Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Manga Entertainment
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 90
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Patlabor
Patlabor Movie 1
By Chris Beveridge
September 19, 2005
Release Date: July 25, 2000
Patlabor Movie 1
What They Say
© Manga Entertainment
The year is 1999 and Tokyo's Mobile Police have a new weapon in the war on crime - advanced robots called Labors are used to combat criminals who would use the new technology for illegal means. The suicide of a mysterious man on the massive Babylon Project construction site sets off a cascade of events that may signal the destruction of Tokyo. What is the connection between the suicide, the new Mobile Police AV-XO Zero Labor, and a berserk prototype tank?The Review!
The Patlabor movies are considered to be in the catagory of the greats, lined up next to Ghost in the Shell and Wings of Honneamise. It's been about five years since I last saw this movie so it was with little mental baggage that I settled in for another viewing.
The disc is presented with both Japanese and English language tracks. Manga more than likely had all the available elements from their English language mix a few years back and opted to turn it into a 5.1 mix. The Japanese language retains its original 2.0 stereo mix. Both tracks are very clean and crisp, with dialogue very easy to hear. The Japanese track has some good directionality across the front soundstage, but the rear speakers are essentially dead. The English language mix isn't as drastic a change as the 5.1 mix for Ghost in the Shell was over the 2.0 Japanese track. There are more sounds echoed to the rear speakers, such as the music throughout the opening combat sequence. This does add a bit to it, but the primary effect of the 5.1 mix is more distinct vocals in their separation. Dub fans will be happy that they have a solid mix and sub fans won't feel like they got seriously gypped.
On the video side of things, the movie is presented in its original letterboxed aspect ratio. The video is not anamorphic. Barring this unfortunate choice, this is a very good presentation. For the majority of the movie, colors are spot on and there's hardly any pixellation and only one section where I noticed some breakup in the blacks. The movie overall is very dark, with plenty of blacks and grays, and the image remains pretty stable throughout. There's a few very minor instances of line noise here and there during more complexly drawn background scenes, but they're minimal. While an anamorphic transfer would have made this a top notch looking disc, the quality of this transfer is very high and should make most Patlabor fans extremely happy. Just comparing the quality of it to the previous VHS release and the amount of detail seen during the opening sequences alone make it worthwhile to pick up.
There is however one downside to the video. During the layer change, since this is a dual layered disc, there was a 2 second pause in the video. Perhaps it's my player, though I've noticed previous few layer changes in the past. The pause isn't exactly placed in the best area, as it's set a few seconds after a scene change.
The cover used for this keepcase will always catch the eye of any Patlabor fan. The image of Noa on her Alphonse while holding her shotgun is a good image to use, and since it's actual artwork as opposed to a piece of cel animation, it has a different quality to it. The back cover uses the rest of the artwork from the show and gives a good description of the movie itself, as well as giving credit to the creative team behind the movie. The features box at the bottom also is quite good, letting you know exactly what you're getting. The insert contains another image of the front cover with the inside section giving the chapter listings. The disc itself is sikscreened with a portion of Alphonse's head.
Manga's also got a very nice looking menu system set for this disc. There's animation in the menu and a very nice layout overall. Selections are made quickly and since there's not a lot of depth to them, things are easy to find.
Not too many extras were included beyond the Manga club trailers and such, but they did provide trailers for both Patlabor 1 and Patlabor 2 separately.
Patlabor, as mentioned at the beginning of this review, is often held in the same league as other high profile theatrical anime movies such as Ghost in the Shell and Wings of Honneamise. Indeed, all three share some similarities. They're mostly dialogue movies, or in the case between Ghost and Patlabor, they're mysteries to a large extent, with not entirely clear villains. Those two also share similarities in terms of layout of their environment, with extreme detail given to the decaying cities that they dwell in.
The overall design of the show is more rooted in a reality setting as well, with less fantastic elements not being introduced. While the movie takes place in 1999, you can watch this and easily envision it happening anytime in the next twenty years. It's a near-future story that was penned ten years ago, and its overall themes of humanity losing its history something that has been the cornerstone of most of the 90's science fiction writing.
The basic plot of the movie is that the labors, the industrial mechs that are used throughout Japan, have started going on rampages within the past few months. The Patlabor team, the police in charge of labor crimes, are on the case and trying to solve it. Since it's a mystery movie for the most part, it's hard to really go into the plot too much without giving away key elements of it. It's quite a good movie, and adding on another half hour of exposition to explain some of the TV/OVA interactions, you could easily see this being a mature SF live action film as well.
This is a very well put together disc, though a few minor flaws as mentioned do hinder it a bit. The only other thing that I consider to be a flaw is the lack of the Japanese voice actor credits. Of course, a lot of the readership here will also consider this a flaw. Hopefully with future releases Manga will remember to have these included.
If you're a fan of this movie, upgrading from the VHS is a no brainer. If you've not seen any Patlabor before, you won't be too lost, but some of it will go over your head with the character interactions. But if you're in the mood for a good near-future mystery movie, Patlabor provides that in spades.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese Trailers
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.