What is a human? Is it defined by one’s body, or emotions? If one replaces his or her body with a machine, are they human still? And if a pure machine developed emotions, does it remain just a machine? These are the questions underpinning AD Police, a three-episode OAV series set in a near future where technology is developing far faster than humans are able to adapt to it.
AD Police is a prequel to Bubblegum Crisis, a series about four women who don mechanical suits to fight crimes involving Boomers (humanoid robots with varying degrees of realism). The AD Police are the official, government-sanctioned force tasked with the same goal; though with only machine guns and light armour, they aren’t as effective at it.
BGC features a romantic subplot between one of the Knight Sabers (the four women) and an AD Police officer named Leon McNichol. AD Police follows Leon’s days as a rookie and his veteran partner, Jeena Malso. Despite being the protagonists and appearing in every episode, we don’t really get to know them that well. The series feels more like an anthology, with each episode spending more time on its guest stars than on the central cast. Leon and Jeena spend most of each episode working in the background. It’s kind of a shame, because what we do see of Jeena is interesting. Compared to most anime heroines, she’s very mature and somewhat jaded. She’s an actual, believable adult woman.
Each of the three episodes deals with a different level of human/machine integration. The first involves an android that was used in the sex trade that seems to develop emotions (albeit, negative ones). The second is about a woman who has had some of her organs replaced, and no longer feels like a whole person. The third is about a man who has his entire body replaced, save his brain and tongue, and is now becoming detached from humanity.
On a superficial level, AD Police is a satisfying action/procedural show. The crimes are interesting, and the investigation is well-paced with a logical solution. But what makes this show special is its introspective side. The producers clearly spent time hashing out what a world with advanced robotics would look like, and how that technology would affect people; not only only practically, but also emotionally. It’s that rare breed of hard science fiction that actually requires you to think.
This OAV series is dark; not only thematically, but also in its visual style. Most of it takes place at night, and everything looks dark and murky. It’s almost as if the city the story takes place in has become a giant mechanical body that everyone is trapped in. The animation of is fairly high quality, as most OAVs from the ’80s were (back then, the producers thought they had to put effort into these things to get fans to buy them. Now they just pump out something cheap and empty, knowing that they fans will clamour to get it).