Masamune Shirow’s Dominion 3rd Edition
Story and Art – Masamune Shirow
Japanese Publisher – Kodansha
English Publisher – Dark Horse
Release Date – 05/1993
Format – Left to Right
First Volume ISBN – 1-878574-74-4
Genre – Action, Comedy, Sci-fi
Age Rating – Teens
Welcome to Newport – Japan, 2010AD. Newport is a vast, technologically advanced bio-constructed super city, spanning as far as the eye can see in every direction…
Granted that’s not very far however, the world of Dominion is shrouded in a thick, viscous, omnipresent toxic smog that hangs in the air like a poisonous gas. Whilst the Smog doesn’t block out daylight completely, it forces the population to live and work inside the safety of sealed structures with artificially maintained environments and compels those who must venture outside to wear gasmasks or face sickness and possibly death.
As if things weren’t bad enough, crime and poverty in Newport is out of control, according to police statistics a violent crime is committed in Newport every 36 seconds. In fact things have become so out of hand that the reactionary government of the future have issued the police force with tanks to chase criminals and inevitably rack up damage claims as their trigger-happy, sledgehammer tactics cause mayhem through out the city, causing not only the criminals but also the civilians to loathe and fear the mighty Tank Police.
This is the background to the world Dominion, an action comedy staring Policemen and women with a difference, they’re as psychotic and dangerous as the bad guys they chase. It’s also, in my own humble opinion, Mr Shirow’s most integrated and complete world to date and his best work to boot. Having said this Dominion is probably Masamune Shirow’s best-known work only after Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell; though in truth it is his longest running work which covers more formats than any other. With Dominion and Dominion: Conflict mangas both being serialised by the publishers Dark Horse and the Dominion Tank Police and New Dominion Tank police Anime OAVs being released by Manga Corp for us lucky western viewers it is by no means unavailable, yet it remains largely forgotten, eclipsed by what could be described as its offspring Ghost in the Shell.
Dominion is an unusual piece of work for Shirow, as it is lacking some of his usual “trademarks” and talents. Whilst Dominion maintains Shirow’s talent for drawing complex and huge scale mechanical devices and machines as well as side arms and equipment in beautifully rendered black and white drawing accompanied by some incredible surroundings and somehow managing to keep an air of realism about the whole piece, it lacks his usual fascination with the female form. His usual scantily clad big busted heroines have been replaced with the Tom-Boy Leona Ozaki, who is clad for the most part in large baggy Tank Police fatigues and standard Tank Police body armour, she also has a unnatural fixation with her mini-tank Bonaparte, which she is incredibly over protective of. The sheer irony of how Leona protects the thing that is designed to protect her is funny enough, but Shirow manages to capture Leona’s insanity perfectly, her expressions and actions make it easy to believe that she really does love her tank… maybe to a degree which is decisively unhealthy, and an attentive (or perhaps mad) reader may even begin to understand her obsession.
In another departure from the style that has made Shirow so famous, Dominion’s story is surprisingly simple, far flung from the twisting, complex plots and triple crosses of the likes of Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed, though it still manages to remain far from formulaic – unlike the average, gritty cops and robbers storylines from America the where the cops are the good guys and the criminals are the bad guys – yet Dominion remains mature enough to avoid being classed as childish.
Despite the breaks from Shirow’s normal style, a casual glance at the artwork will reassure you it is indeed the work of the great man himself. The art work in Dominion is indisputably Shirow’s style, though it is more sketchy and playful than some of his other works, which I think suits the lighter mood of manga perfectly, though some may not like, but as stated above he does manage show off his skill for drawing mechanical devices, advanced cityscapes and weapons… oh as well as sexy Catgirls.
The plot is an interesting one revolving around the Tank Polices efforts to capture the villainous, though vertically challenged Buaku and his gang of misfits including the sexy Puma twins Anna and Uni and Green Peace Crolis – a human air filter created in a laboratory and discovered by Buaku at the end of the first Anime OAV. Not wanting to give away the plot it soon becomes a little more complex than your average comedy, the characters don’t seem to be good or back, insane maybe but neither righteous nor evil, which is a very interesting concept which contrasts with our overly simplistic “Goody/Baddy” mentality of today.
In conclusion, though the artwork is a little sketchy at times and despite its age and relative obscurity Dominion is an excellent Sci-fi comedy romp, more than worthy of my highest endorsement and defiantly worth tracking down, if for nothing else but to see the origins of “Ghost in the Shell”.
Leona – is the impatient, psychotic, tank loving protagonist of Dominion whose job it is to thwart Buaku’s every villainous endeavor. Leona is loud, brash and energetic. She is known for her stubbornness in her pursuit of evil doers and has been consistently follows them round, over and through any object in her and her beloved mini-tank “Bonaparte’s” path.
Al – is Leona’s long suffering partner and driver of the Mini-tank Bonaparte. He is seriously infatuated with Leona but not necessarily with her tank, perhaps unfortunately for him as it is often a fact that works against him in any attempt at romance. Al is the rational voice to curb Leona’s often erratic fervor to combat crime, though his retiring personality and sometimes his shyness coupled with his unrequited attraction to Leona results in him finding himself going with what she tells him more often than not.
Inspector Brenten – is a commander in the Newport Tank Police and he commands the precincts whole tank battalion and its crews. Brenten maintains a tough, macho cop image; he is obsessed with tanks, guns and violence. Beneath the harsh exterior however, Brenten is a bit of a softie (though some might say lazy… Just not to his face), in consequence he prefers riding around the streets in his beloved tank to actually solving any crimes. Of course, he wouldn’t let anyone else know that, and tries to live up to his image as a hard taskmaster.
Buaku – is a one time cyborg guinea pig, used in genetic and psychological experiments into the human conscience, who is now the most renowned gang leader in the Newport Area. He leads a large outlaw gang full of renowned criminals including his lieutenants the Puma sisters. Buaku has recently been terrorising the citizens of Newport City and recently took to infiltrating companies to rip off high tech equipment to attain an as yet unknown super mysterious goal. While he manages to have a few close shaves in his encounters with the Tank Police, military, and other authorities of Newport City, he manages to stay one step ahead of the law at all times.
Anna and Uni Puma – are twin feline androids whose only differing feature is Unipuma’s 0.014″ longer ears compared to her sisters. One time exotic dancers, they now work for Buaku as Lieutenants in his gang. They are professional soldiers with a fondness for automatic weapons, jewels, diamonds and antique clothes; they fit in well with the characters in Buaku’s gang. They do however lack common sense (some might say intelligence) and whenever they use their initiative rather than following Buaku’s orders they tend to cause only more problems.
Greenpeace Crolis – is the bioengineered humanoid female with wings acquired by Buaku from the research facility in which he was born years after it was destroyed. She’s a living air filter. Her wings filter air, purifying it and her green skin is embedded with chlorophyll, allowing her to gain energy directly from the sun. She seems to fit in as part of Buaku’s Gang well and is somehow part of his master plan; as a result he is forced to kidnap her back from Tank Police on many occasions with the help (and sometimes hindrance) of Anna and Uni Puma. She seems totally indifferent to the idea of being owned or who owns her as she has little concern for material or philosophical enrichment… As long as she gets enough light she is happy.