Tanks for the Simulwatch: Dominion Tank Police! [Act 10 - 07/10]

Professor Irony

Cursed Image
Moderator
Reminder for everyone interested in taking part that the simulwatch for Dominion Tank Police and New Dominion Tank Police will start tomorrow, 27/9.

Dominion_Club_13.jpg

"You haven't forgotten the routine, have you?"


Released in 1988, Dominion Tank Police is an anarchic sci-fi comedy about an armoured police unit set up to deal with spiraling urban crime. A prequel to Masamune Shirow's 1986 manga of the same name, the series follows former motorcycle cop Leona Ozaki as she is transferred into the 'Tank Police', a gung-ho squad of oddballs and misfits established to combat the ever escalating threat of heavily armed criminals roaming the streets of Newport City (no, not the Welsh one), but especially the puckish stick-up king, Buaku. Set in a possibly post-apocalyptic future, where pollution levels are lethal and the sun is never seen, can Leona carve out a place for herself in this macho climate of ever-present danger?

One thing I should mention before we start is that the English audio track replaces a fair bit of the music for the series and, as a result, I think changes the tone of it somewhat. Personally, I don't think this hurts the show, but your mileage may vary and I'll be interested to see what version(s) everyone decides to go for.
 

Neil.T

Guild Member
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I'm all locked and loaded and ready for the start of the simulwatch. 👍
(Or, if you prefer President Trump's own individual version of that common piece of military parlance, "cocked and loaded". But that doesn't really come into play until Act II of this series. 😛)

Also, I love the thread title. 😆👍
 

ayase

State Alchemist
I've got in early with this one, I started watching already. I'll be watching Japanese rips since it's not practical for me to go and get my old English dub DVDs, but I do have a real soft spot for the old dub and its music. Potential Act II spoiler: "He's trying to take the piss again!" has to be one of the best dub lines ever - An accurate translation (one of few in this particular dub, I imagine) that actually becomes a joke in English.

Anyone feeling masochistic enough to round it out with Tank SWAT 01 at the end?

(Or, if you prefer President Trump's own individual version of that common piece of military parlance, "cocked and loaded". But that doesn't really come into play until Act II of this series.
I dunno, there's Ana & Uni's striptease in Act I.
 
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ayase

State Alchemist
It's the 27th, right?

Act I

So after the unusual scene-setting prologue composed of what I can only imagine is cels xeroxed from photographs and then painted over (very original in any case) we open with... HOT DANCE IN CHERRY MOON. This still feels so odd compared to TANK POLICE! FEEL THE POWER THAT WE GOT. Yes, the Japanese track is clearly much better choreographed to the visuals and ordinarily, I'd love how '80s it all is. But it just... I dunno, it doesn't feel very Dominion. It would have felt more at home in Dirty Pair, if that makes any sense.

Even in the first establishing shots of the Mushroom Kingdom Newport City, I remember how much I love Dominion's contrast-y nature, with its perpetual darkness and sharp shadows and highlights. It's not a look that gets much of a look-in any more, which is a shame. Along with the alien city and the general style, there's a lot of nice little visual moments that I paid more attention to this time, like Brenten's floating fag end and the Pumas' frame-by frame changing expressions in the muzzle flash when they're firing their guns.

As an establishing episode, I don't feel there's really as much to say about the plot itself. It does its job well in establishing all the characters and their personalities, though they're all fairly straightforward folks to understand. But all entertaining to watch nonetheless. Particularly Brenten, who completely steals the show in this episode. I think I chuckled most this time at the pile of claims passing down through the ranks, how very true.

You can definitely see the seeds of a lot of the stuff Shirow would later develop into GitS in Dominion, albeit in a cruder, more comical form. The partial cyborgs, the mysterious plot elements eventually leading to grand conspiracies, the insectoid tanks (though I'm not sure he did another Ohmu inspired one)... Despite being on opposite sides of the law Buaku definitely has something of the Batou about him, and the doc at the clinic even has the air of a more flustered Aramaki. Even the city bears the same name. My Shirowledge isn't the vastest, so it would be interesting to know if they were ever meant to be more closely related (is it possible Dominion's Newport could be the future of GitS' Newport? I haven't read either manga for a very long time). It's a shame he's no longer writing manga, preferring to entertain himself with his greasy gals. Not that I blame him, if I could draw like he can so would I, probably.

Then there's the Patlabor coincidences(?) we've briefly touched on before. You could pretty much cut and paste Leona and Al and Noa and Asuma and nothing would change in either series, and the Tank Police itself is basically what the SV2 would become if it had the misfortune to be led by Ota.

The English ED track has confounded me before with what exactly it reminds me of. Is it a bit reminiscent of Annie Lennox? Sinead O'Connor? Both were at the peak of their careers in the early '90s era the dub was created in, so it's entirely possible the influences were there. At any rate, it's greatly relaxing and is quite a nice wind-down from the frantic capers of the Tank Police. The Japanese track is quite a bit lighter and bouncier and while I'm more accepting of it than the Japanese OP, once again I think heretically, the English ED is my preferred option.
 

Neil.T

Guild Member
Act I

@ayase's covered the main points here really well already, including the Patlabor connection, so I'll just pick up some bits and pieces.

we open with... HOT DANCE IN CHERRY MOON. This still feels so odd compared to TANK POLICE! FEEL THE POWER THAT WE GOT.
The English ED track has confounded me before with what exactly it reminds me of.
I got to thinking as I was watching... Is there any of the original music present in the old dub at all? When it comes to the original Dominion, I've only ever seen the dub, you see, so I wouldn't actually know.

Again, I get this odd disconnect watching it, and it's because I'm mistrusting what I'm hearing, wondering how much the original atmosphere has been altered by replacing tracks.

I do really enjoy that ED song, though, especially the vocal version used during the credits sequence itself. It's quite haunting, I think, and it's wormed it's way into my brain just now where it keeps resurfacing on a loop.


The other main point I wanted to make was about the art. Perhaps like we saw in Gunbuster, there's some absolutely classic 80s anime expressions to lap up here. I just can't get enough of these:

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I mean, look at that. The vitality of it just bursts out of the screen.

Particularly Brenten, who completely steals the show in this episode.
I find that Brenten can't help but steal the show in Dominion generally — even on this DVD menu screen. It's a static image using one of the force's tanks in the foreground, with a "slideshow" of the show's characters projected behind it over a backdrop of Newport City. The first in the sequence is a work of unintentional brilliance:
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Deploy the Brenten tank!

Imagine the collateral damage. 😅
 

Professor Irony

Cursed Image
Moderator
Act I: Crime Brigade

Going into Dominion again, I was a bit concerned that time might not have been kind - I remember it looking a bit basic compared to some other OVA productions from the same time - but I think it actually holds up well, particularly when you see it in motion. The character art is a very faithful reproduction of Shirow's work from that time and there's plenty of nice touches in the animation, like (as Neil pointed out) Leona's various spit-take reactions or Brenten's tank venting steam after it's come to a halt.

One thing that did surprise me is how little involvement Shirow seems to have had with this series (just a year earlier, he wrote the screenplay, did storyboards and had a shared director credit for Black Magic M-66). By contrast, director Koichi Mashimo seems to have been extremely hands on with the first two episodes, doing screenplay, script and storyboards himself. He's not an especially well known figure in the west (English speaking fans will probably remember him most from the .Hack franchise or the Bee Train 'two women looking for something' cycle), but his name pops up in connection with a few interesting things over the years, most notably Irresponsible Captain Tylor, the first season of Eat-Man (the weird, arty one with no budget) and Ai City, whose night-city production design was most likely a big influence here.

Originally, I was going to be brave and watch the subtitled version this time through (in particular I wanted to hear the Japanese insert songs), but I'm already missing the dub. In part, it's probably just hard for me to remove the nostalgia goggles, but as ayase commented, I think some of the jokes just land better in the English version - in this episode, I noticed it particularly with the scene where Buaku's X-ray reveals that he's holding a machinegun. Not to say the Japanese cast isn't good though; there's a few noteworthy names from that time on board, particularly the late Hiromi Tsuru as Leona.

I dunno, it doesn't feel very Dominion. It would have felt more at home in Dirty Pair, if that makes any sense.
I got to thinking as I was watching... Is there any of the original music present in the old dub at all? When it comes to the original Dominion, I've only ever seen the dub, you see, so I wouldn't actually know.

Again, I get this odd disconnect watching it, and it's because I'm mistrusting what I'm hearing, wondering how much the original atmosphere has been altered by replacing tracks.
Dirty Pair hadn't occurred to me, but I think that's a great comparison that's pretty much hitting the nail on the head. The Japanese tracks are generally lighter or more upbeat. While some folk scoff at the music in the dub version with the repetitive vocals, I think the replacement tracks add a moodier note to the show that helps bring the darker elements of the story to the fore. I don't think all the music has been replaced either - I'd need to go back and check, but I'm sure some of the scenes are still the same. Off the top of my head, I think the part where Leona is sitting outside in the junkyard has the same music in both versions.

For all the sitcom bluster, however, the world the show takes place in is seriously screwed, and I think bringing in the synths ups the almost 2000 AD-esque contrast between the silly comedy and the often bleak worldview. Even while it's cracking jokes about Brenten's tank being his penis substitute, there's frequently something far more thematically serious and often quite interesting lurking in the background of the show. Already we've got the notion that, even if the pollution could be dispersed, maybe the general populace has evolved to a point where they couldn't survive without it - are the 'perfectly healthy' people the source of a cure, or just victims of their own genetic code?

I gather the CG's... bad? 😬
Yes. Yes it is. Although I could have forgiven it that if it was at least otherwise good.

It is not. It is very much not.
 

ayase

State Alchemist
Music wise it sounds a bit new age-y like Enigma or Deep Forest. The first singer that popped into my head when I heard it was Lisa Stansfield.
It's the pan pipes(? I'm bad at identifying instruments that aren't drums or guitars) that get me, I feel sure I've heard something else like that from the early '90s, but I fear it will remain a mystery.

For all the sitcom bluster, however, the world the show takes place in is seriously screwed, and I think bringing in the synths ups the almost 2000 AD-esque contrast between the silly comedy and the often bleak worldview. Even while it's cracking jokes about Brenten's tank being his penis substitute, there's frequently something far more thematically serious and often quite interesting lurking in the background of the show. Already we've got the notion that, even if the pollution could be dispersed, maybe the general populace has evolved to a point where they couldn't survive without it - are the 'perfectly healthy' people the source of a cure, or just victims of their own genetic code?
Absolutely. I still blame the end of the Cold War for the end of these kinds of settings where the future's pretty grim, but also still kinda fun and people will go on as normal. I don't remember the '80s in great detail, but I feel like there was definitely a feeling that it was just going to go on and on until the inevitable nuclear war happened and we'd have to rebuild from what was left. And resigned as they were to that future, people imagined futures where it would be bad, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad. When it abruptly ended people started to imagine brighter futures where they wouldn't have to wear shades, at least for that brief decade without external threats until 9/11 happened and the future became grim again. But this time like, really grim.
 

Professor Irony

Cursed Image
Moderator
Act II: Crime War

Welp. Silly though his manga often were, I don't think Shirow ever came up with tank traps in the form of inflatable, primary coloured dildos. Maybe Mashimo leads a particularly vivid private life, idk.

In any case, it's another fun episode. Buaku acquires a pair of WWI antique tanks, we finally get to see Bonaparte in action, everybody catches some air (somehow)! You could ask how the heck a tank jumps, but who cares? They managed to make a tank battle look like a pair of samurai squaring off against each other, that is what matters.

There's also some more fun attention to small details like the puma twins' ears twitching when they're excited and a very Scooby Doo-esque moment when Leona and Al apparently get lost trying to find Brenten. Interestingly, there's an essay by Shirow at the back of the Dominion TPB where he talks about tanks as a concept, and one of the things he mentions is the formation of Roman legionnaires, marching in a block-like formation with their shields above their heads. I wonder if the anime was alluding to that when Brenten and his crew try to give chase on foot?

Oh, and blink and you'll miss it, but there's also a very brief shot of the sandcrawler ships, perhaps hinting at the state of the world's oceans? They're more of a thing in the manga; I thought the anime actually left them out altogether.

Incidentally, in case anyone's curious, the version I'm watching is the old US Manga Corps R1 DVD. It has dual audio (I'm not sure if either of the UK releases did), but the picture quality is merely adequate - probably a VHS transfer. HOT DANCE IN CHERRY MOON~ is present, but it also seems to be missing the Japanese ED entirely, so I'll post that here for the sake of posterity.


While I've no doubt that the daffy J-pop didn't fit Manga UK's image at the time, I wonder if the decision to change it might also have been a licensing issue regarding the tracks? Girl group Shoujo Tai who provide the OP/ED tracks were a big hit at the time, as far as I can tell. There are a few music videos of theirs on youtube, but sadly I couldn't see anything of them performing the Dominion themes. Amusingly, their cropped hairdos seem like they could even have been the inspiration for Leona's distinctive look.



It's the pan pipes?
I think it's the shakuhachi, a kind of Japanese flute. It's the kind of thing you hear in a lot of chop-socky martial arts films, but it has a very soothing sound when it's put to good use.

 

ayase

State Alchemist
Act II - "Gureen Pissu?"

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Al and Leona's romantic tank building montage is so '80s it hurts, in all the best ways. It, along with the prologue and the recap, in fact takes up a not insubstantial amount of this episode's runtime. It's a stylishly directed one though, the music and visuals used together so nicely that in places it reminds me of the animated music video feel of Bubblegum Crisis, and anything that reminds me of Bubblegum Crisis is good.

In this episode of Dominion: Buaku does in fact take the piss, Leona truly becomes one of the gang (for better or worse) exactly 21 frames of nicely animated Puma titty, another pile of claims and our true enemy shows his face. But is he really an enemy? Now we're in familiar Shirow territory. This is one of the things I really like about Dominion; the way it unfolds into a more serious story from its comical beginnings, while never losing its sense of fun.

I find that Brenten can't help but steal the show in Dominion generally
You may be right Neil. Brenten's introduction into this episode's story from his own upside down POV, the march of the tank-less Tank Police and the way he finally swallows his pride and climbs into Bonaparte as it's about to go DOWN do make him a presence it's hard to equal.

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there's some absolutely classic 80s anime expressions to lap up here. I just can't get enough of these
This too.

dominion_ii_02.jpg
 

Neil.T

Guild Member
Act II: Crime War
Act II - "Gureen Pissu?"
Act II: Deploy the dicks! 😛
tank traps in the form of inflatable, primary coloured dildos.
The accompanying innuendo in the English dub... was something the localisers found easy to keep up/stood tall and proud amongst the surrounding dialogue/throbbed with inventiveness.

Etc.

Hah, yeah. 😁
It's a great shot, isn't it? I found myself watching that bit frame-by-frame, too.

Incidentally, in case anyone's curious, the version I'm watching is the old US Manga Corps R1 DVD. It has dual audio (I'm not sure if either of the UK releases did), but the picture quality is merely adequate - probably a VHS transfer.
The DVD releases I'm watching are dub-only. The first part is credited to Manga Video and the second part to "Animazing" (Central Park Media). They, too, are VHS transfers.
 

Professor Irony

Cursed Image
Moderator
Act III: Crime Ethics

A new day and a new story. Buaku unexpectedly becomes obsessed with a painting (the last masterpiece from when the earth was healthy!) that appears to show him as a child-like innocent. There's some great bits of comic timing in the early part of the episode, both with the mad, gameshow-like interrogation scene, underscoring just how much Leona has been assimilated into her new home, and Buaku's nonchalant conversation during a gunfight in the vault, but we have a new writer onboard and, generally, I think this one sets a more serious tone for the remainder of the story. It even ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, as Leona and Buaku slip into a whirlpool in the weird, expressionist labyrinth that appears to be the city's sewer system.

This episode also dives deeper into Buaku himself (maybe moreso than the manga ever did), his sudden interest in something other than cash and kicks making his offhand comment in the previous episode about 'getting a little place in the mountains and living the simple life' seem rather more significant. I suppose it's an attack of the blindingly obvious ("what's that you say, Bubblegum Crisis is a bit like Streets of Fire?"), but I often liken the series setting to Blade Runner, without having realised how apt a comparison that might be. We never really find out anything about the other gang members (although that guy with the pet rabbit is a treasure), but Buaku and the Puma Twins are all synthetic humans clearly sticking two-fingers up at their ascribed lot in life, and out to grab a bite of whatever the 'real people' do for fun. I don't think it's ever stated explicitly in the anime, but the manga does hint that the Puma Twins were originally intended to be love dolls, and the medals on Buaku's chest hint at a possible (presumably unwilling) stint in the military, so it's not a million miles away from Zhora, Priss and Roy Batty. If Buaku has already lived for 80 years, at least their lifespan doesn't seem to be such a pressing issue, although it's interesting that this little detail gives us some idea of just how long people have been living with the bacteria cloud.

On a side note, the US Manga Corps disc seems to be using a different video source for this episode. It's a little softer than the previous two, but it doesn't seem to suffer the same VHS colour artifacts either.

Act I

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Act III

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As another version comparison aside, the dub refers to the auctioneers as 'Westerby's', whereas the subs actually give it as the very real, very prestigious Sotheby's.

In summary though:

 
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Neil.T

Guild Member
Buaku unexpectedly becomes obsessed with a painting
That was another priceless piece of innuendo provided by the dub in Act III.

Unipuma:
"Oh, we found the crummy picture. He was hung with a lot of other stuff in the next room.

"Not particularly well hung, I gotta say."

😏

we have a new writer onboard
Ah, that's interesting. 😯
I was aware of the change in tone but didn't realise it was down to a different scriptwriter. Any ideas about the specifics, Prof?
 

Professor Irony

Cursed Image
Moderator
I was aware of the change in tone but didn't realise it was down to a different scriptwriter. Any ideas about the specifics, Prof?
Couldn't dig up much, unfortunately. ANN credits screenplay on episodes 3-4 to Dai Kohno (no further information available) and Futoshi Katano, a staffer with a handful of credits as writer and director during the 80s (probably incomplete data), although interestingly, Katano did go on to work on the Patlabor tv series shortly afterwards. Although Koichi Mashimo was not the episode director for these eps either, their more introspective theme does seem to tie in with some of Mashimo's later work, however, so I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he just wanted to push things in that direction.

Interestingly, a few key staff seem to have worked together on Gold Raitan in the early 80s, then pop up again later as a little unit on Urashiman, Dominion and Eat-Man, so it looks like it was a fruitful working relationship anyway.
 

ayase

State Alchemist
Act III - "Understood, I'll just go off and die somewhere"

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Some more nice Brenten moments with his momentarily hurt feelings over everyone's lack of confidence in him, which lasts all of about two seconds until he erupts in his usual manner. And the way he describes with a grin how this emergency is a real emergency because it's taking place somewhere there's a lot of priceless works of art, which along with his earlier "Just once I'd like to rob a bank" raises the question of whether authorities themselves are little more than legitimised criminals. Controversial (but perhaps less so for me as I live within Cleveland Police authority - None of them have shot at the mayor yet, but after his comments in that article it's probably only a matter of time). It's obvious from the very first opening prologue that while the Tank Police posses certain heroic qualities, their existence isn't supposed to be a good thing.

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I really like the atmosphere in the sewers/underground waterways - Along with the nice lighting, the architecture is almost Giger-esqe in its organic forms (which are certainly more sinister looking than the surface's mushroom skyscrapers) and there's at least one uh, rather questionable looking opening. It serves as a great location for Buaku and Leona's one-to-one interactions, which are about as serious as the show has gotten up to this point. Does Buaku remember his past and has just been keeping it to himself, wanting the painting as a reminder of when he was "innocent" or does he want it because he thinks it will help him to remember? Did the councillor's mention of Greenpeace in the previous act (which he repeated aloud) stir something in his memory? In any case, he's certainly a more introspective outlaw cyborg this time around. I think Prof's Blade Runner observations are perfectly apt here, whether it was Shirow's original intention or simply the production staff's awareness of the similarities.

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That little bit of fourth-wall breaking with what I'm presuming is one of Shirow's little side-notes from the manga (or at least the approximation of one) on the computer screen before it's driven over by Bonaparte was a nice touch, as were the primary-coloured ending stills.

As another version comparison aside, the dub refers to the auctioneers as 'Westerby's', whereas the subs actually give it as the very real, very prestigious Sotheby's.
Written as "SESABS" above the door of the auction house, no less. Se-Sa-B's?
 

Professor Irony

Cursed Image
Moderator
I really like the atmosphere in the sewers/underground waterways - Along with the nice lighting, the architecture is almost Giger-esqe in its organic forms (which are certainly more sinister looking than the surface's mushroom skyscrapers)
Geiger-esque is absolutely the way to describe it. There's something deeply strange and often quite unsettling about the design of the setting in Dominion, perhaps all the more so for how little they actually address the weird, organic quality of the buildings. Even the windows seem to be separated in unusual patterns like veins running through the structure. Maybe I'm over thinking it, but given the shape and general look of the lab that Buaku originated from, I'm not sure it isn't modelled on the inside of an eyeball...

Mostly though, I just wanted to make another post about Act III to say how much I like that screen grab of the Puma Twins. Anna's (I think it's Anna?) disinterested expression there is brilliant.
 
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