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Dominion Tank Police

There were a number of manga artists to rise to prominence in the 1980s, each with their own unique style. One of these people was Shirou Masamune. He turned some heads with Black Magic M-66 and further cemented his career with Appleseed and Dominion before reaching legend status with Ghost in the Shell. Today we’ll be taking a look at the first series of OVA based on his Dominion series, which focused on the tank division of the fictional Newport police department. Yes. They were a tank division.

Like most of Masamune’s works, Dominion Tank Police takes place in a cyberpunk setting. In this case, it’s the near future and criminals have become much better armed. In order to combat this, law enforcement felt it necessary to do the same. As such, the tank police was formed. Unfortunately, almost everyone in the unit are rowdy and trigger happy, looking for a fight. The result is that much of the city constantly gets damaged much to the chagrin of the mayor and the chief of police. Nonetheless, these cops get results and have managed to avoid having their division mothballed despite regular public protests.

The story of the OVA focuses on the newest member of the tank police, Leona Ozaki. She just transferred in from the motorcycle division and isn’t used to the macho nature of the tank police at first, but before long is right there with them ready to shoot anything that moves. She’s joined by her commanding officer, Charles Brenten, her tank co-pilot, Al, the analytical Megane, and the highly religious Shinpu. Leona gets the vast majority of screen time, so she receives a lot of character development. He squadmates, however, are very archetypal. People like Megane and Shinpu aren’t around much, so viewers will hardly notice this with them. Brenten, on the other hand is a typical hothead police captain common to police dramas in the 70s and 80s, but with his personality cranked up to eleven. If anything, he provides much of the comic relief to the show with how gung ho he is about blasting things with his tank. Al, meanwhile, gets a bit of attention largely because he kind of likes Leona, but never really gets the chance to tell her.

Of course, one can’t have much of a crime series without some criminals. There are a trio of crooks working together that take up all of the tank police’s time in this series. First there are the Puma Twins, a pair of sexy cat girls that like stealing things to make a living. They aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they’re usually good for a laugh thanks to their banter. Then there is Buaku, who is in charge. This isn’t to say he’s a criminal mastermind, he’s usually taking jobs from others, but he’s certainly brighter than the twins. At first, he comes off a bit flat, but the second half of the series does a lot to explain his origins, suddenly making him a very sympathetic character.

Unfortunately, the series ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, suggesting something very important was about to happen with Buaku, but then the show ends and it’s never resolved, not even in the following set of OVAs. It leaves viewers having to track down the manga if they want to know what happened next.

The story makes for a fun time in how over-the-top violent it is. This isn't to say that it's graphic like Ninja Scrolls or Mad Bull 34 because that is definitely not the case. In contrast to those shows, Dominion Tank Police goes for comedic effect in how it portrays a silly future where the police are ridiculously well-armed. What's also nice is that the show doesn't beat a dead horse with these sort of gags. They're well balanced with other events such that it doesn't feel like Dominion is just an excuse for wantan destruction.

One thing that really stands out in Dominion is the art. Masamune has done a lot of cyberpunk themed manga over the years, but Dominion always felt a little bit different. His world is as dark and dirty as ever with oppressive smog, exposed pipe and wires, and neon as far as the eye can see. What makes things feel different are the building designs. Yes, there are skyscrapers everywhere in Newport, but they look much more rounded with rough concrete exteriors. Rather than being smooth, glass structures, as is common in the genre, the buildings here look like they were made of natural stone, weathered by the elements for centuries. It’s very unique. Even the character designs feel a little different from other shows of the 80s. Leona and some of her fellow tank police have a shorter, stalkier look to them compared to the tall, thin, sleek look a lot of characters in anime tended to get. There’s a ruddiness to them that is refreshing to see. Not everyone is like this. The Puma Twins go for traditional maximum anime sexiness, Brenten is your typical, tall, muscular commander. However, people like Leona, Al, and Shinpu have a look to them that is ever so slightly different yet appealing.

It’s also worth noting that the show’s soundtrack is quite good. Much of the music is by Yoichiro Yoshikawa who is known for creating very eclectic works. True to many of his other musical endeavours over the years, Dominion’s soundtrack is a mix of orchestral, electronic, jazz, and rock, often times with the genres overlapping and blending together. It works really well to set the tone for a lot of what’s going on and captures a subset of music that did show up from time to time in anime from the 80s and 90s, creating an otherworldly feeling while watching these shows.

People looking for a fun action comedy in a cyberpunk setting would do well to check out Dominion Tank Police. It’s silly and bombastic with how over the top the characters are with their zeal to fight crime and make Newport a safe place to live for its citizens (assuming one isn't too close to where the tank police are working). Between the story, its characters, the art, and the music the show has a lot going for it, making this series of OVAs a must-watch for those interested in anime from the 1980s.

- IroIro
May 7, 2019

More Crime Fighting Anime We've Discussed:

- Wild 7 Review
- Debutante Detective Corp Review
- Tokyo Babylon Review

Directed by: Kouichi Mashimo
Studio: Agent 21
Released: 1988 / 1989
Episodes: 4

Dominion Tank Police Image 1
VHS Cover

Dominion Tank Police Image 2
Leona riding Bonaparte

Dominion Tank Police Image 3
The Puma Twins with Buaku

Dominion Tank Police Image 4
The tanks have an interesting design

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Brenten stuffing his face

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Dominion Tank Police has very unique architecture