The series draws to a close as Noa finds herself facing some choices about where her life should go.
What They Say:
The war on crime and the battle for superior technology collide as Shinohara industries unleashes a rash of new Labor designs and SV2 finds itself stuck in the middle of product evaluation trials. That would be trying enough at any time, but when the department’s already being overwhelmed with handling security for the upcoming Babylon Project Conference, fighting terrorists, insurance investigators, and even tracking down monsters in the sewers, it may be the final straw that breaks the Ingram’s back.
If all that wasn’t enough pressure, SV2’s rivalry with Division One escalates to all out warfare when SV1 gets the first of the latest production models. The gloves are off and there’s a heavy metal smackdown on the horizon as Noa must strap herself into the cockpit once again to prove that her Alphonse is still the undisputed king of robotic law enforcement!
Contains episodes 37-47.
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 eleven episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and two 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 Kanuka in her American police uniform with gun out as she has that kind of smirk about her that is totally Kanuka. 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After almost a years worth of episodes, Patlabor finally draws to a close here as we get some rather good material about the way Noa is trying to find her place in life. She’s had a crazy year since being a part of SVU 2 and made a lot of good friends along the way. And during it they also got involved with a number of weird creatures that populated the show so that it wasn’t all about labor versus labor and that was all well balanced with some good character material as well. This block of episodes does kind of cover a lot of the same general things, but we also get some good stuff with Noa as we see her being offered a military job and the changes to the police labor gig as there are more attempts at providing a mass market model version for them to use, if it meets their standards.
With the accidental destruction of some vehicles after finishing out a mission, the company that insures SVU2 and the Patlabors decides to question their claims and sends an investigator down to do a re-enactment of the last incident. This doesn’t sit well with just about anyone on the team but Ota complains the most about it since it forces him to relive something that he did and to do it in excruciating detail. Even worse, the insurance investigator that they sent down to SVU2 is a very nice middle aged woman with an eternal smile on her face and nothing mean to say, which makes it all the harder for Ota and the others to really dislike her. She brings in a new perspective to the group and how their operations run.
This is followed up very nicely in the next episode where the insurance company has decided that the re-enactment didn’t get them all the data they needed on how the Patlabor operations go so they assign the same investigator to ride shotgun with the SVU2 for awhile until the next mission and accident occurs. Through her we get to see some of the standard police procedurals that are enacted to help deal with various situations, mostly in the use of stopping a hijacked eighteen-wheeler that’s trying to get away on the cities highway. These are the parts we don’t see, such as how they clear the highways and how the regular police handle the crowds and the like. It’s interesting to see the off-camera moments like this and to get the fuller picture, particularly through her eyes.
In a way, Noa faces one of her toughest ordeals with some of the episodes in this collection. Though she doesn’t keep up on things much, she knows in the back of her head that there are going to be model upgrades someday of the police labors. So when she’s asked to be one of the test pilots of the latest model that Shinohara Heavy Industries has come up with, she’s really ambivalent about the entire process since it could mean the end of Alphonse. But as Asuma tells her, it’s a necessary thing because they need to get more Police Labors out into the world to protect the people against all that’s going on. Along with Ota and Grimoika from the first section, they take turns putting the machines through the various tests and each of them apply their own skills to them to see how well they work, what doesn’t work and the kind of tuning required to get them up to speed. Each test brings the machines closer to what they’re all used to but for Noa something just doesn’t sit well. I liked how this episode focused on the way Noa was trying to understand why it wasn’t working the way she felt it was and trying to convey it to the technicians, as well as her talks with the maintenance folks about the entire process.
Another episode that deals well with the modern day issues has the backdrop of a new committee meeting happening about the entire project in the bay that’s long been causing controversy. Since there’s always so many threats, the entire division seems to be guarding the place against any possible terrorists. But like things go in the TV version of the Patlabor world, it can get a bit comical and the terrorists are initially discovered sleeping in the bathroom and they slip right past Goto who does what you can presume is his best to actually catch them. It’s a comical chase as the two try to avoid all the police there and they do everything they can get away, including throwing the bag that the bomb is in to push the up button in the elevator. That of course is foolish as it activates the bomb and half the upper building goes away, leaving the two stranded in an upscale rooftop bar with a bartender who doesn’t blink an eye at any of this. The situation just gets even more surreal from there as each side tries to get their way and this overly calm bartender sits in the middle of all of it.
One of the more comical episodes of this collection, and one that you could see coming almost from the start, has the SVU 2 heading to an ocean side town where a Plesiosaurus has supposedly been found out after it destroyed a fishing boat. Since such a thing would be a huge discovered it could be problematic in having so many people there and the SVU 2 is brought in to handle things since the beast could be big at that. Of course, we learn early on that it’s a sham being run by the village to boost tourism but it’s just so comically done and with a good sense of subtlety that you almost wish they pulled it off. The episode gives more time to the characters just goofing around than normal so it was fun to see them in this kind of situation, plus Goto was even more involved than usual which made it a lot of fun.
The standalone stories are a fairly decent mix but not much really stood out for me with them, though it was amusing having the reporter that I believe we’ve seen in previous episodes finally get something of a comeuppance by having one of the labors “go wild” and kidnap her for a bit. When I saw the preview for the Long Live CLAT episode I had to seriously roll my eyes as they finally tackled the New York side of things for Clancy and what do we get? Something that would pretty much be classified as a parody since the team is essentially the same as the Japanese team but more racially diverse and just weirdly done such as the Indian with the feather in his hair or the Gato characters a blonde. Shinohara as a pretty boy blonde does make a certain sense though… But either way, it was so hard to watch this episode because of how it handled things by seemingly like an homage but coming across more as a parody when you’d really rather see something serious.
Where the real meat of this set comes in is after Noa gets interested in attending a Self Defense Force show where there’ll be an opportunity to try out different kinds of Labors that she’d never get her hands on anyway. The temptation to follow into a different vocation is strong once she’s there and with the way the “recruiters” can be as well as just having all this fresh new cutting edge technology. What this ends up leading into is Noa trying to figure out about moving on from things and how that has to be dealt with. This becomes really key as the last few episodes play out and the new AV-0 model is introduced and handed over to Section 1 as their newest piece of equipment.
I think it’s at this point that Noa realizes that as much as she loves her Alphonse, there will come a day when it’s going to be out of date and unable to keep up anymore and phased out. This starts bringing back all sorts of memories of her original Alphonse, a little dog she had a child. Like all pets this one passed on and she goes through some harsh memories over it and the way her father works her through it is interesting as he tells her to not cry because you have to be brave for the pet so that he can move on and not feel tied to this world. The parallels to the present day Alphonse who may find itself in the same position of sorts sits strongly with her, so much so that she just disappears from the Section for a few days to go home and try to work through the issues.
While there is a fair bit of action as the last episodes play out in addition to all the soul searching, it’s really just there to cement what Noa works through and deals with. The strengths of the series are what we’ve been talking about all along in the reviews. While the show is often hailed as a landmark mecha series and the promotion of it as a mecha show is obvious, it is indeed all about the characters and the way they all live and work together as a police force. The labors are key to the series in terms of setting and motivations as well as other important elements but the focus and the strength in the writing always comes back to these very well developed and interesting characters that you can get easily attached to.
Patlabor is a series that definitely has a lot of good things going for it as we’ve seen over the forty-seven episode run. The characters have a great family feel about them while coping with being a government organization and playing with mostly realistic giant labors and all that comes with it. We get some fun touches of politics, corporate material, police material and the personal lives of the cast to varying degrees. The last set of episodes covers a lot of these themes well and it just does it right throughout. Giving Noa more of a shot of a bigger world here as others are seeing her potential and dealing with some fun little relationship nods definitely gives these characters more of a life. It’s a solid show that once again looks great and is simply wonderful to have in this format for the first time after being mostly out of print for years on DVD.
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: January 7th, 2014
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.