Patlabor TV Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 120
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Patlabor

Patlabor TV Vol. #01

By Chris Beveridge     September 19, 2005
Release Date: August 14, 2001

Patlabor TV Vol. #01
© Central Park Media

What They Say
As the 20th Century was nearing its end, a new Industrial Revolution brought forth unprecedented advances in robotics. The invention of the Labor - a humanoid-type, multi-purpose construction machine - emerged as the wave of the future. Making older industrial equipment virtually obsolete, the Labor, unfortunately, also made a pretty cool terrorist weapon.

To combat the rise in Labor crimes, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Ddepartment established the "Special Vehicles, Section 2," comprised of specially designed Patrol Labors - PATLABORS.

Catch the hijinks of the SV2 in the original television series!

The Review!
Patlabor's definitely considered one of the classic shows, one that arrived at a time when only deep thoughtful mecha shows were being produced and the whole realism angle was really coming into force. When this TV series started airing, at 5 PM no less, the creative team decided to focus more on the police aspects and get into the characters. While it's primarily a police drama, it has an interesting flair for comedy and still provides some good mech action.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in it's original language of Japanese. With the show dating back to 1990, we weren't expecting a heck of a lot from the audio department, and got essentially what we expected; a decent sounding eleven year old stereo mix which is predominantly center channel based. 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.

There's good and there's bad here. The bad tends to deal mostly with the source material, but finds itself balanced out by being very close to how the recent Japanese releases have looked. The most obvious source related problem here is the amount of minor nicks and speckles on the print throughout the episodes. They're not at a level of an old Hong Kong movie, but there's a good number of them here. There's also a few bits of dirt scattered about in a few places. A couple of segments within various episodes was also fairly grainy, but lasted for the length of the shot as opposed to a longer period. There looked to be on brief hiccup in the 4th episode, when the trucks were pulling out of the HQ and they seemed to "jump" left for a split second. There's also some jaggies on the black lines of the orange uniforms in most scenes where there's camera panning. A lot of that is really nit-picking to some extent, but they're noticeable defects. On the plus side there's very little line noise overall and rainbows are practically non-existent. Several of the dark blue night sky sequences held together quite well, while some of the daytime sky sequences look gorgeous. This wasn't a huge budget show to begin with, but it's held up fairly well over the years.

Though some may complain, I rather like the mix cover with the animation characters in the foreground and the CG Patlabor in the background with the blue sky (note that the original cover artwork circulated is close but not the same as the final version). The first volume wisely notes that the series is from the director of Ghost in the Shell, allowing some cashing in on name recognition. The back cover has a few nice shots of animation and a very brief summary of the show. A fair amount of attention went to the features and the technical side of things. One big plus is the prominent display of "Vol. 1" on both the spine and the front cover as well as listing on the back which episodes it contains. The reverse side of the cover has a soft fuzzy picture of a couple of labors, lists the chapter stops and matches up characters to voice actors for both languages.

The menu layout is a version of the cockpit of a Patlabor, with lots of animated screens running. Selections are all prominently displayed and it's easy to tell what you've got selected. Oddly, there doesn't appear to be any sound running with the main menu, but that may just be my copy. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is pretty straightforward and simple to use.

There's a couple of nice extras here, such as the introduction to the series and the director interview. Both of those are cut a bit short, but are continued on the DVD-ROM side of things (which we did not check out). The image gallery is a video image gallery that plays for almost two minutes, providing some nice shots of black and white character designs and some screen captures.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Up until this release, my only experience with Patlabor was in the form of the two movies. The movies are completely unlike the TV series in that they're an exercise in seriousness and slow but absorbing storylines with little action.

The TV series falls into the category of a police drama, but one with a lot of heart and some good comedy mixed in. The series doesn't give itself a timeline, but it's a near future where labors, which are essentially mechas, have gained popularity among the industrial world and are used for a lot of heavy duty work. And as with any new technology, someone out there will exploit it, so criminals begin using the labors as well. This causes the formation of the Patlabor, a patrol labor that's used in the Special Vehicles group. This group is split into several divisions, each with their own style and purpose.

Our focus tends to be on Section 2, which up until we begin watching, has been getting the leftover outdated models for their group, while Section 1 has been getting all the latest and greatest. This changes though as the guarded and often considered asleep Captain Goto acquires the latest Ingram model from Shinohara Heavy Industries, the main company that produces labors. The Section is also bringing in some fresh blood, which brings us to...

Noa Izumi. We pretty much see the Patlabor world through her eyes, as she joins up with the Special Vehicles Division in the first episode. She's the fresh eyed police office whose adoration of labors slowly begins to turn into an obsession as she slavishly falls in love with the Ingram she eventually is chosen to pilot, so far as to name him Alphonse. The relationship between Noa and her labor is one of the more interesting relationships in the show early on.

With Noa, we learn the ropes of the division, such as how self-sufficient everyone is as they're on call a week at a time, to the point where they all fish in Tokyo Bay during the evenings for their meals. The cleaning routines, the various "codes" that indicate what needs to be done and the farming community that they've built. It's all quite interesting and nicely realized, though a bit heavy handed at times.

The episodes themselves at this point are pretty self-contained. There's a threat of the week, tied with Noa learning how the Patlabor world works. One episode focuses on a mysterious creature roaming the forests while another delays with a damaged military labor gone awry. All during these episodes we meet each of the characters that make up the team, from Captain Goto, the New York transfer trainee, the son of Shinohara Heavy Industries and the ground crew and maintenance folks. It's really a well done cohesive group that plays well off of each other.

One thing this show really does have going for it in my mind is the character designs. Once I got serious about my love of anime, the second character designer I followed and continue to follow to this day is Akemi Takada, who also did Kimagure Orange Road. Her designs here are perfect for the world setting, with a mix of very realistic looking characters to the more offbeat type in the background such as the maintenance crew. Her designs bring a great feeling to the show, and allow the characters to express their emotions right.

Patlabor is a show that's been long denied a large segment of fandom due to it not being dubbed until now. With the new release, hopefully a new generation of fans will get into the show and find out how good a lot of the older series can be. I enjoyed these five episodes a lot, and can't wait to see more. Very recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Meet the Director,A History of Patlabor,Meet the Characters,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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