AD Police Files is one of those unusual anime titles that pulls out a surprising victory despite having the chips stacked against it. It’s a spin-off/prequel/cash-in to the moderately successful Oriental Animation Video series Bubblegum Crisis, but decidedly different in terms of presentation and style. It also fits nicely into the pattern of hyper-violent, fanservice-y gorno OAVs from the late 80s and 90s that feature plenty of adult situations like exploding heads and girls in lingerie. As a result, it’s easy to shelve AD Police Files next to the dozens of other trashy OAVs that saw release in the US during the dark ages of the early 90s, filling up the aisles of the local Blockbusters of our youth. While AD Police Files is still guilty of abusing all those tropes of the genre, it manages to surprise with a few original elements that set it apart from its peers.
AD Police began as a manga spin-off titled AD Police: Dead End City. First published in 1990 in B-Club Magazine, Bandai’s slick advermag catering to the more hardcore end of the fanboy spectrum, it was written by Crisis planner Toshimichi Suzuki and drawn by Tony Takezaki. The narrative focused on the adventures of AD Police rookie Leon McNichol (the parfait-eating AD Police detective who continually tried to get into Priss’ pants throughout Bubblegum Crisis) five years prior to the events of Crisis. Suzuki used the manga as an opportunity to flesh out the background of some of the characters from Crisis, as well as provide some hints about the overarching narrative of the then still-ongoing video series.
Much like Crisis, Dead End City takes place in Tokyo, now renamed MegaTokyo after a catastrophic earthquake destroyed most of the city. Humanoid robots called Boomers are used extensively in the reconstruction of the city. As malfunctioning Boomers wreaking havoc rapidly become a common occurrence throughout MegaTokyo, a new police branch called the AD Police is formed to deal with the Boomer crimes and high-level terrorism that regular cops aren’t fit to handle. One part Blade Runners and two parts Colonial Marines from Aliens, the AD Police are overarmed, reckless and generally responsible for a lot of collateral damage.
Leon transfers from the normal police force to the AD Police in search of more action and excitement, finding himself partnered with a cliché tough-as-nails female officer with a cybernetic arm named Jeena Malso (the absolutely fabulous Daley Wong, Leon’s partner from Crisis, has yet to show up at this point). Dead End City sees the duo tracking down and engaging a group of Boomers who escape from an orbiting satellite, one of whom believes he is God and is trying to free all Boomers from the shackles of their human masters. The plot wears its Blade Runner and Die Hard influences on its sleeve. The MegaTokyo we see in Dead End City is decidedly darker and more dangerous than Crisis’ vision of the same city, an effort helped along by Takezaki’s detailed and heavily shaded art. Takezaki seems to share many influences with Katsuhiro Otomo, as both creators’ works use a similar Japanese-European hybrid style. Dead End City was released as simply “AD Police” in the US by Viz Comics in the early 90s, but their poor reproduction standards failed to do justice to the range of graphical tones employed by Takezaki, most of it coming out looking muddled and dark.
After Dead End City, Takezaki went on to pen a second AD Police manga, titled AD Police 25:00. 25:00 is quite different from Dead End City, consisting of short stories that take place during the same time frame as Crisis. These shorts range in tone from serious to slapstick, with the final story drawn entirely in an “American superhero” style. 25:00 is an odd little comic, with a bilingual version published in Japan featuring both Japanese and English text.
Using the same setting, time period and many of the same characters as Dead End City, the AD Police Files OAV presents three standalone stories, each based on stories from 25:00. Much like Dead End City, AD Police Files is considerably darker in tone than Crisis, with a Blade Runner-inspired perpetual darkness that Crisis seemed to abandon after the first few episodes.
While the episodes aren’t directly related to each other, they do share a common theme, namely, the loss of humanity that comes with an increased reliance on technology. The first episode, “The Phantom Woman,” may be the odd one out, as it focuses on a vengeful recycled Boomer who has a violent/sexual fixation on Leon after being killed by him. Easily the weakest of the three episodes, it serves mostly as an excuse for a female robot to follow Leon around in lingerie and then get shot to pieces. “The Ripper” follows a female executive who replaces her reproductive organs with cybernetic parts in an attempt to balance the playing field with her male counterparts. Though this helps her get ahead at her company, she eventually realizes that she’s lost both her sexuality and her husband, the latter to an underage prostitute. The final episode, “The Man Who Bites His Tongue,” is the best of the three. AD Police officer Billy Farnword is seriously wounded in a Boomer attack and given a new cybernetic body. Aside from his brain, the only human part he retains is his tongue, which he uses both as a reminder of his humanity (by biting it, as it’s the only part of his body that can still “feel”) and place with which to inject stimulants.
Unlike Dead End City, the focus in the OAV is on these Boomers and cyborgs, not Leon or Jeena. In truth, Leon and Jeena are little more than supporting characters for most of the OAV, but what they may lack in character development is more than made up for by the themes explored in each episode. Despite a ubiquity of robots and androids in anime, so rarely is their humanity, or the difficulty in retaining their humanity, ever explored as a subject. Outside of the Ghost in the Shell films and the classic Astroboy, I struggle to think of any other anime titles that make an attempt to cover such a topic. Admittedly, these themes are a minor part of the episodes, which still feature a heaping dose of gore and adult situations. Given the violent nature of the AD Police, bloody action scenes are commonplace, with people getting dismembered and killed in a variety of ways. On the sexual side, each episode finds an excuse for a female character to strip down to fancy lingerie, for seemingly no other reason than to show a lingerie-clad woman.
Production and design values for the series are inconsistent, with “The Phantom Woman” looking like a decidedly lower-budget effort than the two episodes that follow. “The Ripper” is the most visually distinctive of the three episodes, as animation director Hiroyuki Kitazume’s (Robot Carnival, Char’s Counterattack) influence is readily apparent. While many of the ARTMIC regulars like Ley Yumeno and Shinji Aramaki were involved in the production in some form, the primary staff seems composed of relative unknowns. The music stands out as one of the weirder production aspects, with much of it sung entirely in English by Filipino musician Lou Bonnevie. While English-language themes were not uncommon in anime by this point, having the entire soundtrack recorded in English was no doubt a nod toward American police dramas, a theory substantiated by the beginning theme of AD Police Files, which wouldn’t sound out of place in an episode of Law & Order.
In that vein, and true to its Bubblegum Crisis heritage, AD Police Files sports its homages proudly. Dead End City had a group of Boomers escaping from a space station and heading to Earth in an attempt to obtain information from their manufacturer, a Blade Runner nod that was also used in Bubblegum Crisis‘s fifth episode. AD Police Files takes the reference even further, as most of the Boomers seen throughout the OAV are far more reminiscent of Blade Runner Replicants than the Terminator-esque designs from Crisis. Like Dead End City, AD Police Files borrows heavily from the cyberpunk genre, with cybernetic modifications and street punk gangs making numerous appearances throughout.
Redeeming qualities aside, AD Police Files is still classic early 90s trash video animation. If you can’t stand the excessive violence and and style of that era, AD Police Files certainly won’t change your mind. It manages to say some interesting things, but they still end up buried under the typical “Not Kids’ Stuff” trappings and other fruits of a VHS-era mentality. It’s short, and watchable without any knowledge of the Bubblegum Crisis mythos. For those with a willingness to watch older OAVs, Animeigo is selling it for the low price of $7.99, so why the hell not?