Bubble Gum in the Shell: AD Police Files
Under which circumstances might a humanoid robot exhibit human behavior? Conversely, when humans replace parts of their body with the machine-driven alternative, at what point might they act less human? Such are the questions explored by AD Police Files, a three-episode OVA from 1990, and prequel to the classic Bubble Gum Crisis OVA series.
The first episode opens with Leon McNichol's promotion from the "normal" police force to AD Police, after his unlikely success against an out-of-control boomer (humanoid robot). While such boomers usually receive the scrapyard treatment, this one happened to be programmed for sex, and the involvement of a vibrant black market sees it into circulation again. The robot somehow remembers Leon, and desires another conflict with him.
The second episode gets into Ghost in the Shell territory , with an exploration of organ replacement (with robotic equivalents). As the vicious murders of two prostitutes reveal a serial killer at work, AD police and normal police fight over jurisdiction — AD police argue that the graphic nature of the murders suggests a boomer, while normal police argue that the conscious choice of prostitutes by the murderer suggests a human. The truth isn't what either expects.
The final episode chronicles an AD Police officer named Billy Fanword, whose only remaining human parts are his brain and tongue — the rest of his body having been replaced with robotic parts. He is prone to biting his tongue as his only method of neural stimulation. A pair of scientists is evaluating Billy in this episode, as a sort of super soldier — a robot with human intelligence. Things go horribly wrong when the scientists administer a drug designed to increase his performance.
Together, the AD Police stories represent a significant departure from their star-studded, corporate-evil-fightin' predecessor. Apart from redeeming Leon (by showing that AD Police are often effective), the series offers a compelling portrayal of everyday life in BGC-verse, and a sense that the only difference from today's streets is the increased technological sophistication afforded by time.
On the streets of Megatokyo, we find an easily-recognized tune, whereby technology is used by people as a lever against the weight of the changing world. Machines can malfunction, however, and tend to exhibit unpredictable behaviors when they do. There is a notion in the OVA that society hasn't figured out a safe and efficient method of marginalizing the rogue boomer effect — the AD Police response, while effective, is sloppy, when the level of property damage is taken into consideration. The issue of malfunctioning robotic parts in human bodies (and vice versa) is even more sticky. Which is a human incident to be handled by normal police, and which is AD-Police territory?
AD Police Files is both violent and sexually graphic, though not excessively so in either case. I came into the series with low expectations, and found the first episode to be quite forgettable. However, the final two episodes were a surprise. Both are solid cyberpunk offerings, worthy of consideration.
 Perhaps it's worth noting that Ghost in the Shell, the manga by Shirow Masamune, began its release about one year prior. While much of cyberpunk explores a robot-human coexistence, Masamune's work gets to the core of humanity. As live body parts get replaced with robotic ones, does the human become more like a machine?