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Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days(1988-1989)
In the future, rapidly advancing technology gives birth to giant robots known as "Labors," so named for their usefulness in heavy industry. However, this also gives rise to "Labor crimes," resulting the the need for a new branch of law enforcement equiped with and dedicated to the policing of Labors. When Izumi Noa, a female police officer, becomes the newest recruit of Special Vechicals Devision 2, she and her top of the line "Patrol Labor" (or "Patlabor") Alphonse are swept into a series of adventures featuring crazed construction workers, eco-terrorists, and sea monsters.
For more about Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days and the Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days Blu-ray release, see Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 29, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Mamoru Oshii
» See full cast & crew
Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days Blu-ray Review
Don't judge a mecha by its metal.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 29, 2013
Anime fans are among the most loyal and frankly rabid of any genre, and many developed their passion for foreign animated fare early in their lives, watching episodes of old series on television as they grew up. That fandom continues well into adulthood for many of these folks, with a resolute tendency not to remove the nostalgia draped rose colored glasses through which they see these animated vestiges of their fondest childhood memories. What's strange about this phenomenon is how regularly certain series get singled out as the more frequently mentioned among people who were kids in, say, the late eighties or early nineties, with such iconic fare as Dragon Ball Z or its much later redacted version Dragon Ball Z Kai coming in for regular commentary. Interestingly, despite the apparent vociferous fan base for Dragon Ball Z, there wasn't enough of a consumer base for FUNimation to continue its highly touted release of the original version on Blu-ray, something that shocked and even angered longtime fans, but which perhaps helps to point out just how fragmented this particular niche actually is. Similar worries mightŚrepeat, mightŚattend the release of Patlabor (also known at Patlabor The Mobile Police and Mobile Police Patlabor in various incarnations), a series which premiered at around the same time as the original Dragon Ball Z and which attained fairly consistent popularity but which for whatever reason fails to drum up the same level of excitement among those prone to post to forums and chat boards about their favorite anime outings. Patlabor may sound like some exotic tropical island, especially if it's mispronounced as "Pot-la-BORE", but the title is really a combination of "patrol" and "labor", referring to a special police force that has been assigned to curtail crimes utilizing mecha known as Labors. This first Blu-ray release by Maiden Japan assembles the first seven OVA that introduced the series, established the characters and premise and began what turned into a rather long lasting franchise which included subsequent television and feature film entries.
What may surprise some who fell in love with anime a bit later than either Mobile Police Patlabor or Dragon Ball Z, is that Mobile Police Patlabor's creative staff included Mamoru Oshii, the force behind the extremely labyrinthine and philosophically tinged Ghost in the Shell franchise. Oshii's works are often not exactly what they may appear to be on their surfaces, and that's certainly the case with Mobile Police Patlabor, a series which has all the elements of a traditional mecha outing but which tends to deal more with interrelationships than technology as the series progresses.
Patlabor The Mobile Police introduces a glut of characters in the first couple of episodes as a bunch of new recruits comes to join the second division of the Special Vehicles Unit 2. While most show up in tandem, the commander Captain Goto is surprised to only see four arriving when he expected five, until suddenly a marauding motorcycle rider screeches up to the front door and we're surprised to see it's a young woman with bright red hair named Noa Izumi, an energetic lass who is out to make a name for herself and who quickly becomes the main focus of the series. Also new to SV2 (as the Unit is abbreviated) is Asuma Shinohara who we soon find out is the son of a fantastically wealthy entrepreneur whose company builds Labors; Isao Ohta, a somewhat hyperbolic young man who tends to want to shoot first and ask questions later; Hiromi Yamazaki, a guy who physically towers over everyone else and might be thought of as the series' Gentle Giant; and Mikiyasu Shinshi, a married man who, to paraphrase Rumpole of the Bailey, has a wife who "must be obeyed" and who tends to only figure as a tangential character in several episodes.
The series may mislead some, at least in the early going, for the opening episode, aside from introducing the main characters, also delves into some goofy humor (some of which is rather reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z's more whimsical side) and then gets right into a battle with the mechas. That may lead some to believe that this is going to be a fairly straightforward battle series with traditional mecha elements, but there's actually some nice undercurrents which begin to be explored in subsequent episodes, especially as we come to get to know the characters better, back stories are explored, and interrelationships are developed. The series may not in fact be as overtly philosophical as the Ghost in the Shell outings, but there's a perhaps unexpected level of intelligence running through the interchanges in a lot of Patlabor The Mobile Police that may catch unsuspecting viewers off guard.
Individual episodes have some frighteningly prescient material (terrorism rears its ugly head) as well as some unexpectedly retro elements, as in an episode that is an obvious homage to Godzilla. These are other ways that Oshii perhaps intentionally muddies the waters, letting the audience think they're watching a pretty predictable action series (will terrorist bombs get defused in time?; will a dinosaur like sea monster destroy Tokyo?), diverting attention away from subliminal aspects like how the characters react to both each other and other supporting characters. One of the most interesting developments in this regard is the family dysfunction between Asuma and his father. Asuma almost comes off as a pacifist (at least relatively), something that's obviously ironic given his job, but his father seems to be part of a military industrial complex that Asuma can't quite abide. As the series wends towards its climax, there's also a subplot that could have come straight out of Seven Days in May, when Japan's military elite attempt to stage a coup.
Patlabor The Mobile Police is often just a little silly, something which may just slightly undercut some of its more quasi-philosophical aspects, but truth be told, Oshii and his crew manage to balance the comedic with the dramatic really rather well over the course of the series. This is a series which reveals unexpected layers as it moves on, quietly exploring several fun and interesting characters within a just slightly dystopian future that in its own way presages Oshii's much more menacing Ghost in the Shell universe.
Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days Blu-ray, Video Quality
Patlabor The Mobile Police The Original OVA Series is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Maiden Japan with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.34:1. This is most definitely "old school" animation style, miles apart from Oshii's later Ghost in the Shell sleekness, so some may be surprised by the patently old fashioned look of this series, which in some ways at least is comparable to that of Dragon Ball Z. This has a very nicely filmic look that doesn't appear to have been overly scrubbed for its high definition presentation. Colors are beautifully robust and often very vivid. Line detail is certainly decent, but never approaches the pristine levels of modern day CGI outlines. The elements used for this transfer are in very good overall condition.
Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Patlabor The Mobile Police The Original OVA Series features lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes in both English and Japanese. As some anime fans are aware, there have been occasional audio dropouts on some Sentai distributed releases, but my cursory review of both tracks revealed no such issues (this screener arrived quite late and in order to get the review up in a timely manner, I toggled between the audio tracks and have thus not listened to both of them in their entirety, but if any fan notices an anomaly, let me know where, I'll check my disc and update the review as necessary). Fidelity is fine and in fact there's no discernable difference in amplitude or effects mixing between the two. Dialogue is cleanly presented, effects are well prioritized and dynamic range is suitably wide.
Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are included on this Blu-ray disc.
Patlabor The Mobile Police Original OVA Series: Early Days Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I'm sure there's at least a small contingent of fans who are eagerly awaiting the combined releases of the Patlabor franchise, and the good news is we're off to a promising start. These OVAs get us acclimated quite quickly and well and also delve at least a little into some of the proto-philosophical elements for which Oshii would later become famous (and/or infamous). This Blu-ray sports very nice looking video and good sounding audio, and even without any supplements, this charming and entertaining series comes Recommended.
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