Patlabor: The Mobile Police - The New Files Collection - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 400
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Patlabor

Patlabor: The Mobile Police - The New Files Collection

By Chris Beveridge     October 12, 2005
Release Date: October 11, 2005


Patlabor: The Mobile Police - The New Files Collection
© Central Park Media


What They Say
Noa is the policewoman of the very near future. With the aid of her zany crewmates and her beloved giant robot suit, Alphonse, she fights crime with an enthusiasm that occasionally outstrips all common sense. So what if she ends up destroying the city she’s sworn to protect? Unfortunately, a heart of gold and unflagging sense of justice may not be enough to forestall the menace of the Griffin, the black robot who will stop at nothing to take down the Patlabor team!

Complete series: All 16 Episodes on 3 DVDs

The Review!
After the forty-seven TV episode series ended, a run of sixteen OVA episodes kicked off and raised the bar for the series.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The first volume of the series, the only bilingual one, 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 second and third discs are Japanese language only and both of those sounded on par with the first volume.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Done in a three panel foldout digipak, the packaging for this release is pretty minimal and sparse. The front cover has a technical layout of the Patlabor with the blueprint style behind it. The back cover provides a side view illustration blueprint with someone inside along the right side while the left side provides the credits of some of the creators and a brief summary of the premise. The rest of the cover is filled out with the discs features and extras as well as basic technical information. The digipak opens up to the three trays and underneath each of them is a blueprint style background while a white pencil sketch of some of the characters is on top of it. The one remaining fold-over panel provides a bilingual cast list and a breakdown of the production information for both the original and this release.

Menu:
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 static 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.

Extras:
The only extra included across these volumes are some basic sketch galleries and the various trailers for the US releases.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In a way this is both a great release and a bad release. I've got such mixed feelings about it but can't help be happy in the end with it but still have a bitter taste. After the release of the first individual volume from this set, the remaining twelve episodes had their fates changed. Instead of being dubbed (for now?) like the first four episodes, they were done soft-subtitled and spread six episodes each across two volumes and put together in a digipak with the already released first volume.

The good side is that we get the entire thing out for essentially the price of what a standard volume goes for. Sixteen episodes, four hundred minutes, for what's discounted to under twenty bucks, for relatively all new material isn't something to sneeze at. The down side is that if you've already bought the first volume you've got it again. Give it to a friend, expand the love. The other downside is that the English language fans – and actors – aren't give a chance to finish out things as they started. The cast for this has certainly had it rough since the first tentatively dubbed episodes of the original TV series and this only reaffirms that. It's easy to imagine a lot of the dub fans just not bothering at this point with the rest of the show. And that's where the bitter comes in because these are great stories, often times even better than the TV series itself.

New Files 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.

Once past this volume of material with the Griffin, it's back to more regular stories that focus on the characters in standard settings around work and some of their home and hobby related things. One episode is priceless in that it has the guys getting even with Ota after he passes out at Shinshi's house while Shinshi's wife is away. They all dress up like they're dead and lay around so that when he awakes he'll freak out. He does just that and it causes a memory loss that leaves him unsure of exactly what happened so he wanders out into the streets. Even worse, Shinshi's wife gets home early and sees them all laying there and calls the police about it. Though Ota isn't exactly himself, it does push what his core personality is like as he avoids the police and tries to do good things while figuring out what happened to him and who he is. It's problematic though since he doesn't even have his own identification on him but rather Shinshi's.

Another really fun episode has a portion of the group going to a R&R weekend retreat, though they're kept at pretty much the farthest end of the building. The entire episode revolves around the dinner itself which runs over several hours and boils down to a confrontation between Kanuka and Kumagami as each of them has their own methods and styles and try to prove their way is superior. It's all done as polite verbal sparring however and it's just hilarious watching them go back – especially when they do the very fast limericks to prove their point. Everyone else is just watching and trying to figure out the safest route which amusingly enough turns out to get stone drunk and just pass out. Goto of course rules the day with his own escape method.

What surprisingly turned out to be the best episode of the set in my mind focused on Shinobu and Goto. Both were at some conference a distance away from Tokyo but Shinobu got called back and eagerly accepted it since she certainly didn't want to be there. In her speed to get out though she sprained her ankle which Goto leapt at since it gave him an escape route as well since she couldn't drive safely. The two of them drive back through the latest typhoon to hit the country and a good half of the episode is focused on them going through various routes to try and get there but constantly being turned back. Goto starts tiring from all of it and pushes the idea of a hotel which leads to them finding the best "love hotel" possible to spend the night at. The way these two people deal with the situation is simply priceless and the comedy only gets better when you have Shinobu doing things like exploring the options on the bed. That's one complex set of instruments and controls it has and it makes piloting a Labor look easy. But it's the way the two of them deal with all of it that makes everything here laugh worthy.

In Summary:
There are so many great episodes on this release that picking out just a few to talk about is almost unfair. Having watched the franchise from the start in Japanese, it's easy to not say much about the lack of the English track. But I do find it vastly unfair to both the audience and to the voice actors because some of the best material they'll have is on this set and they already started it. I hope that it'll get dubbed and released at some point as the individual volumes but if it does it'd be easy to understand why some people who bought this set because they wanted the last episodes would feel ripped off by it. It's really a no-win situation when you get into something like this unless you were just doing it in Japanese to begin with. Barring the language track issue though, this release is solid across the board and just some great episodes with a great cast and fantastic writing. Don't pass it up if you're a Patlabor fan and love these characters.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Sketch Galleries

Review Equipment
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.

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