What They Say:
Piloting a giant robot isn’t just a job, it’s an obsession. At least it is if you’re Noa Izumi, the dedicated young pilot of the SV2 Team 1’s Ingram, which she prefers to refer to as “Alphonse.” Unfortunately, Noa’s not the only driven female in SV2’s lineup, and when fate puts Kanuka Clancy in charge of Noa, not only do fireworks ensue, but Captain Goto decides to throw a little alcohol on the fire!
But that’s far from the most dangerous situation facing the thin steel line, and between escorting visiting royalty and pop singers at one extreme and facing off with mysterious phantom robots on the other, there’s no rest for the weary, overworked squad. When someone starts sending threatening messages to Goto and potentially deadly “accidents” start occurring, it’s up to the whole force to band together and find the culprit before someone on the Ingram team has their plug pulled permanently!
Contains episodes 13-24
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.
Originally starting release back in 1989 the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. 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 once again 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 pint sized versions of Noa and Clancy together with a labor that has both of them just a little buzzed. With a simple approach and some good used of black and red 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 to that feeling. The navigation is quick and easy to use and with nothing here outside of the language submenu, everything loads fast and works flawlessly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After revisiting the TV series for the first time in quite a few years with the previous collection, it was really a positive experience to get back with this crew for awhile and the largely standalone series of adventures they go through. There has always been a good sense of realism and design about the Patlabor series and that was always one of its best strengths in that it could feel like it could (and should) really happen. Of course, some aspects of it don’t quite work in the modern day viewing since a lot of technology has gone far beyond what they imagined would happen by 1999, but if you look past that – as you should – what you get is a very engaging show. Unfortunately, a few stories in this collection make you cringe a bit as it goes beyond the realistic and it also shows you just how far different things are now when it comes to little things like airport and plane security.
Probably the weakest of them is the first one, which goes in the environmental direction as a humpback whale has come into Tokyo Bay and has decided to hang out for awhile. This gets all the people in a tizzy and they’re all pro-whale and trying to come up with ways to save it. Most of the efforts fail, especially when they realize it had come to the bay to give birth. Most of the episode is used to focus on the whales and Hiromi’s past with them, but also works to point out how poorly regarded Division 2 is among the rest of the divisions across the government as they’re kept from doing much with this at all. Of course, you know they’ll save the day in the end.
The group ends up getting sent up to Hokkaido later to do some good PR with the people and provide support and show off some at an ice sculpture festival. This is one of those truly elaborate festivals where they build huge mansions and other buildings out of ice, most of them being done with a variety of labors all over. There’s a good amount of distaste over this kind of job among the officers, and there’s some basic discussion of just what they’re jobs are turning into. But there’s also the mention of the Babylon Project again, as it turns out that an extremist group is making a statement by blowing up the festival’s sculptures.
Another episode that ends up in the same vein, where PR is the main goal, has an idol singer named Kana join the team for a weeks worth of training. The goal is to have her lead a parade of sorts of Patlabors during a festival, thereby generating some much needed goodwill towards the Division and the Labors themselves. Kana and Noa end up working together, and things go wrong when a group of criminals end up kidnapping the wrong person. It’s a fairly straightforward episode, but it did provide some good laughs with everyone fawning over Kana.
The best episode of this collection brings the focus squarely on Captain Goto. Things start off with him getting a death threat, something he almost seems to expect, which causes him to become somewhat tense and not quite himself as he starts watching every little thing that comes his way. He doesn’t pass the information on to anyone else and just goes to deal with it himself, but the group ends up trying to discover what’s changed about him through various means of subterfuge, most of the time with it backfiring on them. Goto’s one of the best characters in this series with the way he carries himself and his usual bored look and deadpan deliveries. Having an entire episode dealing with him and everyone trying to understand him plays out beautifully, especially with someone trying to off him at the same time. This episode really helped raise up this volumes content overall.
After the first couple of rough episodes, we get one that’s a bit mixed in what it does as it provides an interesting terrorist plot that explores the geo-front that’s being built underneath Tokyo. While it’s still mostly just the massive chasms right now with various chambers and the huge central one, there’s some interesting discoveries along the way, including a massive limestone cavern that goes down most of the way. There’s even an area where they come across some “ancestors” from the Tokugawa period. The story has someone who is against the Babylon project, which is where the excavated dirt from here goes to, cause a disruption and then gets deep into the core to plant some bombs.
This leaves Izumi and New York City terrorist trained Kanuka to take on the bad guy. While they manage to get down and into things well enough, shades of Patlabor WXIII show up in that there’s something evil and living down there that starts causing trouble. The setup until this point is decent, but after that I couldn’t get images of CHUD and the latest Patlabor movie out of my head, causing me to lose interest.
Another episode has team relations at an all-time low which is played up against the main story of a private security firm that’s now hiring pilots for their own labors. Their exercise, in which some of the labors they have and some of the Special Vehicles labors operate together for training purposes, goes rather wrong when an unknown labor gets involved in it. The show moves back and forth between the actions of the labors and the strife within the team, particularly in the direct relationship between Izumi and Shinohara. Their problems just didn’t click for me though and the way it set off the rest of the team just didn’t feel like it worked right.
The best episode with this collection though is the that involves Izumi and Kanuka giving a public safety class on labors. While there’s a fair amount of people there, tensions rise when an assumed yakuza boss shows up, complete with his classic gangster look and vernacular. When he befriends the “girlies” and ends up getting friendly with Division 2 in general, they learn that he’s stopped collecting normal “classic” things like swords and cars and instead has one of the top five private labor collections in the world.
But they’ve never even been able to properly start one up.
The show produces a great comical rivalry between two yakuza bosses over their collections and involve the Patlabor team in amusing ways. Between the main bosses buying of gifts and then inviting everyone over to critique his skills as he tumbles about, it plays perfectly with its comical style and the stunned expressions of half the cast. Goto has few lines in general, but they’re such perfect lines. There’s one sequence where, after having performed some good “vigilante justice”, the boss is awarded an official commendation from the chief. Watching his eyebrow twitch while reading the commendation for the boss is just beautiful.
With a show of this length, it’s no surprise that we’ll see a recap episode or two here and there, though Patlabor at least tries to mix it up a bit. What they do is give us an episode that deals with the six month term expiration of Kanuka Clancy’s time with Special Vehicles Unit Two. She’s all business about it and insists on no “mushy Japanese sentimentality” over it, including any kind of party. Goto simply nods and accepts but the rest of the team sets things in motion to try and have a party, including breaking into her place to set things up. Clancy spends her time going through the process of writing her report for her New York bosses, which means she talks about everything that happened to her. And that means we see everything that came before.
The series continues along and brings everyone to the airport where Clancy is heading back. Only Noa actually shows up with her and sends her on her way, seeing how as most of the guys were too embarrassed to say anything. For Clancy though, nothing ever goes easy and she ends up on a plane that gets hijacked before it even takes off, as the hijacker doesn’t like flying all that much and is trying to get a friend out of jail. With most of the team already on site, they end up helping out through the negotiations while Clancy does her job from the inside. This was probably one of her best episodes though she does continue to be as bland as Goto for much of it, but at least we get her in a stewardess’ outfit for a good part of the show.
While the mix of awkward/mediocre episodes to good ones is a bit off with this collection due to some of the story ideas, there’s still a lot of fun here and a good continuing sense of character growth and bonding. Small growth, true, but it’s the kind of thing where the more this team works together, the more you see them really find a way to make it work. The personalities are big but not hugely unrealistic and they have fun with the stories in general while making sure they don’t always involve the labors. And that’s one of the perks for me since the characters are what counts. The labor fun is definitely there and whether it’s dealing with monsters underground, letting an idol run around in one or some of the more serious moments involving criminals, they’re just as much a part of the show. But they’re not the show in its entirety. Section 2 continues to endear me to them and these episodes only reinforce that.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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: September 10th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.