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Patlabor TV Collection 1 Anime DVD Review

6 min read

Patlabor TV 1The first installment of the classic mecha police series is fun, though does drag at times

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!

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.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. The Japanese track is also 2.0. Maiden Japan opted to use the original US Manga Corps/Central Park Media dub, instead of recording a new one, which I assume is the reason we only have it in 2.0. With the action in it, a 5.1 mix might have been nice, but it’s not a killer. Being an older dub, it’s not as clean as newer dubs are, but it just added to the enjoyment for me. People who are picky about their dubs might grumble at it, though.

For its age (1989), this is a good looking anime. The transfer is clean, with no noticeable technical issues. The coloring is a little dull in places, but I think that’s more a reflection of the time it was made rather than a technical flaw. Like the sound, the artwork isn’t quite as clean as a modern show might be, but it looks really nice for an 80s anime.

An interesting note: the twelve episodes are stretched across four discs because Maiden Japan encoded the English dub separately from the Japanese dub. The upshot is a higher encode rate for both the audio and video than trying to do a dual language encode would allow. The flip side is that means if you want to switch back and forth, you’ll need to go back to the main menu and start over. This release cannot switch on the fly like most anime titles.

The four discs on this release come in a single wide amaray case, with two center inserts to hold the discs. The front cover has a piece of original art of Noa holding her helmet and looking off to the distance. The back has the series summary and some screens. The OVA release had a play on the name LAW and ORDER as part of their tagline, and the parody continues here, as the packaging here asks “Are you ready to join the Full Metal Dragnet?” I’m enjoying these puns, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they have for later releases.

Pretty basic menu for this release. The episodes are lined up against the left hand side of the screen, with the submenus underneath. The series title is set off to the right. The colors are a fairly drab green scheme, but the selection is easy to see.

Just a few extras here, with clean versions of the OP/ED, and some version differences. I liked these as they showed us some scenes about the differences between the original Japanese releases and some of the censoring that happened way back when the dub was done. In pretty much every situation, I wondered at the reasons for the censoring, as there was nothing particularly egregious that I could see, but it was a simpler time (Central Park Media completed the dub in the late 90s).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Being a longtime fan of Dominion Tank Police, I had always wanted to see Patlabor, which appeared to be its spiritual cousin. I finally had an opportunity to check out the OVA series earlier this spring, and I’m glad to see the TV series get another chance at release, if for no other reason than I can now see it too. Originally a license of Central Park Media, the license lay dormant until Maiden Japan rescued it for release this year. This is the first of three planned DVD sets and collects the first twelve episodes.

In the near future, humanity has developed a series of robots known as Labors to help with heavy duty industries such as construction. However, like everything else humanity has developed, eventually people come along and begin to use the Labors for their own nefarious purposes, leading the police to form their own units of Patrol Labors, or Patlabors for short. The group of people chosen for the Special Vehicles Divisions to pilot the Patlabors are a series of otherwise malcontents who don’t fit in well in other areas of the police force and have an unfortunate tendency to disregard things like public property when chasing down a criminal, but they get the job done, and that’s what matters.

I suggested that Patlabor was the spiritual cousin to Dominion Tank Police above, and it really is, right down to the attitudes of all of the characters. Noa might as well be Leona, as they both look the same, both ignore the advances of their relatively straight-laced partners, and both have an unhealthy obsession with their vehicles—Bonaparte for Leona and Alphonse for Noa. To some, this might come off as a bit repetitive, but I actually found that it helped me ease into the series much more quickly as there was a familiar feeling to it.

And it is kind of needed here because while I really enjoyed the OVA series, I will say that I found the first twelve episodes here to drag a little bit. Except for a two episode arc near the end of this set, each episode here stood on its own, similar in structure to the OVA series. But while I was happy with that for the OVA series, I’m ready to sink my teeth into something with a little more depth at this point. It’s not that what’s here is bad, it’s just that I am ready to move away from the random shenanigans of SV2 and see them get into something more significant than trying to use the Labors to help them fish. I’m not necessarily suggesting that I need a long ranging, uber-developed story on the level of Ghost in the Shell or anything, but if this is the pace for the entire 47 episode run, it could get old.

In Summary:
I am happy that I am finally getting to see Patlabor after missing it all of these years. However, after seeing the OVA series earlier in the year, and now the first twelve episodes of the TV series, I am ready to see them start doing something with it. Individually, each episode has been fun so far, but with no sense of anything larger being built to, I have to admit my attention wandered a few times. The two-parter that came near the end of this set suggests that there is some good stuff to be done with this material; I’m just looking forward to getting there. Still, as the start to a longer TV series, what’s here is good. Recommended.

Deleted Scenes, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation.

Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: July 16th, 2013
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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