Angel Cop, And the Enduring Legacy of Gag Dubs

Content material Warning: Incorporates a short description of Angel Cop‘s antisemitic components

Angel Cop was first unleashed upon the English-speaking world in 1995, distributed by Manga Leisure. It shortly gained a status for being a so-bad-it’s-good schlock anime, with a basic dub consisting of predominantly British voice actors doing unconvincing American accents. Like many localized anime of its time, Angel Cop was extraordinarily violent, cyberpunk-adjacent, and explicitly grownup, that includes a dub laden with colourful profanity. 

The story of Angel Cop, not less than because it was skilled by English audio system in the course of the 90s, is straightforward at first however turns into convoluted over its runtime. Japan has became the world’s dominant superpower and is going through terrorist assaults from a communist group. A bunch of officers referred to as the Particular Safety Pressure is created to fight these terrorists; the dub invokes Choose Dredd when describing them – every member is choose, jury, and executioner rolled up into one. The titular Angel, a self-described “bitch,” is especially keen on the executioner function.

Discovering an Angel (Cop)

Angel Cop may be the primary anime I ever noticed that wasn’t Pokemon. It sounds unlikely, but it surely is smart when put into perspective. As a (roughly) fourteen-year-old, I noticed a person on an edgy and angst-filled message board who had an Angel Cop-related signature. I received’t say which discussion board it was, but it surely was associated to Lego and I used to be fully too younger to be on it; unusual how that may occur.

Screenshot from Angel Cop that depicts Angel, a black-haired woman in a jean jacket and red top, threatening a bespectacled man in a suit.Screenshot from Angel Cop that depicts Angel, a black-haired woman in a jean jacket and red top, threatening a bespectacled man in a suit.
©1994 Ichiro Itano/Soeishinsha.

What made me take discover of this discussion board signature was, naturally, its leather-clad and comely protagonist, the titular Angel. Upon investigating additional and discovering the present’s notoriously extreme violence and darkly comedic dub, I did what any enterprising teenager with an web connection would do and determined to look at it. Angel Cop turned a quick favourite, and since then I’ve watched the entire thing a number of instances.

I used to be such an enormous fan of Angel Cop that I purchased the Discotek Blu-Ray, the primary one which used an upscale Betamax grasp. For some time, I rationalized that it was superb that Angel Cop had a blurry Betamax look to it, as a result of finally it mirrored the time-capsule nature of Angel Cop’s place in anime historical past, even when it meant superb element was obliterated and backgrounds typically had a smeary high quality. However I discarded these ideas the second Discotek launched one other Blu-Ray after the unique movie destructive was found. I sighed, however finally relented and acquired that one too; not less than it got here in a metal e-book, I instructed myself.

Hyperviolence and Antisemitism

When you’re not aware of Angel Cop, that element concerning the Betamax grasp being the one recognized supply till just a few years in the past could have raised an eyebrow. Angel Cop, like lots of the different cherry-picked hyper violent OVA delicacies of the 80s and 90s, discovered a comparatively massive viewers in English-speaking international locations because it pale into obscurity in Japan. Angel Cop‘s recognition sustained because the anime fanatics of the 90s turned the anime press of the aughts as fandom exploded. 

Angel Cop’s historical past begins, in Japan, in 1989. It began with a multimedia push, with a single-volume manga beginning publication just a few months earlier than the discharge of the primary OVA episode. Like many notoriously dangerous anime, Angel Cop was created by some gifted individuals with notable manufacturing credit. Your entire anime was directed by Ichiro Itano and was written by Itano with Sho Aikawa. 

Screenshot from Angel Cop that depicts a short-haired, blonde woman clad in a fur coat as she dangles a bleeding corpse like a prize.Screenshot from Angel Cop that depicts a short-haired, blonde woman clad in a fur coat as she dangles a bleeding corpse like a prize.
©1994 Ichiro Itano/Soeishinsha.

Sure, that’s the Itano who created the “Itano Circus,” using the method most famously when directing Macross films and episodes. As we’re speaking about Manga Leisure and notorious 90s dubs right here, it might in all probability be apt for me to say that Itano directed an episode of the Violence Jack OVA as effectively. Aikawa has an equally spectacular resume as a author, with writing credit on Martian Successor Nadesico, Love Hina, and the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime, amongst many different issues. Different notable creatives rounded out Angel Cop’s manufacturing, similar to Yasuomi Umetsu, director of Kite, who did animation path and keys on the primary episode.

The anime entered manufacturing in the course of the Japanese asset worth bubble, and notably ended just a few years after the burst in 1994, with dwindling budgets affecting the manufacturing. There’s a hubris within the anime, dripping with unintended irony, with Japan being portrayed in its first episode because the dominant world superpower attributable to its financial success. In Angel Cop Japan has many enemies, however who precisely these enemies are adjustments relying on how one listens to the anime.

Within the authentic Japanese script of Angel Cop, Japan’s enemies finally turn into Jewish bankers. It was a distasteful and paranoid twist, however sadly not a wholly unprecedented one to have in 80s Japan. In Child Fenris’s good evaluation, which can also be included as a supplemental on Discotek’s Blu-Ray releases of the collection, he elaborates:

Whereas Angel Cop’s anti-Semitic twists are uncommon within the pop-culture skeins of anime, they weren’t so unusual in Japanese media of the late Nineteen Eighties . . . Japan’s bustling economic system led to many excesses within the Nineteen Eighties, together with a surfeit of conspiracy theories. The nation’s monetary success sparked new rivalries with overseas nations and really actual backlashes in some sectors . . . Some Japanese authors seized on this and concocted theories about worldwide secret societies scheming to undermine Japan’s newfound prosperity, with Jews usually main the cadre . . . Japan’s busy print publishing trade and comparatively small Jewish inhabitants diluted objections for a great whereas.

Child Fenris

From Horrific to Humorous

For causes that must be pretty apparent, Manga Leisure, licensors of Angel Cop, didn’t need to embody the overt antisemitism current within the authentic script. John Wolskel, the person tasked with writing the dub script, made it in order that the final word antagonists had been simply People as an alternative. Wolskel’s script concurrently eliminated the rancid antisemitism of the unique script and sent-up the ridiculous far-right anti-commie motion schlock that was so pervasive within the 80s, with the ironic twist that America is the enemy. It’s exhausting to disagree with the recontextualization, which manages so as to add some dimension to what was in any other case an excessively severe seinen.

There’s a not-insignificant likelihood you’ve seen the Angel Cop spotlight reel floating round, which options basic strains similar to “Fuck and piss!” and “Don’t be an fool; anybody can see you’re completely fucked!”. In an interview with Wolskel, he says he was instructed by Manga Leisure producer Laurence Guinness, “Go for it, make it as edgy as you’ll be able to”. 

Screenshot from Angel Cop that depicts the titular Angel, a raven-haired woman wearing blue body armor that covers her upper body but leaves her bottom half exposed in a form-fitting leotard. She's cocking a giant laser gun as she inexplicably turns her butt toward the camera.Screenshot from Angel Cop that depicts the titular Angel, a raven-haired woman wearing blue body armor that covers her upper body but leaves her bottom half exposed in a form-fitting leotard. She's cocking a giant laser gun as she inexplicably turns her butt toward the camera.
©1994 Ichiro Itano/Soeishinsha.

Most Western firms licensing anime within the 90s pushed the concept that anime was completely grownup, to fight the notion that animation was just for kids. Manga Leisure might be thought of the poster youngster of the “These aren’t your grandma’s cartoons” motion, as they launched lots of the most notoriously violent and vulgar anime of the period, similar to Mad Bull 34 and the aforementioned Violence Jack, each of which additionally had scripts by Wolskel. Wolskel penned many different classics, with Angel Cop probably not even being probably the most well-known (notorious?) of the batch. He additionally wrote the scripts for Appleseed, Cyber Metropolis Oedo 808, and Area Journey Cobra: The Film. Angel Cop‘s dub was directed by Michael Bakewell, who additionally had a hand in localizing many beloved anime, similar to Dominion Tank Police, Genocyber, Goku: Midnight Eye, Mission A-ko, and many of the Wolskel scripts I simply talked about. 

The Angel Cop dub, that includes a predominantly British forged talking fully in American accents, often punctuates issues with awkward pronunciations and overly English turns of phrase which can be conspicuous and humorous in equal measure. The magical factor concerning the dub is that it’s each deliberately and unintentionally humorous, which is an especially unusual but stunning factor.

The Pantheon of Canonical Dubs

It’s definitely legitimate to really feel {that a} ridiculous dub is, to some extent, disrespectful to the unique supply materials, particularly if it’s including a component of comedy that had by no means existed earlier than. Many individuals view “gag dubs” the identical manner I view the latest pattern of cinephiles watching films on VHS; it goes in opposition to the intent of the individuals who created the work and, in a manner, cheapens it. It’s troublesome to argue with particular adjustments Angel Cop’s dub made, however even when the unique script wasn’t antisemitic it’s troublesome for me to argue with the extent of parody injected into what’s, for probably the most half, a weird right-wing fever dream. There’s a sort of synergy in Angel Cop’s dub that has induced it to turn out to be “canonical”, in a manner that solely a handful of dubs are.

“Canonical” dubs – dubs which can be so extremely regarded they’re normally really helpful as the best strategy to expertise an anime – are uncommon. Cowboy Bebop and Panty and Stocking are two of the best-known examples of this phenomenon. Angel Cop can also be a “gag dub”, a dub that kind of parodies the unique materials. Whereas Angel Cop’s dub has been effectively obtained, some gag dubs are much less beloved.

Samurai Pizza Cats is one other instance of a extremely regarded gag dub. The in all probability underpaid Saban localization workforce was given restricted sources when assigned the anime, so as an alternative of struggling to make sense of a 52-episode collection, they simply opted to make up jokes as they went alongside, largely ignoring the content material of the unique present. It’s nonetheless fondly remembered by the individuals who grew up with it.

Screenshot from Angel Cop that features a woman on a motorcycle riding along the shore as the sun sets behind herScreenshot from Angel Cop that features a woman on a motorcycle riding along the shore as the sun sets behind her
©1994 Ichiro Itano/Soeishinsha.

Ghost Tales, probably probably the most well-known gag dub ever, has a extra advanced legacy. Steven Foster, dub author, and director, famously allowed the voice actors to largely improvise an extremely profane and edgy dub for a TV collection initially meant for youngsters. The dub was an enormous success in its day, and the accepted knowledge for a very long time was that, no matter how one felt concerning the dub, the unique present didn’t have a lot benefit, not being something particular. The notion was that nothing of worth had been misplaced, and that the present in all probability even deserved the ribbing. Foster claimed his dub turned Ghost Tales, an alleged bomb in Japan, right into a monetary success that it had by no means been earlier than, a story that has been challenged within the years since, with some individuals disliking the deliberate disrespect of the gag dub.

There are definitely variations between Samurai Pizza Cats and Ghost Tales; one in all them has an irreverent dub that was aimed on the identical age demographic as the unique present, whereas the opposite turns one thing that was initially harmless into one thing extraordinarily edgy. However on a macro degree, each of them finally have quite a bit in frequent in the case of their remedy of supply materials, and it’s attention-grabbing how gag dubs may be well-received, or criticized.


I’ve stated quite a bit about Angel Cop with out relating the non-dub components of the present. There’s quite a bit to understand in Angel Cop past what’s within the spotlight reel; whereas the anime has a memetically dangerous status, I’d argue its animation and artwork path are fairly good. Lots of the motion scenes are well-directed, sustaining a powerful sense of geography that grounds issues. The titular Angel is a foul bitch in a manner that’s nonetheless unusual for feminine characters in anime, notably as protagonists. In contrast to some OVAs, which had been deliberate from installment to installment, Angel Cop tells a narrative crammed with continuity and foreshadowing that appears to have been deliberate in its entirety earlier than the primary episode was accomplished.

There’s a degree of competence in Angel Cop that makes it extra legitimately entertaining than a whole lot of issues thought of to be so dangerous they’re good. The present regularly is reactionary, excessively violent, borderline nihilistic, and nearly at all times in poor style, which might make it troublesome to abdomen if it wasn’t so ridiculous and over-the-top. Angel Cop undoubtedly isn’t for everybody, but it surely must be important viewing for anybody who likes to chuckle into the abyss.

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