Join us for our Pilgrimage to Mecha – where I go back in time and catch up on some of the classics and hidden gems of the mecha genre. Whether it was before my time or I simply missed out on them, it’s time for me to watch them and let you know why you should too!
This time, I share my thoughts on two different takes on the Masamune Shirow classic: Dominion Tank Police
Dominion Tank Police
OVA (4 Episodes)
Directed by Koichi Mashimo
New Dominion Tank Police
OVA (6 Episodes)
Directed by Norubu Furuse
Set in the distant future, Earth is a heavily polluted dystopia, where people must wear oxygen masks while outdoors. In Newport City, crime runs rampant as gangs, cyborgs, and corrupt businesses run freely in the streets. It’s gotten so bad that the police are forced to respond in kind, equipping themselves with armored tanks capable of fighting the militarized criminals on even ground. Leona Ozaki is a young female officer in the Tank Police. Rambunctious and passionate about tanks, she and her miniature tank, Bonaparte, take a stand against the escalating crimes that plague her city.
I thoroughly enjoyed both adaptations of the Masamune Shirow manga, but I’m also the resident cyberpunk fanboy who eagerly awaits our corporate ruled wild west internet hellscape rife with cyborgs and rad retro-synth, so take my word with a grain of salt. In all seriousness, there’s not a whole ton to say about Dominion Tank Police, in either renditions. That’s not a knock against it, but compared to Ghost in the Shell, Dominion Tank Police is a fair bit more style than substance. The 1988 OVA is almost a parody of 80s era sci-fi anime OVAs, with the first half being a silly energetic romp through a crappy dystopia, only for the second half to be a bizarrely introspective social piece with its own 80s era sci-fi anime ambiguous ending.
As for the 1993 take, it’s both a lighter and darker take on the property, with some more familiarly lighthearted “anime” moments accompanied by some rather hamfisted 90s-era anime pathos. That said, I rather enjoyed the change of pace from the 1988 OVA. A different setting and some revised characterization helps keep things fresh, giving the 1993 OVA its own distinct flavor.
Leona Ozaki herself may end up being one of my favorite 80s girls of all time, rivaling Noriko and Noa. I think I prefer her 1988 rendition, if just because it has a little more of that 80s spunky attitude compared to the 1993 version, which leans a bit too hard on the hot-tempered side. Besides, there’s something to be said about a cute anime girl loudly declaring the importance of a fascist police state while pulling a gun on the mayor.
Bonaparte is a character in and of itself. You can see where Metal Slug got its inspiration for its own iconic tanks. Bonaparte contributes to my admiration of Shirow in his prime as a mechanical designer. A miniature tank shouldn’t seem that intimidating, capable, or engaging, but it’s a testament to Shirow’s skills that it ends up being such a unique and iconic design. Seriously, we could use more minitanks in media.
Overall, Dominion Tank Police is the kind of adaptation of Shirow’s work that ends up being a more faithful take on the man’s creations, at least compared to the starkly different Oshii adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. It’s a fast paced and irreverent piece that has fun with its setting, anime police brutality included. Unlike Ghost in the Shell, there’s really nothing in it that will make you ask yourself questions, but it’s hell of a ride all the same.
Why You Should Watch
Both Dominion Tank Police OVAs end up being apt summations of their respective eras. As I mentioned earlier, the first OVA is almost a parody of 80s anime OVAs. The way it follows the exact expected beats result in almost unintentional hilarity. As for the second OVA, the way it rapidly switches between 90s-era facial exaggeration and weirdly personal tragedy, all interspersed with rad action setpieces, makes it one of the better representatives of what an interesting time the 90s was for anime.
Overall, I can’t really claim Dominion Tank Police is required watching for general mecha fans. It has some entertaining characters and some particularly striking visual design going for it, but I’d be hard pressed to point anything out about it that puts it truly above and beyond its peers. Where it really shines is its sheer competence at its given niche. It’s fluff, but it’s really well executed fluff. It’s the kind of anime that’s actually hard to find these days. That being something inoffensively entertaining in a way that doesn’t insult your intelligence or leave you wondering what the creators were thinking. For that, it earns a place in my heart. If you love cyberpunk and spunky female heroines as much as I do, I think it’ll earn a place in yours too.