Patlabor: New Files Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, September 19, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2005
What They Say
Noa always dreamed of piloting a giant robot for the police. Now, that dream is a reality, and Noa is a member of an elite unit that specializes in solving robot crimes. When terror strikes in the form of the giant black robot, the Griffin, Noa and her team must ready their biggest guns to defeat the mechanical monster! Contains 4 episodes.
After the forty-seven TV episode series ended, a run of sixteen OVA episodes kicked off and raised the bar for the series.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Much like the first volume, this is a pretty standard sounding early 90's TV series stereo soundtrack, so you get some stereo effects with the music, but most of this feels like a center channel production. Some of the effects and action make decent use of the front soundstage, giving the hint of some directionality, but in general it's a simple mix. The English track was spot-checked, and no noticeable issues were detected there.
The look of the show in the transfer here manages to look a little improved over the early releases, but the print just doesn't seem to have held up well over the years, especially with the bit rate hitting as high as it does as often as it one does. The show in general isn't visually arresting, but looks decent. The blues in the backgrounds tended to be the main area showing macroblocking while the only other noticeable problem throughout is aliasing during many panning sequences. Cross coloration looks very minimal, which is a huge plus.
Using a similar style to the TV series run by having the same logo but with a different subtitle, the front cover goes with a basic dark blue background and lets the real leads of these episodes take the center with the Griffin labor and Noa in her standard police skirt and top. The back cover has a few shots from the show and plugs the talent behind the show. There's a small summary of what to expect with these episodes and a rundown of the discs features. The reverse side of the cover has a number of black and white shots from the show and a brief bilingual cast listing. There's a fuller talent credits list here as well as the chapter stops for all four episodes.
The menu layout is nicely done with a small panel along the left where the selections are listed having animation playing underneath it while to the right in a much larger block you get the statuc image of one of the Patlabors, all set to some of the upbeat vocal music from the show that runs well over a minute in length. Access times are nice and fast and the layout works nicely for the show and is a good break from the previous set of menus. Unfortunately due to the layout/labeling of the subtitle tracks, the disc read our players language presets but went with Japanese language and song subtitles only.
The only extra included in this volume is a brief sketch gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This is a bit awkward in a way as the first volume of this series is being released before the final volume of the other series, but by all appearances it looks like there's no conclusion there as this show starts off with a very strong plot and an avoidance of the standard episodic adventures that highlighted the forty-seven episode run of the franchise.
New Files, a sixteen episode production, kicks off by bringing back one of the real highlights of the previous show with the mysterious black Griffin labor and the manipulations of Richard Won and his folks. They created quite a few problems in two separate incidents previously by bringing this killer machine out into the open and devastating the police rather handily. Noa went up against him at one point and the experience certainly was traumatic in its own way and something that has changed how she handles herself and her piloting. The Griffin also served to push ahead the production of new models of Patlabors which result in the arrival of a few Zeros that are now in service to Section 1 of the Special Vehicles Unit.
Richard Won, who doesn't technically work for Shaft Enterprises anymore but is still doing things with the company, has organized his latest event in Tokyo again since it's the best place to show off his wares. Using Bud and the Griffin again, he's set to manipulate the eager little boy into doing his dirty work but this time he's not selling the hardware but rather the personnel behind its creation. Since he's moving on from Shaft, he's setting up camp at whoever the highest bidder is so that they can do their new work there. And what better way to show just how far they've come than to display their prowess via the Griffin's enhancements and how easily it can take down the new Patlabor models.
This is achieved creatively since the appearance of the Griffin would cause the SVU2 to go out first as opposed to SVU1 but Won's got the connections and the people to do whatever he wants, so he ties that group up with a tunnel fire where they're requested but end up doing little to really help but can't leave when the Griffin arrives. The Griffin is a thing of beauty when it goes against these new models since the new Neuron interface that the pilot uses essentially cripples the labor from doing what needs to be done. There are so many safeties built into it that it actually stops the labor from fighting in mid strike, such as when the Griffin gets in front of a hotel building. The labor can't strike because he might miss or push the Griffin right into it.
The real challenge comes when Noa and Ota head down during a second appearance a day later as the Griffin still has more trouble against the older Ingram models and with Noa in particular since she's learned a lot since her last encounter with it and grown well. The fight sequences across these four episodes where this all plays out is really well done and the continuity from episode to episode highlights one of the shows strengths. The writers knew just how to plot it out so it didn't feel forced or dragged out but kept enough tension to keep it running as it did. The labor fights are fun but I still find myself enjoying the smaller moments much more, such as Goto and the inspector sharing a meal together under an overpass, the way they tracked down information and the things such as what Takeo has to go through due to her relationship to Won. Much like the first series, it's really the characters that make this so much fun and give it such life.
New Files really hits a home run right out of the gate by providing four episodes based around some of the best material from the previous show. And it does it in a way that doesn't spend hardly any time with flashbacks or exposition explaining everything from before. You go into this either knowing it or you don't and if you don't you have to go figure it out yourself. It's rare for a show today to do that and that only adds to the appeal. These episodes are given over to pushing the story as much as possible and it's engaging for all four of them. Fans of the original series will simply gobble this up.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Sketch Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2