Posted by psgels on 31 July 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews


Time for another classic. If you’re one of those people who has only seen “modern” anime of the past decade, and are interested to see what the medium was like before the arrival of Evangelion, in the seventies and eighties (and perhaps the early nineties), then my top recommendation isn’t Gundam (at least, not until I’ve seen Zeta Gundam), but instead the very charming series of Mobile Police Patlabor.

The biggest reason for this is that while Mobile Suit Gundam caters for a specific audience, Mobile Police Patlabor seems to have something for nearly everyone: only if you need your series to have harems or slice of life (or gory horror, I guess), then you won’t find what you’re looking for. This series has mecha, it’s got drama, comedy, action, and a bit of romance and horror here and there, all packaged together quite neatly into 47 episodes.

It’s one of those very few series that tries to find a realistic use of mechas: in this series, they’re mostly used for construction and the police only use the mecha in order to solve conflicts for when these mechas go out of control. I’m surprised why I haven’t seen any newer mecha-series taking over the same idea, because it makes perfect sense. The main characters also aren’t anyone special: they’re no heroes whatsoever; they’re just a bunch of policemen who are in charge of these mechas. The epic “saving the country”-themes of the movies don’t return at all in the series, and everything is purposefully kept nice and down-to-earth.

But what really sells this series is its lovable cast of characters. Especially Captain Goto is an incredibly likable and unique character, but the rest of the crew also gets enough opportunities to shine throughout the series. The hot-headed Ota may be a strange character, but you’ll get used to him in no time. Noa, the most central character in this series, is quite likely the most stereotypical of the bunch, with her love for mechas (or labors, as they’re called in this series), great driving skills and naive nature, but she does end up being the most fleshed out and developed character of the entire cast, so she makes up for that.

Patlabor is an episodic series: every episode the crew handles a case (or does something other labor-related), where the focus is more on the characters than on the actual action, though the action itself is also very impressive. You won’t see any overpowered god-mode beams in this series, and fights are almost always based on strategies, rather than senseless bashing (although some characters in the series seem to forget this at times ^^;). The interesting thing is that this series joins Ooedo Rocket on the very short list of series whose dramatic climax isn’t at the end of the series. Instead, there’s just one arc in the series that takes up more than two episodes, with interesting villains and a tense atmosphere, and once that arc is done, the series just continues with episodic stories, and the final episodes instead go for some subtle character-development, instead of trying to end the series with a bang (but then again, with three movies and two OVAs, why should it?)

There aren’t much flaws in this series, but I’d love to have seen a bit more about division one (the division that works right next to the division of the main characters). We see hardly anything about them, with the result that the last episode hastily introduces a vital member of the division from out of nowhere, and acts like he’s been there all along. That was rather confusing.

Nevertheless, if you have the time to watch nearly fifty episodes, and have yet to see the Patlabor Movies and the television series, then I recommend going for the television-series first. The movies had their own excellent points, but it’s the series that brought the cast to life, and the movies clearly assumed that the viewer had already seen the television-series. The highlight of this series is definitely its cast of characters: it works great during the more serious moments of the series, but at the same time some the comedy-episodes are absolutely priceless. The comedy isn’t of the in-your-face type, like most slapsticks, but instead it requires proper build-up to work best. Patlabor may be nearly 20 year old, but it’s smart and it still packs a punch.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 9/10

7 Responses

  1. mark says:

    Have you seen the movies yet ?

    One and two are pretty good.I recently picked them up at Right Stuf on sale for 12 bucks each.

  2. primeparadigm says:

    Are you talking about division 1’s Gomioka? He does make semi-frequent appearances throughout the television series, and even more in the sequel OVA, so I can’t say he came up out of nowhere.

  3. psgels psgels says:

    Mark: yup, I have. They were some great movies.

    Primeparadigm: nope, I was talking about the second pilot of Division 1. For 46 episodes, Gimioka and the captain were the only ones of the division we ever saw, and then episode 47 suddenly comes and introduces a second pilot from out of nowhere.

  4. mampf says:

    I don’t know, a few episodes seemed pretty slice of life-ish to me… (not that that’s a bad thing)

  5. Hayama says:

    psgels like you said this series has a bit of everything…likable characters,good development and some great stories but for some strange reason i just din’t liked it that much.

  6. craig says:

    I love this anime. There’s even a stamp series from Japan post
    http://japansugoi.com/wordpress/patlabor-anime-stamps-from-japan/

  7. geh says:

    You call it “classic” and review the TV show?
    I don’t understand.
    Is the show really more well-known / popular than the original 1988 OVA?

    Also, I wouldn’t say it reflects the anime of the 70’s. I mean, the show’s from like ’89 or ’90.

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  • K-Off
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:11 PM)
    But I agree with Bam in that the show has lots of moments where it shines, namely in the action and the entertaining character interactions. If I was interested more so in a character story rather than an overall plot, I’m sure I’d like Eva a lot more. Certain shows work really well purely off that principle like Phantasia, but by the time I got to Eva I’d gotten relatively desensitized to those character tropes. Shinji didn’t help much either.
  • K-Off
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:07 PM)
    There’s no narrative thrusts throughout the show, it’s just scenes happening to get from one action set piece to the next all the while shoving blatant symbolism in your face. The little plot there is feels incredibly weak, aside from the world building there’s no clear objective besides a vague idea of defeating angels and something about Gendo that’s almost background noise with how little it affects the story.
  • K-Off
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 09:03 PM)
    Having started watching anime only in the mid 2000s despite occasionally seeing them on TV during the 90s, I come from a school of thought that emphasizes coherence more than anything else, basically I want the story to have focus. And while Eva’s influence on character archetypes and animation cannot be argued, I still think the story in Eva is pretty bad.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 07:56 PM)
    Judging purely visually I agree some leeway must be given due to the technical limitations of the time but all of my issues with the series is not visual related but story.
    I have admitted that I don’t hate Eva and I do like aspects of it. But do you really need me to give it praise? There is plenty giving it praise. I see no reason to join the choir.
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 07:51 PM)
    Now you are just flying off the hook.
    I understand Eva’s cultural significance, and it’s effect on the medium. I just deem it irrelevant when judging the anime itself. For you see dear boy, if you are going to place EVA above modern anime then you must judge it by modern standards. If it falls short you can’t just bring up historic significance to wave away it’s problems.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:46 PM)
    I praised Fate/Zero for its story, pacing and charismatic protagonist. UBW I agreed to its superb battle animation and overall quality of first cour. Now when someone watches EoE or Eva Rebuild 2.2 and comments on nothing of quality, then who is the biased one here really?
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:34 PM)
    If anything at least call Shinji a shitty annoying character- cuz even I won’t deny that.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:25 PM)
    When I mean discussion I don’t mean a series of personal likes and dislikes- but judging objective elements: plot consistency, animation quality, restrain in fan-service and pandering, over reliance on tropes and cliches, etc. Otherwise we all have our different preferences.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:20 PM)
    I agree with the cons of Eva, as well as its strengths. Same with Fate. Being pessimistic is a stance, not inherently a flaw. The setting of Eva predicates that tone. If anything I have a bias towards Berserk, and that’s mostly all out of nostalgia.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Jun 26. 2016 05:16 PM)
    Also what ladies? Even the “gentlemen” part is stretching it. It’s very easy for someone who didn’t follow anime 20 years ago to criticize one of its most historic moments. At least this Tenka Seiha fella doesn’t talk smack about what he doesn’t really understand.

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