What They Say:
With Kanuka having returned to New York, the search is on for her replacement as Ohta’s backup, and the pressure on Shinshi to step up is so severe that he contemplates leaving for a civilian job. At the same time, the powers that be are taking the opportunity to make some other sweeping changes as well, introducing an experienced new member to the team in the form of Takeo Kumagami. However, the addition of another female to the SV2 is the least of Noa’s problems, as a new series of stunning Labor-related crimes rapidly escalates into an all out war against the Mobile Police. Unlike any previous encounters, the SV2 are now up against a superior form of Labor and possibly even better pilots! And just to make the disaster complete, the Police Chief’s proposed new economic move to cheaper Labors may ultimately result in the scrapping of Division 2’s Ingrams. As the terrifying Griffin stalks the streets and skies of Tokyo, the Second Special Vehicles Division must fight a battle for survival on multiple fronts in the third riveting volume of MOBILE POLICE PATLABOR TV – COLLECTION 3!
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.
Unfortunately, with our first press copy, there’s a glitch on the second disc where the last two episodes (35 and 36) play without any subtitles. The dub track works fine, but if you’re watching in Japanese, you won’t get any subtitles.
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 two discs. The front cover has a lot of white space to it lets the focus settle on the captain with his serious suit look as well as the Griffin, which with its dark tones definitely blends well with it. With a simple approach and some good used of black and orange 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.
After the first twenty-four episodes of the series, Patlabor is a show that has proven it can handle standalone episodes very well in making them engaging and fun while building on the characters and who they are. Too many standalone shows just reset at the end, especially from this time period and earlier, so seeing them master the series like this was engaging. It did a little material that went across a couple of episodes, but mostly it just told good stories and expanded on the world, the police units themselves and the fun of being in such a situation. With this set, that starts to change as we get a larger arc of a storyline appearing across it, sometimes in the background, but also in the foreground for a lot more of it than one might expect based on what we saw before.
While we do get the larger arc, which we’ll get to shortly, there’s also some fun standalone material here that touches on the past a bit. Though something of a traditional story in anime, an early episode has the bulk of the unit going to an abandoned mansion that’s been assigned for demolition. Goto has decided to help out by using it as a training session and having the team come in over shifts in their labor units to remove paintings from the walls and other trivial matters that help them build up their skills with critical and sensitive work. With a story like this, it becomes quickly obvious to those working the night shift that something isn’t quite right, especially when Goto ends up dealing with a soldier ghost in the hallway. With the premise of helping to finish out some past deeds, you get a traditional piece that plays up the strengths of the cast nicely here.
One of the best pieces on the standalone side has Noa and Asuma going out for a date on their next day off, complete with the minor squabble over who has to pay since it’s before their next payday. These two have slowly gotten some time together as their relationship builds at a snails pace, but when they do get out it’s quite cute. With their budget limitations, they end up doing the dinner and a movie gig but Noa wants to do something more exciting with her vacation time. So what better to do than to head to the video game arcade… Asuma manages to get away with it at least since Noa discovers that there’s a big Patlabor game. What plays out beautifully is that since the controls are nothing like an actual labor, both of them completely suck at it and are ridiculed over their performance before being shown up completely. It’s very amusing watching them argue over control layout when it isn’t even the purpose of the game.
The big storyline that runs for awhile here starts off with Special Vehicles Unit 2 guarding a Labor exposition in the heart of the city where all the new models are being shown off over the course of three days. Most of the members of the team are interested in the models themselves and take some time to browse around them while on patrol in and outside of the building. Of particular interest is the ‘economy’ model of the popular Ingram that the police use for their enforcement purposes. Shinohara Industries is trying to find that next market level so that they can sell more of them but still maintain their higher cost models as well. And as noted by one of the representatives there, humaniform labor’s continue to grow in popularity and dominate the show, pushing the more custom-designed and job-based labors out the window. Humanity wants something familiar, not strange.
The economy model draws particular interest from Asuma since it’s his family’s company that made it. He even skirts his duty by taking the movement disc out of Noa’s labor and uses it in the economy model so that he can get a feel for it. There’s things he doesn’t like about it, but overall it just feels like a slightly cheaper model. That’s until it gets into combat at least since a mysterious black custom humaniform labor arrives and starts going after Asuma. Using the name Griffin, it’s piloted by the young Bud who does his deeds for the corrupt manager Richard Wong from Hong Kong. He’s using the opportunity to scope out the competition and see how it performs against other models and gain all sorts of data. Asuma’s fight against it is difficult since the economy model can’t keep up with Noa’s special programmed moves so it creates a fun and engaging combat scenario, particularly as other elements start getting into it.
From this opening engagement there’s a series of battles as the SVU2 goes after the Griffin labor as it uses tricks to seem like its destroyed only to resurface later while carrying out Wong’s plans. There’s a lot of intrigue placed into this storyline since you have Wong trying to go unnoticed while in Japan and then the Three-S group that’s come to ensure that nobody really realizes what’s going on. Add in general corporate competition, confused cops and Noa with a shotgun for her labor and you’ve got a story that goes on for quite awhile. It’s hard to describe since it’s played out fairly slowly as there’s people on both sides trying to discern what’s going on but not revealing a lot until it gets closer to the climax of the storyline.
The downside to the after battle is that it’s left some dissension among the ranks. Ota’s continuing bluster about how he would have been able to do better doesn’t bother most of the folks in SVU2 but it’s something that continues to make an impact on Noa in a hard way. She takes everything so personally when it comes to her Patlabor performance and that of Alphonse that it only runs over and over in her mind. The downtime with a lot of it spent on repairing the Labor’s only lets her mind run with it even more and she starts to question her abilities and whether to continue on in the division. For everyone else, they’re not quite sure how to deal with it and to try and restore her confidence.
One thing this set does, and it’s welcome to see in this environment, is work through personnel changes. Clancy had left in the previous installment but she makes a guest appearance as the main arc goes on here and while it’s a little forced, it manages to work well. But what her initial exit does is open up the SVU 2 to some changes, which has a new recruit coming in named Takeo Kumagami, who transferred in from the Hong Kong police. She’s very proficient and similar to Clancy in some ways, and that’s unsettling for some as they can see her taking over their positions. But her calm and collected nature and the strong analytical aspect she has makes her a welcome addition to the team and seeing her become part of the family is done well. That’s one of the subtext plots of the series as we see a few of them struggling with their place in the organization, even with Shinshi, and the small nudges of reinforcement are quite welcome.
Patlabor has worked well for me in the first two installments in revisiting the standalone nature of it, reconnecting with the nature of the world and the character make-up of the Special Vehicles Unit. With this set, we do get more of those moments but we also see that the world is changing before them with the challenges they have to face and that they need to adjust with it. They struggle and are worried about their ability to handle it and it’s not easy for them, but they do all have a lot going for each other in terms of being a close family that does what’s needed. The larger arc here is fun overall and I like what it did, but it is also a product of its time so it goes only so far in complexity. But it’s welcome complexity in a series that was building things slowly and simply. This is a good set overall, though the technical side is definitely problematic for fans of the Japanese language track with the last two episodes not having functioning subtitles.
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: November 5th, 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.