A.D. POLICE: TO PROTECT AND SERVE - DVD review


 
Eddie
Feng

During the mid-1980s, something called "Bubblegum Crisis" surfaced in Japan in the form of OVA (original video animation) tapes. OVAs are analogous to direct-to-video productions here in the U.S., but OVAs in Japan do not carry the stigma of American direct-to-video programs. "Bubblegum Crisis", with its combination of hip music and big-haired girls in armored suits, became a big hit with animation fans. During the late-1990s, AIC re-envisioned "Bubblegum Crisis" as a 26-episode TV show called "Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040". The new show featured better animation and a more complex, more thrilling story-line than the original OVA episodes.

Due to the success of "Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040" (reviews of those DVDs are available here at DVD Town), AIC also created the 12-episode "A.D. Police". "A.D. Police" is a prequel set a few decades before the events in "BGC 2040", but none of the characters (as far as I could tell) are in both shows. Rather, "A.D. Police" concerns itself exclusively with the then-nascent A.D. Police squad.

In the near-future, an earthquake stronger than any that mankind has ever seen devastates Tokyo. Genom Corporation, a hugely influential company, manages to rebuild most of the city quickly using boomers--advanced robots approximating humans in build and mind. Genom is everywhere--Genom Burgers, Genom hospitals, even Genom police. For some unexplained reason, some boomers tend to go crazy, their "cores" losing the ability to retain rationality. Normal police forces can't deal with mad boomers effectively, so the A.D. (advanced) Police has been created to combat rogue boomers. Of course, the A.D. police answers to Genom, not the Japanese government.

The A.D. Police is a rather small force of a handful of individuals. Kenji approaches everything the cowboy-way, and he's seen an excessive number of partners go the way of death. However, a German-policeman by the name of Hans Klief joins the A.D. Police. Hans is as daring, though not as reckless, as Kenji, and the two manage to develop a quiet bond as they try to apprehend one Liam Fletcher, a terrorist who specializes in selling illegally-produced boomers.

For the most part, the 12 episodes in the mini-series play as one big movie. Except for the first 2 or 3 episodes, we're not forced to endure a new "monster of the 25 minutes" with each outing. Rather, "A.D. Police" follows Kenji and Hans as they search for clues leading to Liam's capture. Every show reveals a bit more about Genom's extensive reach into Japanese life after the horrible earthquake. Along the way, we get glimpses of characters like Karen the sniper, Mary the helicopter pilot, Jose the explosives expert, Kenji's girlfriend, a bartender, and the mysterious nurse Satomi, who develops a relationship with Hans.

"A.D. Police" sticks to one principal story arc, and that is its primary strength as well as primary weakness. Since the show keeps it eye on the target, it doesn't stray into useless subplots. Consequently, none of the episodes feels like "filler" material". However, the show also feels a bit confined, as if there's little else going on in Genom City other than Kenji and Hans hunting for the same criminal day in and day out. Also, the production values are disappointing compared to the work done for "BGC 2040". The animation looks rather static and flat for a police drama, revelations that take a while to unfold do not offer dramatic payoffs. While I can understand why some anime fans dismiss "A.D. Police" as unworthy of their attentions, I think that their harsh criticisms do not do the show justice.

ADV Films has released all 12 episodes of "A.D. Police" as one 2-disc DVD set. Here's a look at what you'll find when you purchase the set.

Video:
The 1.33:1 (full-frame on 4:3 monitors) video image looks "okay", and that's about it. Some moments appear a bit dirty for such a recent animation creation, and colors are dull and flat for the most part. The transfers also look soft, giving objects a muted look.

Audio:
I enjoyed the series's audio presentation much more than I enjoyed its video quality. You can choose to watch "A.D. Police" with either the original Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo Japanese mix or the DD 2.0 stereo English dub. The audio sounds pretty lively, with music bouncing back and forth between the two front speakers. Though there are only a couple of moments with directionality effects, there's a lot of bass in the mix. The bass helps the audio sound much fuller and richer than it actually is.

Two optional English subtitle streams support the audio. Stream 1 translates all the spoken Japanese dialogue as well as places English text on the screen in order to translate Japanese characters used on signs, computer screens, etc. Stream 2 only places English text over Japanese characters.

Extras:
As usual with most anime DVD releases, "A.D. Police" offers only a few extras. There is a stills gallery of production sketches, and there is a stills gallery of production artwork (comprised mainly of character poses not seen in the show itself, including the female characters in sexy poses). There are also a couple of production notes (text pages) that provide background information concerning the events that occur in the show. Finally, there are 6 previews of other ADV products (including "Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040").

A glossy insert provides chapter listings.

Entertainment Value:
"A.D. Police" gained a bad rep in anime circles, a situation that I think treats the show unfairly. Sure, the series lacks the artistry and sophistication of "Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040", but what did people expect? The events in "A.D. Police" take place decades before the adventures of Sylia Stingray, Priss Asagiri, Linna Yamazaki, and Nene Romanova, before boomers became out-sized monsters that the police couldn't handle on their own. "A.D. Police" isn't the most exciting TV show you'll ever see, but it offers a solid story arc about cool, sympathetic cops. The mini-series also drops a few hints about the events that transpire in "Bubblegum Crisis", so it's definitely worth a look.

Ratings

Video
6
Audio
7
Extras
3
Film Value
6