Dominion Tank Police

Masamune Shirow is best known for his controversial but stunning artwork and stories in the cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell and the dystopian Appleseed. So what does a guy who writes hard-edged social commentary do in his spare time to relieve stress? He creates another comic book--this time, the lighthearted Dominion Tank Police. Although his manga of the same name is a relatively minor work, the anime of Dominion is, to me, far more enjoyable than the other translations of his work into the filmed medium. Whereas the animated film version of Ghost in the Shell is just dull and the artwork reeks in the OVA of Appleseed, the four-part Dominion is a blend of good animation faithful to its source material that doesn't take itself too seriously. Though other critics will rail at me for saying so, I think it's actually the best adaptation of Shirow's work, despite its failings.

In the world of Dominion, a biotoxic cloud hangs over the metropolis, where a crime happens once every 37 seconds. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the cliché goes, and the main purpose of the Tank Police are to make sure that a crime doesn't happen every 35 seconds. Hounded by the government for their explosive tactics, the Tank Police respond when other agencies can't get the job done. We meet Leona, a young woman who's been transferred to the Tank Police division--populated up until now by all males. Though at first thought incompetent, she quickly makes a friend of Al, a youthful guy who helps her build her first tank, a miniature crimestopper called Bonaparte. Soon enough, she wins the hearts of the other guys in her squad.

And she'll need their help to stop a series of bizarre crimes initiated by the half-human Buaku and his cat-girl partners, the Puma sisters. They have attempted ripping off a hospital doing research on "perfectly healthy" humans--a rarity due to the biocloud. But why would they want to steal a couple hundred vials of human waste? It turns out that Buaku's gang is unknowingly working for a larger experimental project that reaches into the highest levels of government. The Tank Police will surely be able to stop the thieves and unravel the mysteries, but they'll blow up lots of stuff along the way.

Those who love Shirow's complex and highly technical work that he's so famous for will be in for a real shock with Dominion. It's crass, it's loud, and it's darn funny at times. It is so completely different from his other stuff that many people dislike it. And there are a few things I dislike as well. Some of the humor is just a little tasteless. A few sequences in the first two episodes go on for way too long--each could have stood about 3 to 4 minutes of judicious editing. A couple of jokes (like everything blowing up all the time) are old by the time the show finishes. The show also ends on an ambiguous note that doesn't clear up the central plotline really well.

But when the show shines, it glows. You can't help but like Leona and her undying devotion to her Bonaparte. The animation is crisp and overall quite faithful to Shirow's own designs. The music is good and catchy, lending to the overall goofy tone of the show. And what's more, this thing has heart. Though I don't want to get far into the plot, it turns out that Buaku is not a one-dimensional villain...and even though the Puma sisters are, they are plenty of fun. When sides and loyalties change, we are left guessing what will happen next.

Dominion is not a show for Shirow fans, at least not the ones who enjoy his cerebral-tinged books. This is a fun action/comedy romp that doesn't tax anybody. Not great anime in any sense of the word, but Dominion is far more enjoyable than a lot of the other supposed comedies in the anime realm.

Dominion Tank Police - violence, brief nudity, crass juvenile humor - B+