Don't let that title fool you, either. It might make you expect a cartoon character or a K9 crimefighter, but it's the title of a popular manga series by a writer who pseudo-named himself after Charles "Buronson" to give readers an idea of what to expect from his pen. I couldn't find out very much about the character more commonly known as Detective Doberman (or Doberman Deka in his native tongue), so I don't know how faithfully Fukasaku represents the comics here. I'll just have to judge the film on its own merits, which emerge only gradually.
As Kano explains, Yuna is "sort of" his wife, or at least was predicted to become his wife by her mother, the local noro or sorceress. This authority is also convinced that Yuna is not dead. The Tokyo cops may scoff (wouldn't you?) but Kano's own analysis appears to confirm her perception. He casts a bag of seashells on a table and counts those face down and face up in "she loves me, she loves me not" fashion to determine whether Yuna is alive. Don't freak out, though: he's also a quite competent conventional detective and, also being Sonny Chiba, more than capable of handling himself in dangerous situations.
Kano suddenly becomes a national hero when he uses unconventional means to rescue an aspiring nightclub singer, Miki Haruno, from a psycho who's taken her hostage in her hotel room. Chiba does most of his own stuntwork in this sequence, rapelling off the hotel roof and traveling at least a dozen stories down to set up his crash dive through a window into Miki's room. This exploit earns him the nickname "Detective Tarzan," just to make things more confusing. It also boosts Miki's profile in advance of her appearance on "A Star is Born," the Japanese Idol of its time. As we learn later, that's just what her ruthless manager Hidemori, a former yakuza, was betting on. But as Kano learns when he watches her sing her signature tune, "My Memory," Miki is almost certainly Yuna Tamashiro.
Janet Hatta as Miki and Hiroki Matsukata practically steal Doberman Cop from Chiba, who admirably doesn't overdue the yokel act, despite his costume. Below, Miki's apotheosis at the moment of her mentor's destruction.
If this is "normal" treatment by Kano's standards, his Okinawan village must be a more happening kind of place than most Tokyo snobs assume.
Doberuman Deka is obviously not in the same league as Fukasaku's yakuza epics or the late-career apocalypse of Battle Royale, but it has a visceral vitality and a surprising emotional range from bumpkin bawdiness to torch song tragedy. Some of that may come from the source material, and some of it is the director's distinctive touch. Perhaps more so than Chiba's martial-arts films that traveled around the world, this film is a piece of authentic Japanese pop culture, and one that may never have been meant for foreign eyes. While the widescreen transfer on the Videoasia disc is far from optimum, the film's mere presence alongside Machine Gun Dragon make the company's Chiba set a must-have until better, more official editions come along.
There's better picture quality in this Japanese trailer, uploaded to YouTube by ssape21. You never see that dog in the movie itself, by the way.