Bubblegum Crisis Retrospective: Part III
by Jef Burnham
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In part III of our continuing Bubblegum Crisis Retrospective, I’ll be looking at studio AIC’s AD Police, the direct-to-video prequel to the classic cyperpunk anime, as collected in AnimEigo’s AD Police Files 1-3 DVD. Adapted from the BGC spin-off manga, AD Police: Dead End City by Toshimizi Suzuki and Tony Takezaki, this 3-episode OVA was released in Japan throughout 1990, concurrent with the original run of Bubblegum Crisis. Set 5 years before the events of BGC, AD Police reveals the state of Mega Tokyo prior to the emergence of the Knight Sabers, when the AD Police (short for Advanced Police) struggled to defend the city from the onslaught of rampaging Boomers.
By simple virtue of the era in which the series is set (i.e. pre-Knight Sabers), AD Police is significantly lacking in battles when compared to BGC and its sequel, Bubbglegum Crash! Instead, the series focuses on those investigations of the AD Police that lead the Japanese legislature to delineate the legal boundaries between man and machine. And ultimately it’s these unwavering boundaries that lead to the titular crisis facing Mega Tokyo in BGC as the Boomers seek recognition as a separate, sentient race. This means that the AD Police not only face off against the rampaging machines of BGC, but human beings with one too many cybernetic implants to be legally recognized as humans.
The most enticing aspect of this Knight Sabers-free series is the prospect that Inspector Leon McNichol of the AD Police will receive greater focus and be further developed than he had been in BGC. After all, he plays such a secondary role in BGC that, until now, he has yet to be so much as mentioned in this Retrospective. Admittedly, this is an egregious omission on my part, but one that I attribute to the writers’ relegation of him to a virtually uninvolved supporting player in BGC. And indeed, here Leon steps to the forefront of AD Police to become the series’ central character… for one damn episode!
The series opener, “The Phantom Woman,” finds rookie Leon, recently transferred from the Normal to the AD Police. Along with his new partner, Jeena, Leon undertakes an independent investigation into the illegal Boomer salvaging that led to the death of one of their comrades. In this episode, we are also given some insight into Leon’s origins, with specific regard to his relationship to Boomers. In the following episodes, Leon tragically reprises his role as supporting player to a new lead each episode— first to Normal Police officer Iris Cara, and then, Billy Fanword, an experimental battle-cyborg in the employ of the AD Police. And while Iris and Billy capably carry their episodes from captivating opening to satisfying end, it’s difficult to fully invest in their tales after the bait-and-switch pulled on us by the writers.
In spite of (and in some ways precisely because of) this relegation of Leon to the series’ proverbial back seat, AD Police is far more in keeping with the spirit of BGC than Crash! (as per the discrepancies discussed in Part II of this retrospective). To begin with, Boomer technology in AD Police is consistent with that of BGC, as is its (admittedly minimal) hard rock soundtrack. The animation of the series too conforms with BGC, but is almost more atmospheric if such a thing is possible as a result of each episode’s significant sexual content. Unfortunately, whereas AD Police’s animation as of “The Phantom Woman” appears set to surpass that of BGC in overall quality, a jarring simplification in subsequent entries of the character models for Leon, Jeena and the AD Police in general ultimately prevents the series from receiving this accolade.
As for AnimEigo’s release of AD Police, the supplemental features on the disc are far more substantial than those of Total Crash. These features include a plethora of music videos, an image gallery, program notes, a trailer gallery, and truncated versions of “The Phantom Woman” and “The Ripper”— the purpose of which I don’t quite understand, unless they are intended to showcase the series’ extensive suppositional future technology.
Check out Part IV of our Bubblegum Crisis Retrospective, in which I look at the 1999 reenvisioning of the Bubblegum Crisis universe in A.D. Police: To Serve and Protect!
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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