Patlabor Movie 1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: Bandai Visual
  • MSRP: ¥10,290
  • Running time: 99
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Patlabor

Patlabor Movie 1

By Chris Beveridge     August 07, 2007
Release Date: July 27, 2007

Patlabor Movie 1
© Bandai Visual

What They Say
At the dawn of the millennium in Tokyo, advanced robotic vehicles called Labors are heavily relied upon to build fortifications to project Japan from global rising sea levels. A maverick team from the Metropolitan Police led by Noa Izumi and Azuma Shinohara uncover a devilish scheme to infect Tokyo's 8,000 Labors with the BABEL virus.

As a powerful typhoon approaches Tokyo and the apocalyptic vision of a dead man begins, the team must locate and destroy the source of the virus, the giant Babylon Project Tower in the heart of Tokyo Bay, before 8,000 Labors go berserk!

The Review!
Giving another of their classics the high definition treatment, Patlabor brings out more traditional animation and gives it a solid treatment.

This feature has seen a couple of different audio tracks over the years and this release has a good variety of them that will have audio fans interested in. For starters, the English language track done by Elastic Media for Bandai Visual USA's 2006 release is present here and it's a good 5.1 mix that maxes out at 640 kbps. The original Japanese theatrical mix from 1989 is included here in a stereo PCM mix that maxes out at 1.5 mbps and captures what was seen during that run. When the film was released on DVD in Japan some years ago, a new Sound Renewal version was created which also saw a theatrical run, which means we have two "original theatrical mixes" on the release. This has been presented here as a Japanese TrueHD 5.1 mix which means it's bitrate is all over but maxes out around 4.9 mbps depending on the scene.

While not quite the revelation that the mix for Wings of Honneamise was, the Patlabor TrueHD presentation is a significant upgrade over the previous incarnations that have been released. The standard 5.1 mixes do seem a bit louder in the forward soundstage, but the depth and clarity of the TrueHD mix gives it a much richer and deeper feel. There is a good deal of surround effects during the busier action sequences and it has some solid placement and clarity to it that you don't get to the same level on the 5.1 mix.

Originally in theaters back in 1989, this film is is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is encoded using AVC. Depending on displays, this may have some slight letterbox bars across the top and bottom. Using a dual layered 50gb Blu-ray disc, the bitrate for the film typically runs into the mid twenties with several bursts into the thirties. What is most apparent with this transfer is that the dust and dirt on the cels are all the more apparent. This is significantly more at times than we saw in Wings of Honneamise and is evident throughout outside of a few scenes. Beyond digitally cleaning it up and removing it, which in a lot of ways I think is a travesty, I doubt this film could look much better. Colors are vibrant and bold when required and the detail is all the more apparent and rich here. Unlike the DVD release from 2006, the black levels on this are a world apart in how well they look. There is a strong uniform feeling to it and it avoids coming across as blocky. The first few minutes of the film were very bad looking on the DVD release but here it looks as pristine as it can be.

Bucking the trend of every other Blu-ray release out there, this box set release of the BD and DVD are done in standard thickness keepcases. The heavy chipboard box has a good classic feel to it as it uses the cover art that now seems to be dominant for the series with Noa, shotgun in hand, is standing in front of her labor. The back cover provides another illustration from the film of with a listing of some of the shows creative staff and a summary of the premise of the Patlabor concept, all in English which is a surprise. All of the packages technical details are kept on the obi around the box as it has two technical grids to cover both the BD and DVD details. The Blu-ray keepcase has a new piece of artwork I hadn't seen before with Alphonse in the water in front of the Ark which itself is set against a dark and stormy night. It's a good looking action piece that would likely appeal more than the box artwork to new fans. Though this is a TrueHD release, it doesn't get the love that Wings of Honneamise got with the booklet about the sound format and the big logo sticker. We do get a booklet however with numerous shots from the film and several pages worth of discussions and interviews that are likely to be translated for the US release.

With this being a dual language worldwide release, albeit staggered, the disc is designed to work both in the US and Japan. Upon load, a static screen comes up asking you to select your language of choice. If you select English, you get the FBI warnings before it starts into the movie proper. If you select Japanese, you get those warnings but you also get a Dolby TrueHD logo as well before it starts into the movie. The top level menu is rather basic with a blue filtered shot of the Ark from above and a headshot of Alphonse as well with no music or animation tied to it. The bottom has the standard navigation selections with a very simple design to it that doesn't really evoke anything from the film itself. The submenus load quickly but you do have to select them, you can't push up and have them pop-up above the main menu as they get swapped out instead. The pop-up menu works in the same way during the film with the exception of an extra button to close out the pop-up menu.

Similar to the barebones release of the DVD in the US back in 2006, the main disc contains only a teaser trailer for the film and a regular length trailer. Both are provided with subtitles, presumably the same as the US DVD release, and look good as they're presented in HD here. It is unfortunate that the lengthier extras from the US special edition couldn't be included here as it would have made this the definitive version of the film.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Patlabor movies, at least the first two, are becoming some of the most-watched films I have in my library. It seems like they're being released rather frequently across multiple distributors and regions in the last few years that it's becoming a yearly event. With the US release of the film as one of Bandai Visual USA's launch titles, I can't say I'm too surprised to see Bandai Visual Japan pulling the film out for its launch of the Blu-ray format along with other classics. The film really lends itself to this kind of presentation with its traditional detailed animation and high cel counts in the big sequences.

The English language dub is done out of California studio Elastic Media which isn't a surprising choice since split licenses don't always match up. Those who watched the TV and OVA releases of the franchise have already suffered heavily by how those have come out in the last few years so not having the same cast here I don't think is going to make much difference. The new dub is definitely several notches above what we got back in the mid 90's when Manga first did it as it's more accurate and the lip synch and flow is better. There are several name actors in this but they all fit their characters pretty well and as a standalone piece they breathe some nice new life into the property. It's rare for a release to be dubbed a second time so those with more of an interest in dubs will be able to have some fun in doing comparisons of translation and dialogue.

Watching the film has been interesting, particularly since I've seen it so many times over the last decade in different forms. The movies always held a fascination in that they were very upscale and detailed looking "thinking mans" anime movies in comparison to the TV series incarnation. While the main cast of characters from the TV series move throughout it, including the lead in Noa Izumi, this first film and the two following it always played out a bit differently as anime movies are want to do. More like a police procedural than anything else, it's a very slow paced affair as a mystery must be unraveled about how the labors in Japan are going on rampages. It comes at a time when the labors are critical now to the future of the country and several projects and a lot of companies and people have a lot vested in them.

With a very laid back pace to it, the mystery of what's going on is slowly eked out across a few different fronts. There's an arc with Asuma going into Shinohara Heavy Industries to put together exactly what's tying all the labor incidents together and there's an arc with a pair of detectives who are investigating the missing programmer who was apparently instrumental to what SHI has been doing all these years. Along the way there's a number of small incidents that have the SVU2 getting out into the thick of things and handling another rogue labor, but for the most part it's a very introspective piece that is typical of Mamoru Oshii's films during this time. It's heavy on dialogue, quiet pauses and the relationship between man and machine.

Revisiting this kind of storyline after the kinds of corporate corruption that have come out over the last few years only makes something like this ring a bit more true in how some of the executives act and their dedication to the projects. The kind of hushed up affairs do seem a bit quaint at times but a lot of the time the film feels like you're watching Law & Order, almost to the point where you can hear the music cues that indicate big clues were just found and the plot is about to take a new twist. That's not a bad thing either in my mind since the plot and the mystery behind it are still as engaging and interesting to watch play out seventeen years after its original release. Patlabor does transcend anime history nicely here and this film, while not as vibrant or chock full of CG work as new films are, stands the test of time.

In Summary:
While the film isn't my favorite of the three Patlabor films and I had seen it just last year for review again on DVD, it was very interesting to see it in this form with such a high resolution. There are obvious problems in the source itself with the dirt and scratches that are between the cels but that's exactly what's there in the master now. This presentation is considerably cleaned up in terms of artifacts and compression issues that plagued parts of the US DVD release and it's received a solid TrueHD audio mix as well. Fans of the film will definitely love what's been done here as this is as close to a definitive version of the film itself as we're likely to see. It has a certain richness to it that was just never apparent in the previous releases nor possible with the way DVDs had to be encoded. Though not my favorite film, it was certainly engaging to watch it again and see it through a new presentation that highlights its strengths and weaknesses.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language,Japanese Linear PCM,English Dolby Digital+ 5.1,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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