Even these tapes cost something

  Techno Police
1982 | Toho International Co Ltd.
Techno Police Celebrity's Just For Kids

TECHNO POLICE: "One cop's fight against crime in an age of robots and electronic wizardry!" Apparently, in 2001 the Police had robots. If they did I never saw them. Does that make this a period drama?

Never mind, let's join Ken and the Techroids as they "put the heat on the street" and keep an eye out for animated 'sun glare on the camera lens' which respected American critic Steven Williamson found "exciting".

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Techno Police 21c started out life in 1978 as an idea from Artmic Studio founder Toshimichi Suzuki. Work began on developing the idea into a TV series as a co-production between Artmic and Studio Nue. The technology to be featured in the series was heavily researched with the intention of making the future as believable as possible.

Unfortunately, the project hit problems. After 4 years in development there was only enough animation produced for a single episode. The series was scrapped and, in order to recover some of the costs, the existing footage was compiled into a 80 minute movie and distributed by Toho.

Set in a futuristic 2001 in the Hi-Tech yet violent and crime filled metropolis of Centinel City. A reckless young traffic officer Kyosuke is hand picked by for a special assignment far from his countryside home. He was chosen to become one of the first officers of a newly created arm of the SCPD, one which uses robotic assistants, known as Techroids, to give them an edge over the criminals. Together with his robot Blader and fellow Technopolice members Kosuga (accompanied by the super strong Techroid Vigorus) and Eleanor (with the computer hacking female robot Scanny) Kyosuke take on the well equipped criminals that plague the city, including a runaway, prototype military tank.

Of the staff that worked on the aborted TV show two are most notable. The first is Jo Hisaishi who provides the synth-jazz score and is well known in the west for having created the score for nearly all Hayao Miyazaki and 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano's movies including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa (Miyazaki) and Sonatine, Hana-bi, Brother (Beat Takeshi). Working as part of the animation staff is Shoji Kawamori who is now famous for his mecha designs particularly on the seminal Super Dimension Fortress Macross.

Scale model kit company Hoshima, in anticipation of the proposed TV show, had produced a number of tie-in plastic kits of Technopolice's vehicles and robots, including a good number of designs which never animated. These were still released, in hopes to make money from the movie instead. As well as 1/16 scale kits of the Techroids etc other items of merchandising included a soundtrack, on LP and cassette and the eventual release of the movie on both VHS and Laserdisc.

Undeterred by Technopolice's failure Toshimichi Suzuki returned to his original idea, some years later reworking it as the OAV series Bubblegum Crisis, which faired slightly better but in the end suffered a similar fate.

In 1983 Technopolice 21c was dubbed by those ubiquitous Hong Kong Kung Fu voice actors (see also Battle For Moon Station Dallos & Locke the Superpower). The company responsible for the commissioning this new English track is unknown, they also made a few changes to the movie, moving the title card to the very start and pausing the individual shots of the opening credits to remove the Japanese text without shortening the running time or messing with the music. Also the end credits are missing entirely but otherwise the content of the movie itself is unchanged.

This English language version was released on video in the UK by Mountain Video (Frankenstein, Dracula, Mazinger Z) under the slightly shorter title Techno Police. With the advent of the 1984 Video Recordings Act (see Frankenstein) the video was withdrawn from shelves and disappeared into obscurity never to be re-released.

Re-edited and redubbed scenes from Techno Police also appeared in Mountain Video's obscure Flash! No.1 'Video Comic' and it's spin-off Flash! Robot Issue. These two tapes, released on VHS, Betamax and V-2000, were intended to advertise their collection of childrens by collecting short clips of them together in a mock comic-book-on-video format. Both issues were released in 1983.

The American market wouldn't get to see Blader (now known as just Blade) in action until 1987 when Techno Police found the shelves thanks to Celebrity's Just For Kids (Battle for Earth Station S/1, Revenge of the Ninja Warrior) , and later from Best Film and Video. All three versions are the same.

Outside of the English speaking world unedited video versions of Technopolice 21c were seen in France, Germany and Spain with a theatrical run in Cuba.


Movie Poster
Promo Still
Model Kits

Before we get into the feature here is a quote, from the UK Mountain Video sleeve, attributed to one
'respected American critic' Steven Williamson:

"Apart from the attention to detail which has become Toho's trade mark over recent years, what I find so exciting about TECHNO POLICE is the addition of cinemagraphic effects such as sunglare on the camera lens, and out of focus backgrounds, which do not exist naturally in animated movies, but add considerably to the realism. The Japanese take their cartoons very seriously, and use effects available to live action movie makers, and combine it with their own artistic talents. It is worth noting the superb synthesizer based score which has become successful in its own right."

I've done a couple of quick internet searches for this Steven Williamson and come up with nothing. Was he really created to sell a second-hand Japanese cartoon to the English public on the basis of exciting lensglare, or is he a real critic? If you know the answer, please share. Now, on with the movie...

Deep within some futuristic cityscape a man sits in front of a giant computer screen in a dark room (he's gonna damage his eyes doing that). He flicks through Police records of recent recruits while a woman with a clipboard adds additional information on the Officer which, for some reason, has been left off of his file.

Having discounted several possible 'volunteers' the shady looking bald man settles for a young highway patrol officer named Ken. It doesn't bother him that Ken's additional information claims that he "is inclined to be a bit lazy" after all, as he asserts, "this one should stay alive for at least six months!".

techno police technopolice 21c

Out in the countryside, Ken limps back to the station on a barely functioning motorbike. He is informed on his arrival that the Chief wants to see him. For once it isn't about the number of bikes he's wrecked (29 to date) but instead to notify him of his transfer to Centinel City where he is being assigned to the Techno Police unit. Ken is less than pleased to hear the news but his red neck Captain, who just can't stop shaving, isn't interested.

techno police technopolice 21c

Minutes later Ken is outside polishing his car, a classic Lotus 7 which he is very proud of, while a group of generic looking officers stand perfectly still behind him. Eventually one breaks the silence. "Tell me friend have you ever been to Centinel Cit-ty?" he asks in a typical Kung-Fu movie delivery. Ken pretends to be unaware of what is ahead of him. "Just the worse crime rate in the wor-rld and it's so enormous a man feels like an aaaant." intones a moustached Cop. "You gonna die!" adds another, helpfully. Ken leaves this grim lot behind and heads off to the big city as an instrumental version of the main theme plays.

Somewhere within the sprawling metropolis an unusually static crowd watch the grand unveiling of a new, impregnable, branch of a national bank. Mr Bank President is there in person to address the crowd on the amazing new security techniques which make this flagship branch completely un-robbable. The people coo in amazement as the giant sheet is pulled away to reveal a completely transparent and uninspiring glass pyramid. Mr Bank President continues to talk up the unbreakable nature of his new structure as a demonstration is carried out live on TV. With seemingly no interest in public safety, two men shoot at the pyramid with powerful handguns at point-blank range. The bullets ricochet off the glass leaving no mark. The crowd is once more impressed with this achievement and less concerned as to where these stray .44 Magnum bullets have ended up.

The crowd is more concerned when a mounted gun arrives at the scene and blasts a huge hole in the side of the bank. It is quickly established that this isn't a test at all but a daring, daylight robbery. A robotic arm extends from the truck and plucks the bank vault from the wreckage. Before you can say "What'ssat?" the truck is gone, along with the loot, leaving Mr Bank President to collapse comically in front of the TV cameras.

techno police technopolice 21c

Stopping for gas outside the city Ken picks up Kaoru Kosagi who, by some coincidence, has also just been assigned to the exact same team. There is some apparent hilarity in this manly man being named Kaoru, a fact which is lost on me and I'd wager a good percentage of the western audience. Entering the city Ken and Koaru are nearly run off the road by the Bank Robbers who are making their getaway with the stolen vault. Ken sets off in hot pursuit and is soon joined by the head of the Technopolice Chief Narubi and fellow recruit Eleanor in the Road Ranger (the Technopolice's signature vehicle).

Things hot up as the mounted gun opens fire on the pursuing cops. A couple of innocent motorists are likely killed but don't worry, our heroes are doing fine thanks to some skillful driving on Ken's part. A helicopter flies into view and from it leaps Blade, Ken's new Techroid partner. The blue robot lands on top of the speeding truck and goes crazy, smashing the crap out of it even after it has skidded to a halt and the two passengers have fled.

techno police technopolice 21c

The chase over Narubi introduces Ken to his unbalanced assistant while the robbers make a run for it. They needn't have a risked life of assisted living by dropping sixty feet onto the roof of a passing truck since no-one is making the slightest effort to follow them. They're all too busy gawking at the exciting new robots to be engaging in police work. If this is typical of there dedication to the job it's no wonder Centinel City is so over run with crime!

But it's not just Ken who gets a robot, everyone who joins the Techno Police does! And the robots they get subtly mirror their owners personality. Back at the station Kosagi and Eleanor are introduced to their Techroids (sounds like a painful rectal infection for robots!). Kosagi's is called Vigorus and is big, strong and dumb. Eleanor's is named Scanny and it's pink and a girl... "Together you will put an end to the current tidal wave of crime in the city!" remarks Narubi. I'm not sure I share his faith in this bumbling trio of misfits and their dimwitted Techroid companions. Even if they weren't so flaky surely it would take a lot more then three cops and three robots to clean up a whole city - especially one that is so huge it makes you feel like an aaaant. Maybe they blew the unit's budget on the Techroids, it would explain the sub standard detectives they've opted for.

technopolice 21c

Night. A helicopter lands on the roof of a tall skyscraper and a shady looking business man gets out. He walks directly into a dimly lit board room where a selection of shifty looking men sit waiting and without a greeting he get's straight down to business. Who these men are is not revealed but their "latest project" is the ABT-94 tank. They've got the manual from the manufacturers but the section on the Command System was missing. This is important information that they need to know for "national security" so the best thing to do is steal the tank. Yeah, I know, it doesn't make a great deal of sense to me either. They could have just called 'Tank Co.' and asked for them to fax over the missing section but stealing a whole tank just made more sense to them. "Choose who ever you think is suitable for the job," Mr Chairman commands, "We'll have to use bribery! But when it's over we'll kill them!" My god! They truly are evil! Such monsters! Bribery!

techno police technopolice 21c

Back at the Techno-station it's time for a little comedy so the newly appointed officers try to teach their robotic sidekicks some skills of the job. All this really means is an innocent man gets dragged through a concrete wall, Vigorus fails to solve a simple child's puzzle and Blade asks Eleanor out on a date (and she accepts... ). The laughs certainly never stop when these guys are together.

In the skies over Centinel City the ABT-94 tank is in transport inside a giant cargo plane. Somehow those bank robbers from earlier are already inside the tank's cockpit and are waiting for the right moment to make their daring snatch. Is this really the best way to steal a tank? Presumably they snuck aboard while it was on the ground, why wait until it is airborne over a large, populated area before trying to steal it? The robbers reveal themselves to the the pilots by forcing the gun turret into the cockpit and demand that the cargo plane be re-routed. The escort jets get wind of this air-tight plan and open fire... over a heavily populated civilian area. Is anyone thinking straight?

The cargo plane takes heavy damage causing the hijacked tank to burst out and plummet towards the skyscrapers below while the plane itself simply explodes midair showering burning wreckage and jet fuel over anyone unlucky enough to be under it. The tank gracefully parachutes to the ground and disappears beneath the surface of a lake in the middle of Centinel Park. The robbers decide to make the best of it after all the plan is to meet with the buyers at Pier B that evening giving them a whole day to enjoy the atmospheric, cost cutting blue light they find themselves in.

techno police technopolice 21c

Ken, who has slept the night in his uniform, is rudely awoken by Eleanor but all her efforts can't get him out of bed. But when the ludicrously named Mariannella enters the room he can't get out of bed and to the scene of the tank disappearance fast enough. Just think about this for a minute because it always bothers me when I see this on TV or wherever - Ken has slept fully dressed (even including his boots!) and then dashes out of bed and straight out the door without even a glance towards the bathroom. Even the grungiest college student/guy at the office would at least run his hair under the tap before leaving the house! He hasn't even brushed his teeth.

The Road Ranger is launched from the Techno Police HQ which is revealed to be in an enviable location - a tiny metal cabin over the freeway. The freeway is instantly closed to all civilian traffic for this launch, Eleanor's voice coming over the loud speakers demands "Vehicles must find alternative routes!". I'm starting to see cracks in this vision of a utopian future. It's also worth noting the amount of exhaust the Road Ranger kicks out on ignition. There's no way that thing would pass an emissions test, what is its carbon foot print? Even in the future (which is actually the past) the Police aren't leading by example.

techno police technopolice 21c

At the bottom of the lake the crooks get bored of waiting so instead set the tank on an automatic course for the pier, even though it is still hours ahead of the rendezvous. It surfaces and rumbles off though the park (and through Kosaka's house which happens to be in the middle of the park), and so begins the longest tank-chase in motion picture history.

Even with Road Ranger, the Techno Police team and a helicopter in full pursuit the tank, like Godzilla, manages to completely disappear inside a crowded city. Unlike Godzilla, it hasn't burrowed under the ground but is instead parked on the freeway. Two passing female traffic cops give them a parking ticket.

Next is that scene out of Flash! No. 1, except Blade isn't asking the kids in the playground if they want to watch a crappy old cartoon from the 30's (in a creepy speak-and-spell voice) but is instead lost and asking for directions.

techno police technopolice 21c

Elsewhere the tank continues its rampage of destruction, crashing through a shopping mall and into the bank. Back at HQ General Hamilton of the Air Force drops by to inform the chief that this type of threat is out of his jurisdiction and he's taking over the operation. So much for the Techno Police.

Finally the tank crosses the law's path. Blade confronts it out on the open road and distracts them while Scanny attempts to use her special hacking abilities to open the tank's hatch. The robbers fire wildly around them but fail to hit anything of consequence. Finally Vigory gets under the tank and, using his super-robotic strength, stops it dead in its tracks.

techno police technopolice 21c
techno police techno police technopolice 21c

The exhilarating chase seems to be over (trust me, its not) when the hatch is opened and the bad guys are finally brought to justice. Eleanor offers to look around inside claiming it's her "specialty". What kind of specialty is that? Vigorus has super-strength, Ken can sleep with his boots on and all Eleanor is skilled at is looking inside tanks? Actually it seems her real skill is being a helpless damsel in distress as the navigation screen flashes "Comand II Stand by" and the tank begins to roll once more, locking the poor, helpless girl inside.

techno police technopolice 21c

The chase is back on, settle in because it's gonna be a long. Scanny attempts to get the hatch open like before but gets her head blasted off by the automatic defence system instead. Don't fear though, she'll be alright - what's left of her body flies off to meet the Techno Police chopper and is rushed back to HQ for repair. Things take a further turn for the worse when the autonomous tank blasts the Road Ranger off the road, leaving only Blade to follow on foot.

With the situation out of the Techno Police's supposedly specialist hands the Air Force moves in. Things don't look good for Eleanor. The military choppers open fire but, try as they might, they just miss the target and hit everything around it instead.

In search of a way to end this (honestly tedious) chase the Chief pays a visit to the company that manufactured the ABT-94. The newly repaired Scanny hacks into the company's database to find the answers behind the runaway tank's command system.

techno police technopolice 21c

Moments later the hi-tech Police Academy receive a call from the Chief with the scoop on the ABT-94's behaviour. He reveals that the tank has an automatic command system which is set to switch over to auto pilot if the pilots are killed or captured. Once in auto it will self destruct once all of it's ammo has run out or if it drops below 60 mph. Ok, that last one's a lie.

The gang, which now includes the bank robbers, are giving chase in one of the army tanks damaged in the earlier street battle. They witness as the Air Force seem to destroy the runaway ABT-94 with a direct missile barrage but, wouldn't you know it, it's not even scratched and continues on its merry way towards the pier. The chase continues through the streets and into an apartment store where the target is momentarily caught, trapped upside down while falling through floors. Outside General Hamilton plans to drop a bomb on it but Chief blackmails him into not just backing off but quitting the chase altogether.

Now that they are safe from 'death from above' the Keystone-Technocops attempt to rescue Eleanor from the ABT-94's malign evil clutches. They manage to make contact and exchange info so now Eleanor knows about the self-destruct and the good guys know of its destination. And it's a good thing too because the tank slips free of its concrete bonds and begins once more on the long journey to pier B. In scenes reminiscent (at least to me) of the old LaserDisc/Mega CD game Road Blaster/Avenger the tank leaps from building to building while Ken continues the pursuit on the shoulders of Blade.

techno police technopolice 21c

What follows is an odd, borderline erotic, sequence in which soft focus shots and sensual jazz music seem to romanticise the escaping tank. A piano softly plays as sparkling coloured light and psychedelically coloured backgrounds frame the big hunk of military hardware. Its like all those eighties super-car posters brought to life, even I'm starting to have feelings for it and I'm not even tankosexual.

techno police technopolice 21c

The sun is setting a Ken finally meets the tank at its destination, Pier B and the much heralded animated lens flare gets its debut. His plan of "It won't open fire on an unarmed man" is quickly proven wrong. Ken and Blade hitch a ride as the tank makes its final run - into the sea to rendezvous with a waiting submarine. Incidentally shouldn't Blade stay away from sea water, what with him being a robot an' all.

The bad guys from the boardroom meeting now, at last, have their tank. It is theirs for whatever purpose it was they wanted it for. Armed men flood the chamber intending to kill Ken and secure the stolen goods, but Ken is tougher than he looks and evades their murder attempts. Before you can say "What's that? Robot?" Blade bursts in and the killer Sea Men don't stand a chance. But all this mild violence awakens the terrifying might of The Tank!! Yet again it springs to life letting off its valued munitions all over the place. Mr Big quite wisely sets it free rather than sink to the bottom of the ocean leaving Ken to float rapidly to the surface at head-imploding speeds.

techno police technopolice 21c

Bobbing to the surface the tank launches its last rounds. Ken successfully opens the hatch, using the handy number pad interface located on the back of the turret. Eleanor ejects to safety while Blade carries Ken a safe distance from the soon to explode weapon. Finally safe the three enjoy a floating group hug and watch the mushroom cloud light the morning sky.

techno police technopolice 21c

Chief arrives in chopper just in time before the freezing water turns their legs numb, or the blast heats it enough to boil their skin off. They all fly off into the sunset and the end comes abruptly almost as if they ran out of animation.

Missing videos

The best of the worst
Those dubbing guys have done us proud! A choice selection of crap.

Sexy Tank
Man, that is one smoking hot tank!
Check out those tracks!! Oooh yeah!

Good score
It's got robots in it...
Horrendous, terrible dubbing
Low on plot
  Rubbish script
  Poor character designs

Of all the Anime hack-ups I've done this one is easily the closest to being an actual made-for-kids cartoon video. The animation is inconsistent and often substandard (particularly for a movie), the plot is completely empty and there is nothing in the way of characterisation, development or back story. The script is naff and the dubbing is exactly what you'd come to expect from "The Boys" from Hong Kong (I counted 7 exclamations of "Whassat?" during the course of the movie, a few more a we'd have a drinking game!)

But you can't really hold most of that against Techno Police after all it is what it is; the scraps of a barely commenced show. By the time the story comes to its abrupt end it feels like the project has literarily run out of animation, at that exact second. If there had been the time or money to shoot some extra scenes to round this out as a one-shot feature it would have faired a lot better, as it is Techno Police is like a really, really, light weight Hollywood summer blockbuster.

In the end what you get is the bus bit from Speed except with a tank and stretched out for virtually the length of the movie. Great for eighties kids, a bit of a chore for the rest of us.

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