AD Police: Files 1 – 3 directors: Takamasa Ikegami, Akira Nishimori 100 minutes (18) 1996 Manga DVD Region 2 retail RATING: 7/10 reviewed by Tom Matic

Expect a mixture of Blade Runner and RoboCop in this futuristic detective series about the ‘Advanced Police’, who hunt down defective cyborgs.

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The first episode, Voomer Madness imitates Ridley Scott almost shot for shot, establishing the familiar premise of robots/cyborgs going berserk, with a rogue female ‘Voomer’ telling the cop Leon: “First I’m gonna fuck you. Then I’ll kill you.”

The second episode The Paradise Loop shows us the prevalence of cybernetic replacement part surgery in this near future Tokyo, where it becomes increasingly difficult to tell people and ‘Voomers’ (as the cyborgs are nicknamed) apart. The third episode, I Want Medicine, introduces us to experimental Anti-Voomer cyborg Billy Farnwood, who bares more than a passing resemblance to Peter Weller’s armour-plated law enforcer, only he’s got one Cyclopean eye and a single organic remnant of his former human existence: his tongue. This is in contrast to the AD Police officer Nena, in the first episode, who has a single mechanical limb.

The series presents a triptych of tragic figures, making its structure similar to that of Japanese Noh drama. The first is the beautiful female Voomer who is obsessed with tracking down AD Police rookie Leon, who failed to kill her during a previous encounter. The second is the woman tormented by the agonising effects of the replacement surgery she has had. Finally, there is the Voomer hunting ‘robocop’, who constantly bites his tongue, because the pain reminds him of his lost humanity. Unfortunately the film’s exploration of these serious themes is somewhat undermined by the dodgy soft rock and rather crude and stilted animation for an example of a subgenre at the cutting edge of the form. Although the imagery is powerful, its realisation does not live up to the promise of its opulently designed packaging sleeve, and the dialogue is sometimes as clunkingly awful as the musical soundtrack. In one scene Lena asks Leon, “I’ve been wondering why didn’t you want to screw me?” Maybe it was the artificial arm that put him off. However, though Leon rejects her advances, there is plenty of other kinky sex, not to mention extreme and grotesque sexualised violence in AD Police, such as the evisceration of prostitutes on the rundown subway ironically known as the Paradise Loop.

It would be easy to dismiss such scenes as gratuitous, but some of them do serve a purpose. I Want Medicine begins with a series of monochrome still pictures of Billy Farnwood, before his critical injuries made him a candidate for conversion into a brutal nightmarish version of Tony Stark in the Iron Man video I also reviewed this month. Later a female scientist experiments on him in a very unorthodox fashion, indulging in a spot of frottage on his body armour as he sits there, impassive apart from a clumsy attempt at tonsil hockey with the tongue that is his one remaining organ. On one level this scene is blatantly exploitative and pornographic, but it also serves to underline his lost humanity, like the human colleagues who still know him as ‘Billy’ as they express concern at his sadistic enthusiasm for wasting Voomers. It’s just a shame about the rather clumsy way in which these valid points are made, and that this shrewd comment on masculinity occurs against a background that seems to endorse the AD Police’s macho ethos: that of an ‘elite’ police unit, which deals with stuff the regular cops (it’s implied) are too sissy to handle.

The DVD release features a ‘database’ of character profiles, some fascinating conceptual art and some pretty striking (but seemingly endless) Manga trailers with much better music than AD Police, but the crowning glory of the disc extras comes in the box itself: the stunning poster art enclosed, that unfortunately promises more than the animation itself is able to deliver.