but it isn't eye-poppingly vivid like recent shows either. There were many artistic moments in the series, particularly the episode intro with patrols during fog.

New Dominion Tank Police is one of the rare instances where the English voice actors sound better than the original Japanese cast. In most anime with Japanese 2.0 versus English 5.1 tracks, I try to balance the reward of the surround experience against maintaining the authenticity of the original cast when deciding which track to favor. In this case, the 5.1 effects are actually rather anemic, and give no real advantage. But the cop show stereotypes are so Americanized that the American voices fit better. The blonde haired partner, the stubble-faced macho cop with a hand cannon, even the grizzled chief in his polyester shirt are so typical of American cop shows that the Japanese voice cast seemed out of place in comparison to the American voice actors. Blasphemy, I know.

Manga has provided that most vital of anime extras, which is a brief bio on each character. This is often necessary to simply understand what the hell is going on. In this case, the Tank Police Files were hardly necessary, but I appreciate the explanation nonetheless. It is, however, the lone extra.

Closing Statement

If I hadn't seen ten years of intervening cop shows between New Dominion Tank Police's debut and today, the show might seem fresher. When you throw in the heavy metal soundtrack and other dated details, New Dominion Tank Police is a show that worked much better in the early '90s than it does today. I was a metal head in my youth; perhaps my viewing was tainted with flashbacks of high school.

The Verdict

You should know by now that the court rarely charges police officers.

Review content copyright © 2004 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 78
Audio: 75
Extras: 45
Acting: 80
Story: 68
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: Manga Video
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)

* English

Running Time: 180 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Tank Police Files

* IMDb