Dominion: Tank Police, New
The second OAV series set in a world derived from the manga by Masumune Shirow. In order to add a charming touch of confusion, at least here in Australia, these were released as episodes 5-10 so that they follow on from the earlier OAV series (Dominion Tank Police). This is, however, completely bogus as there is no direct connection, and many differences, between the two series.
As I mentioned in the previous review the manga was largely based on Shirow messing about. He adores designing high tech worlds and super high tech equipment (the two sort of go together) and he does this very well. He's not quite so good on unified and coherent stories however. This series is largely based on imagining a world of the future in which the war against crime has escalated such that the police maintain a tank squad.
Thus the story contains a great number of tanks, and enemies of sufficient guile or power to pose a challenge to such a group. In the first OAV and manga it was the arch-criminal Buaku. In this one it seems a huge corporation, with an honest business in selling weapons of death and a lot of activities that are even more shady, bank-rolls the opposition. Mind you, the actual members of the tank police are their own worst enemy. They're skilled, but restraint is not a term they understand. And while they love their tanks they're not particularly protective of anything else. Including any stray sections of city that get in the way.
In terms of the team there is a strong degree of similarity with the first OAV. The main difference is that the "Leona as new recruit" angle is long since forgotten. In this one she's got a major upgrade in the aggression department and is now wild and touchy enough that Britten, the Gung-ho squad leader, finds himself as the restraining element. It's quite a change. Sadly she still has the whiny, high-pitched voice that can cut through steel ear-muffs at 100 paces. `Specs', the squads resident nerd, is still on the helium as well.
However the really good news is that the stories try a lot harder. While it still demonstrates that the writers don't understand tech nearly as well as Shirow, and think random explosions are sufficiently amusing by themselves, these are much better in many ways. To begin with they tend to actively draw the characters into the story. They also create far more varied environments, including action outside of a tank and more varied opposition. They're also much more complex, atmospheric and dark than those of the first OAV series. They're still not works of genius, but they're not bad at all.
The stories also gain from having a background story to link the episodes into a coherent whole. Not a particularly coherent one mind you, some of the connections are a touch dodgy, but it's a nice touch. I'm not sure the opposition has as much personality as Buaku in the manga. I'm also really freaked out by the Puma twins. As cute cyborg cat-girls with a penchant for wearing minimal clothes it's easy to see them being fan (and fan-service) favourites. However in the manga, and earlier OAV, they were also tough and loyal servants of Buaku. Their usage here is out of character and extremely gratuitous.
Thankfully it got one, and perhaps the most important, thing right. The action is much better. While they don't understand tanks or tech they seem to have grasped the fact that montages of guns firing and things exploding is not exciting. In this one the environment in which the fight takes place is more important, tactics are used and the action has sequence and continuity to it. There's even a reason for the action taking place and a sense of energy and atmosphere behind it all. It's pretty good stuff and several light years ahead of the first series.
This is fully supported by dramatically improved production. Sure the pretty average voices are still there, but from the first frame you know there's more money, style and taste. Gone is the tacky electronic music in favour of a strong drum and guitar track that works so well. The animation is good, the machinery is detailed and important atmospherics such as smoke and dirt are added to give a feel of motion and power to the action. It's not brilliant animation, but it's clean and solid production that is well sufficient to carry the story. And because of the greater skill it will date much better than the first OAV can hope to.
It looks like the average first OAV has scared off my regular sources. None of them has a review specifically for this second OAV series. Which is a bit of a shame because this one is by far the superior of the two.