What They Say:
Giant Robots, sociopaths, madmen waving guns: these aren’t just the problems the Mobile Police have to deal with every day, these ARE the Mobile Police! But in a world where giant robots called Labors are frequently used for criminal purposes, the boys and girls in blue have to face things that are even bigger and scarier! So when police cadet Noa Izumi comes in to take a pilot aptitude test and instead initiates a high speed chase after a stolen Police Labor, it’s clear that she’s got exactly the right combination of guts, brains and just plain crazy that the Second Special Vehicles Division desperately needs. But fitting into the frequently insane lifestyle of SV2 won’t be easy. She’ll have rivals for the pilot seat of the mech that’s stolen Noa’s heart, and her patrol duties will include herding whales, exorcising hauntings and fighting rogue military units on top of the usual terrorists. On the other hand, she gets to carry the biggest handgun EVER. The wheels of justice keep turning (or, in this case, running on giant metal legs,) as SV2 hits the street in MOBILE POLICE PATLABOR TV – COLLECTION 1!
The audio presentation for this series is pretty good as we get the original Japanese language presented in stereo as well as the previously created English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that is definitely a product of its time, for both mixes, and it’s not one that really stands out all that much. The series is very much full feeling in how its presented with dialogue and the action not having a lot in terms of placement or depth. The structure of the mix is decent though and the action ramps things up a bit but the dialogue is well handled throughout since there are some lower moments along the way and a good mix of dialogue types. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
The show is a bit different than usual in its design as they’ve basically doubled the episodes per volume as there is a Japanese language track episode and an English language track episode. As the previous dub didn’t dub all the footage and the Japanese high definition materials are timed a bit differently, there was no way to synch it up like most episodes. All this means in the end is that you can’t switch languages on the fly as the tracks aren’t tied to the same video.
Originally starting release back in 1989 the transfer for this seven episode OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread evenly across three discs with four episodes per volume (twice). Animated by Sunrise, the source materials here look great throughout with some excellent detail to be had, especially since there are so many dark areas, and little to quibble with when you get down to it. There’s an obvious layer of film grain here but it’s minimal overall and adds to the nature of the traditional animation style. Some of the blues here and there are a bit noisier in some areas, but it’s never to a distracting level unless perhaps you’re freezing and stepping through the show. While I no longer have my original CPM release to compare against, I came away from this visual presentation really pleased by it.
The packaging for this release is straightforward and solid as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc. The front cover has a lot of white space to it as it lets the illustration of Noa in her uniform where they’re the ones with the bit of color. With a simple approach and some good used of black and green for the borders, it’s an appealing cover that draws on the original source material in a good way while still feeling fresh and modern. The back cover works a gray background that works nicely to allow the variety of shots from the show, small that they may be, stand out well. The tagline along the top does a nice riff on the whole law and order gig and the premise is well covered and easy to read. I also like that there’s a timeline along the bottom that covers the movies, which is tied to OVAs, and the TV timeline as well. The technical grid covers everything well and the production credits are clean and clear. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the release is one that is rather simple but it modernizes the show nicely in a way while still feeling very connected to it. The main part of the menu uses the whole side panel of the labor kind of feeling to it where has a worn design to it. The series logo is through the middle with a few other pieces to flesh it out a bit that definitely sets the mood right. The left side has the navigation strip which uses a dark background with white episode titles and green episode numbers that has it feeling like a panel inside the labor. When you use it during regular playback as the pop-up menu, it just adds tot hat feeling. The navigation is quick and easy to use and with nothing here outside of the language submenu, everything loads fast and works flawlessly.
The extras for this release are simple and kind of odd as we get the good things in the clean opening and closing sequences. And because the show has an odd mix of undubbed footage from the way CPM did their DVD release years ago, we do get that undubbed footage included for fans of the dub to see exactly what they’re missing..
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Revisiting this series after so many years, and coming after the OVA episodes at that as opposed to the very out of order way I had seen the property the first time, it’s been a real blast. Though the stories are simple in a way, there’s a real beauty to it that continues to captivate me. While I’m not in a mindset that the classics are better than things done today, there are those series that transcend time and can be engaging no matter when they’re made. And doing something a bit simple and straightforward like this, where it is more character driven than anything else, it works really well to maintain that timeless nature about it. And with Patlabor, there’s just a whole lot to like here as it starts from the beginning and introduces us to this world of mecha and police.
The TV series falls into the category of a police drama, but one with a lot of heart and some good comedy mixed in. The series doesn’t give itself a timeline, but it’s a near future where labors, which are essentially mechas, have gained popularity among the industrial world and are used for a lot of heavy duty work. And as with any new technology, someone out there will exploit it, so criminals begin using the labors as well. This causes the formation of the Patlabor, a patrol labor that’s used in the Special Vehicles group. This group is split into several divisions, each with their own style and purpose.
Our focus tends to be on Section 2, which up until we begin watching, has been getting the leftover outdated models for their group, while Section 1 has been getting all the latest and greatest. This changes though as the guarded and often considered asleep Captain Goto acquires the latest Ingram model from Shinohara Heavy Industries, the main company that produces labors. The Section is also bringing in some fresh blood, which brings us to… Noa Izumi. We pretty much see the Patlabor world through her eyes, as she joins up with the Special Vehicles Division in the first episode. She’s the fresh eyed police office whose adoration of labors slowly begins to turn into an obsession as she slavishly falls in love with the Ingram she eventually is chosen to pilot, so far as to name him Alphonse. The relationship between Noa and her labor is one of the more interesting relationships in the show early on.
With Noa, we learn the ropes of the division, such as how self-sufficient everyone is as they’re on call a week at a time, to the point where they all fish in Tokyo Bay during the evenings for their meals. The cleaning routines, the various “codes” that indicate what needs to be done and the farming community that they’ve built. It’s all quite interesting and nicely realized, though a bit heavy handed at times.
The episodes themselves are fairly self-contained, though as it progresses we do get some that are multi-part stories. There’s a threat of the week, tied with Noa learning how the Patlabor world works. One episode focuses on a mysterious creature roaming the forests while another delays with a damaged military labor gone awry. All during these episodes we meet each of the characters that make up the team, from Captain Goto, the New York transfer trainee, the son of Shinohara Heavy Industries and the ground crew and maintenance folks. It’s really a well done cohesive group that plays well off of each other.
With the main team now established, this batch of episodes decides to focus on various single episode situations up until the last one. So far, things are going well in just showing off how the teams work and don’t work well together as well as slowly expanding on the politics of this timeline and Japan’s place in it. As such, there are a couple of rather fun episodes. The opening episode was a good spot of fun in dealing with a reporter whose with a number of officials as they show them one of the more ambitious building projects. While there, a fire breaks out that causes them all to get stuck on the floor they’re on. As luck would have it, only the Ingram’s are really equipped to handle a situation like this, where they have to be lowered from the outside to get inside. While this is fairly straightforward, it turns into nothing more than a massive marketing ploy by the PR division of the police, as they try to turn the image of the SV division around.
Another episode ends up dealing with some historical situations, bringing the amusing visions of giant painted Oni running through the mountains with their striped undergarments. This tale from the past, of haunting demons, has caused a construction project to be halted as the labors being used have all been destroyed. While the episode itself is extremely predictable, it works well in showing how the labors have begun to be really assimilated into regular society, and relatively ignored by people.
For these episodes, there’s little in the way of real character growth, instead they focus more on keeping you familiar with what to expect from them. We get lots of scenes with Ota being outrageous and wanting to shoot big weapons as well as Noa being all gung-ho about keeping her labor clean. The only one who really gets any good minor growth is Goto, if only because we start to see how his subtle and almost deadpan style allows him to get away with managing the system to his advantage. The only thing keeping him off his balance is Shinobu, who takes the more direct approach.
One of the best episodes in the series so far is Ota’s Afternoon, in which Ota’s mother brings him home to deal with an arranged marriage that she and a friend of hers have set up. Ota’s all for it, having seen the picture and the woman in mind is a stunner in her traditional clothes. While there’s enough comical stuff to do with an arranged marriage meeting, the fun with this is that it’s also Ota’s first time actually dating, so when he takes Ayano out, he gets a sizeable number of suggestions from everyone in the group. They do luck out in some respect though since Noa’s there and can provide a female opinion. Watching Ota on his couple of dates with Ayano is great, seeing all the things he does and the mistakes he makes. Ayano is also noteworthy as on the English track, the aforementioned contest winner portrays her.
Patlabor is a show that stands the test of time, whether it’s the OVA series, the TV show or the movies. Going into the TV series timeline here, Maiden Japan gives us twelve episodes of fun as it explores how the team really comes together when Noa Izumi arrives as well as Section 2 getting ahold of the advanced Ingrams instead of the clunky models they were using. Though the labor action is fun as it hits and it tries to play more to realism than fantasy, not always achieving it, it’s really all about the characters and their interactions and it succeeds very well there. The slow build of the supporting characters and the main cast getting plenty of time with each other is what works really well and it all ties together perfectly with the setting and pacing. The opening volume may not knock your socks off, but it’s a great show that sets a lot into motion and the presentation here is very, very good.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Undubbed Footage
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: July 16th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.