Anime: Patlabor

It's such a clear day you can see Mount Fujinote .

"Labor: The common name for robots designed for heavy industrial use. The rise of labors sparked a revolution in construction and civil engineering, but labor-related crime skyrocketed as well. To combat this new threat, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police created a patrol labor unit, the Special Vehicles Unit Second Section. This was the origin of Patlabor."
— Tagline used in the Early Days OVA

In the Criminal Justice System, Humongous Mecha-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In Tokyo, the dedicated officers who deal with these vicious felonies are an elite squad known as the Special Vehicles Unit. These are their stories.

Set in the not-so-far-off future of 1998, this late-80s/early-90s anime, Mobile Police Patlabor, is the story of police officers fighting crime with giant robots. The SV2's Division 1 are a corps of competent, hard-working police who always get their man — but Patlabor isn't about them. No, it's Division 2 that gets the spotlight, that scruffy, rag-tag band of half-competent cops with a propensity towards massive property damage.

Quite possibly the quintessential Twenty Minutes into the Future giant robot anime, Patlabor is notable for treating its mecha not as insanely powerful miracle machines, but actual vehicles with clear limitations that require constant maintenance. In fact, although there's action aplenty, most of the series focuses on the daily life of the police officers who pilot the mecha, and big robot smash-ups often take up only a minute or two, if that. It is, truth be told, a slice of life series disguised as a Humongous Mecha show.

Patlabor was created in 1988 by "Headgear" — a group of creators including Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame and Masami Yuuki of Birdy the Mighty fame. Patlabor was planned from the start as both a manga and OVA, and a theatrical movie and ongoing TV series followed not long after. By turns a Cop Show, Police Procedural, slice of life comedy, political thriller, and of course, a Mecha Show, Patlabor had no trouble switching between genres from one episode to the next. (For the most part, though, the TV series and OVAs tended more towards comedy and light drama, whereas the movies were much more adult and sophisticated.)

Patlabor was unique for its time in that it examined the impact that giant robots might have on society. Not war machines but glorified forklifts, hijacked labors (hence the name) provided a new avenue for crime and terror, thus the need for a police organization trained to deal with them. Otherwise, the Japan seen in the series was virtually identical to the Japan of today, just with slightly more advanced tech. On the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, it fell somewhere in the middle — it wasn't some wonderful new age of technological miracles, yet the tone was still generally hopeful and optimistic. (However, the tone of the movies, most notable in the third and final film, is decidedly more cynical and pessimistic, almost a denouncement of the original premise.)

Most of the narrative focuses on Officer Noa Izumi, an eager, fresh-faced, tomboyish young woman who's just graduated from cadet training. Noa's a mecha otaku — the only reason she applied for the job was so she could ride around all day in her own personal robot (nicknamed "Alphonse"). One of the main themes of the series is Noa learning to take her job as an enforcer of the law more seriously.

Other main characters include:
  • Asuma Shinohara, the dispossessed heir to a mecha construction company and Noa's "backup" (this is the English term used in the series—with Noa being the "forward"—although his role would be better described as "spotter", or possibly "field commander", as there is an implication of the backup being a superior officer).
  • Captain Kiichi Gotoh, Division 2's easy-going (but supremely observant) commander. A Benevolent Boss (and occasional prankster).
  • Captain Shinobu Nagumo, Division 1's reserved, by-the-book, commander and the target of Gotoh's affections.
  • Hiromi Yamizaki, a Gentle Giant who drives the Division's patlabor-carrier truck.
  • Isao Ohta, another pilot and red-blooded alpha male gun nut. An honorable, impulsive Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Lt. Kanuka Clancy, a hot-shot Japanese American NYPD officer sent to observe Tokyo's mecha operation.
  • Lt. Takeo Kumagami, an ultra-competent Bifauxnen policewoman brought in to replace Kanuka after she returns to the States.
  • Mikiyasu Shinshi, a mild-mannered computer expert and family man. Woe to whoever insults his wife.
  • Seitaro Sakaki, the gruff old chief engineer who oversees the nigh-constant patlabor repairs.
  • Shigeo "Shige" Shiba, Sakaki's assistant and protege, an ineffectual gearhead.

Although very popular over in Japan, Patlabor never really took off in North America, although it has a cult following among anime fans. The first two movies were dubbed by Manga Entertainment in the mid-90s, and released to VHS and DVD in English-speaking countries around the world, but the OVA and TV series weren't imported and dubbed by Central Park Media until more than a decade after they ended their Japanese run. In addition, Pioneer released the third movie, Bandai Visual re-released the first two movies with new dubs, and recently, Maiden Japan (sister company of Sentai Filmworks) has licensed the franchise and is currently re-releasing it to remastered DVD and Blu-ray. Surprisingly, the only part of the anime franchise that hasn't been dubbed in English is the last 12 episodes of the "New Files" sequel series. As for the manga, only the first two volumes were released in the U.S. and Canada. For French-speaking areas, only 18 out of 22 volumes were released.

Watch Mobile Suit Gundam, Armored Trooper VOTOMS, or Super Dimension Fortress Macross if you are interested in more Real Robot Genre shows. Compare with the Mazinger trilogy, Getter Robo, Voltes V and Daimos to have an idea of what the Super Robot Genre is about. Contrast with GunBuster or Space Runaway Ideon to see what the opposite end of the scale is.

In 2013, the Patlabor franchise appears in their first Super Robot Taisen game in Super Robot Taisen: Operation Extend.

WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 is a prequel movie that takes place prior to the events of the 2nd Patlabor movie.

A live-action project, set in 2013, is a sequel, not a reboot, of the series. Known as The Next Generation -Patlabor-, thirteen episodes were shown in theaters in seven parts, and a feature-length film is airing in spring 2015.

Patlabor provides example of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Captain Nagumo is an awful lot more bubbly in the manga adaptation.
  • Affectionate Parody: of both videogames and itself with an in-universe Patlabor arcade game, complete with missspelled Score Screen.
  • Alternate Continuity: Three of them - the comic; the first OVA and the three movies; and the TV series and second OVA.
  • Alternate History: Global warming got a bit more serious that sea levels started to rise up during the Cold War. This led to R&D of labors in the construction industry before various police forces and militaries found some benefit in using them. Otherwise, everything else is the same.
  • Anime Theme Song
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Noa was apparently expecting this from Asuma in the ninth episode: "Red Labor Landing".
    • In context, they end up having to share a hotel room while on assignment. Noa waits until she thinks he's asleep before cautiously entering the room to turn in. When Asuma suddenly "awakes" and creeps toward her futon, she's clearly expecting to be groped and braces herself for the inevitable... except he completely ignores her and goes for her snack bag. Noa becomes outraged and clocks him.
    Noa: (indignant) "I'm disappointed in you Asuma!"
  • Arson Murder And Life Saving
  • As the Good Book Says: The first movie.
  • Badass:
  • Battle Discretion Shot: In Patlabor 2 after shooting their way past the robot tanks in the tunnels, Nagumo enters an elevator in her labor only to find another robot tank about to open fire at point-blank range. Nagumo stomps towards it screaming, "GET OUT OF MY WAY!" Cut to the elevator rising to the surface carrying Nagumo's totaled labor, whereupon she hits the eject and walks the rest of the way.
  • Beach Episode: The TV series, episode 40. Kinda subverted as only the last scene of the episode treats us with a view of the team enjoying beach games, suntanning,...
  • Berserk Button: Word to the wise - do not insult Shinshi's wife.
    • Also somewhat applies to Izumi when Alphonse (her Labor) is damaged.
    • Even though Ohta is a living, breathing Berserk Button himself, it's worth mentioning that he really, really hates when someone disrespects the police; this applies to his patrol partners as well, and it's the reason why him and Shinohara are constantly at each other's throats.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: As mentioned above, Shinshi is an extremely mild-mannered, helpful, nice individual, but if he feels you've insulted his wife—or even the institution of marriage— he will go berserk on you (and probably injure himself as a side effect).
  • BFG: The SVU labors are armed with scaled-up versions of police firearms. Other labors also use scaled-up versions of actual firearms. The general rule of thumb is that a Labor weapon has a bore diameter of a bit less than 1mm for every hundredth of an inch for the real world weapon; the Labor version of a .38 caliber revolver is a 37mm cannon, and the .44 caliber revolver scales up to 42mm - with exceptions.
    • One of the Mini-Pato specials points out that they're probably using hollow-point bullets (with caps on the tips for whatever reason) to cut down on collateral damage. ...and that they're almost certainly not 37mm, being closer to 75mm in all depictions.
    • The big guns aren't restricted to labors; Hiromi gets to use (hesitantly) a 20mm anti-materiel sniper rifle in the first & second films.
      • For that matter, on the Griffon arc, Hiromi and Ohta are able to squeeze a single shot to the Griffon Labor while they have Ohta's Ingram's gun mounted at the top of the Command Car. It levels the playing field between Alphonse and Griffon by wasting the latter's monitors. Tremendously impractical, true, and it ends up injuring Hiromi... but it was totally worth the trouble!
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the first movie, the team's efforts just mean they got the least terrible option in the Big Bad's Xanatos Gambit. The bad guy still got what he wanted.
  • Blue with Shock: Happens to the pilot of a virus-infected rogue construction Labor in the first movie when he realizes that the Second Section (and in particular, Ohta) is here to rescue him. "I'M DEAD!!" (They have a reputation for collateral damage.)
  • Boring but Practical: A lot of the Labors are fairly unimpressive, but functional.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: This happens at several points in the manga, with one of the earliest examples occurring in the first chapter. Noa complains she can't keep track of all the geographical data, so Asuma tells her he'll explain two pages later. And he does - complete with a map and pointer!
    • Noa breaks the 4th wall, herself, by turning her back to the reader while taking her physical exam so we can't see her topless. While in this scene, she notes that the manga's becoming more like a cartoon.
  • Broke Episode: On a number of fronts, as SV2 is on reclaimed land in the middle of nowhere, and simply getting food to feed the on-duty officers and maintenance crew justifies some spotlight time.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Lt. Clancy.
  • Chance Meeting Between Antagonists: Happens once in both the OVA and The Mobile Police/New Files continuities.
    • About midway through "The SVU's Longest Day part 1", Asuma happens to meet Kai, while he's eating at a ramen noodle stall. He'd later learn, from Gotoh, that Kai was the leader of the rebel army that was laying siege to Tokyo.
    • In the Mobile Police continuity, Asuma and Noa go to an arcade center on their day off and end up running into Richard Wong and Bado, who would later become the SVU's main antagonists during the Griffon arc.
  • The Chessmaster: Yukihito Tsuge, the stoic Big Bad of the second film, fits this quite succinctly, driving Tokyo to the brink of civil war while never once getting his hands dirty himself.
  • Clip Show: Episode 23 of the TV Series.
  • Colonel Makepeace: Division 1 as a whole and Lt. Gomioka especially.
  • Cool Plane: The fictional AH-88 Hellhound actually out-cools most of the Humongous Mecha.
  • Cop Show: On paper. But Special Vehicles 2 gets called out maybe a few times during a busy week, so the show leans more towards a Slice of Life.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Schaft Enterprises is a ruthless corporation that produces military mecha, among other things, and use highly illegal means to test their vehicles. An odd case, in that it remains a monolithic entity with no Big Bad in charge of it, though their agents Kurosaki and Richard Wong/Utsumi give it a human face.
    • Yeah, you know they say that those cats at Schaft are some bad Mother-
    • Schaft even has its own private army of mercenaries that operates in a great part of Southeast Asia.
  • Cross Counter: Alphonse vs. Griffon in the TV series and manga.
  • Cross-Popping Veins: Ohta, mostly.
  • Darker and Edgier: Every one of the movies gets progressively darker than the last but surprisingly enough the first two are really low on violence and serve more as psychological thrillers. However, the third movie got away with some rather gruesome deaths and a gloomier mood.
    • The Griffon Arc in both the television series and second OVAs is slightly edgier than the rest of the other episodes, but still has some comedic charm scattered about it.
  • Day In The Life
  • Decon-Recon Switch: In the second movie, any time Labors go up against war machines like tanks and helicopters, they get annihilated due to the factors of superior firepower vs. light armor. However, the movie still ends with a mecha battle between bipedal bots and spider tanks.
  • Detachment Combat: The Griffon sacrifices its hydrojet pontoons to draw Noah's fire while the rest of it climbs out of the water to ambush her.
  • Downer Ending: Done humorously at the end of episode 13 of The New Files (covered extensively on the Funny Moments page).
  • Dream Sequence: Twice. Once with our heroes fighting supervillains in New York, later with them fighting alien invaders in space. The latter was subverted at the end when we find that the main character of the Dream Sequence wasn't the one dreaming it - he had actually nodded off listening to the star of the first sequence describe that episode!.
  • Eagle Land: In the Aforementioned New York dream sequence. Type 2 for the most part, but the shout outs rampant throughout make it even more humorous.
    • It's mentioned that the U.S. has threatened to take military action if the Japanese can't get their house in order in the second film.
  • Easy Logistics: Subverted. The logistics woes affecting SV 2 are so bad, Ingram Unit 3 is rarely deployed, because most of the time it's being cannibalised for spare parts.
    • Worse, due to where Special Vehicles 2 is located, there are severe difficulties with feeding the maintenance staff. Gotoh apparently came up with a solution, that frankly worries Nagumo about what he'd do if he didn't happen to be one of the good guys.
  • Energy Weapons: Only one Labor type ever uses one, and it's quickly abandoned by the corporation building them because they're too expensive and not as effective against cannons and good old-fashioned pummeling as they thought. There's some Fridge Logic here though, as they're shown to work just fine under certain conditions...
    • But no better then a military grade cannon or missile really would have under similar conditions for probably a fraction of the price. It was likely deemed Awesome but Impractical, as we only see it fighting the AV-98s.
  • Escalating War: The Seven Days of Fire that result when the mechanic team's Porn Stash is confiscated.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Richard Wong isn't exactly evil per se, but he otherwise adheres to this. (If he'd been a bit more ruthless, for example, there would have been no need to throw so many Schaft Labors at the Ingrams, given that security at Special Vehicles 2 is practically nil. And in the manga, they take advantage of this.)
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Played straight with cars, but averted with Labors, which require a self-destruct to explode.
    • Played straight with at least two labors in the 2nd movie, when helicopters from the JSDF attacked the 2nd division.
  • Expy: The members of Division 2 are very similar to the characters from Police Academy in various ways.
    • A hot-tempered, trigger happy armored police cop? Are we talking about Leona or later-appearing Noa Izumi? They even have the same hair color in their first OVA appearances and Leona fawns over her tank, Bonaparte, similarly to how Noa fusses over her labor, Alphonse; though Leona's WAAAYY more attached to her tank....
  • Eye Beams: The Phantom, the Labor that uses the aforementioned Energy Weapons, has a creepy, skull-like face & fires the beams out of the skull's "eyes", but the main camera is actually located in the "mouth".
  • Eyes Always Shut: Richard Wong/Mr. Utsumi. They open from time to time.
  • Facefault: CONSTANTLY.
  • Fish Eye Lens: Seen often in the first & second films, particularly from the perspective of some poor bastard getting a royal ass-chewing.
  • Flat Character: The mechanics are never really given much development, aside from Sakaki and Shige. A few of them get names in the second movie, but that's about it.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Averted, there's no censorship regarding the episode where everyone but Gotou gets drunk. (And it wouldn't make any damn sense to do so, for one.)
  • Furo Scene: Notably OVA episode "Black Trinary", but SV2 has a small bath the characters occasionally use.
  • Gatling Good: The AH88 Hellhound helicopters, Extor battle robots, & AL-97B Hannibal labors in the movies are all armed with 20mm rotary cannons.
    • On the good guys' side, Ohta is unsurprisingly a big believer in this, and Clancy hooks him up with what looks like a GAU-8 Avenger towards the end of the first OVA series. Somehow.
  • Global Warming: While Humongous Mecha are Awesome but Impractical in Real Life, the crisis of global sea waters rising is what made their development a priority in this universe, where they were primarily valued as powerful and versatile construction machinery for efficiently building things like seawalls and levees. The police models frequently shown (and military models infrequently shown) are outgrowths of the technology used to deal with the crisis.
  • Gratuitous English: Averted most of the time with American Kanuka Clancy, who still pronounces "Roger" with an L. Everyone else plays the trope straight.
  • Gratuitous Russian: According to the translation and the Japanese subtitles, the Soviet labor pilot said "You Japs betrayed me", but in reality he said something like "Japanese No Hooray" or a tremendously mispronounced "Japanese nowhere" and continued to savagely violate the Russian language during the rest of the episode. note 
    • The name of the KGB general, who wanted to defect even was "Ivan Ivanovitch Ivanovsky", a common Russian placeholder name.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: In 1998, there is still a Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall still exists (with West German "Brocken" labors standing guard). Judging by the 2nd movie, it has ended, so it either ended later than in Real Life or it was a Retcon.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In the first manga volume, Noa gets her first awesome moment when she rips a leg off a four-legged labor, then beats the labor into submission with it. (This particular application of the trope shows up from time to time throughout Patlabor).
  • Group Picture Ending: The finale of The Mobile Police/New Files continuity ends with a group photo of the members SVU's 2nd Unit, along with Shinobu, the 1st Division's captain.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Noa and Lt. Clancy, though not "Party Girls" by any stretch of the imagination, can hold their liquor. In fact, the first time they start to bond is when they're both screaming drunk and drinking competitively. Noa wins, by not having any hangover whatsoever the next day.
    • There's also Lt. Kumagami. Kumagami and Clancy getting drunk together at the hot springs and poor Ohta paying for it is classic.
  • Hot Springs Episode: In the second OVA series.
  • Humongous Mecha: Labors come in on the smaller side, being at most about 8 meters tall. One of the Mini-Pato shorts explains that, if they were any taller or shorter, the Ingrams (and the Labors in general) wouldn't be able to do their job. Too tall, and Labors are mass-produced house-sized bulldozers (and in the way). Too short, and they're as useful for construction as ATs.
  • Idol Singer: Kana from the TV series (most of SV2 is a fan of hers). Also a Bokukko, though no one comments on it.
  • I Don't Know Mortal Kombat: Izumi did badly on a Patlabor arcade game largely because she was too used to piloting a real Humongous Mecha. The trope is very apt, amusingly, as the difference between the game (depicted only in the anime, as a 'hunt-and-kill' simulator) and Noa's job is about as big as the Mortal Kombat series and a UFC event.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Loudmouthed and trigger-happy Ohta. Who gets to shine in the episode where he goes into an omiai (very formal arranged date) and ends up helping his prospect girlfriend, who he did like, save the man she loves.
    • In one episode, Noa discovers that Ohta, known for causing massive property damage, especially with his trigger-happy use of his labor's revolver, is actually a perfect shot. When she asks Gotoh about this, he points out that none of Ohta's shots have ever injured anyone.
  • Kaiju: Subverted in episode 3 of the first OVA series, where the monster walks off into the sea immediately after it appears. It has an appearance similar to Garia from War Of The Gargantuas ...and Hiromi Yamizaki. Other examples are played straight: The fourth and 19th episodes of the TV series feature different monsters as well. The first is a mammal of some sort—an escaped genetic experiment. Some think it looks like a bear, others like a cat or raccoon-dog. The Audience never sees it though.note , In 19, the monster is an underground-adapted Dragon. Izumi insists on calling it a real Kaiju. Kanuka calls that a childish fantasy—and insists on calling it a surviving Dragon descended from the ones in the middle ages.
    • The manga contains a different Kaiju story that doesn't appear in the anime, involving an airline crash that accidentally releases a genetic experiment that rapidly grows into an amphibious monster that Division 2 — among others — get called out to deal with.
  • Lower Deck Episode: A few eps revolving around the mechanic team. (Shige insists that this was supposed to be the Upper Deck, in one of the Mini-Pato shorts...)
  • Magic Floppy Disk: Especially prevalent in the movies where the 5" type is standard and the 3" indicates something advanced.
  • Mecha-Mooks: West German Brocken military labors, particularly in the first Phantom arc.
  • Mecha Show: Basically the first of a rare sub-genre, that of civilian-owned and operated mecha not largely used for combat.
  • Midseason Upgrade: Almost inverted in the TV series where there are plans to downgrade from the Ingram to the cheaper Economy Model Ingram mk. I, but its performance is simply too poor. Played straight for SV 1, who trade in the obsolete Pythons for AV-0 Peacemakers, a massproduction version of the Psycho Prototype "Zero" from the first movie (which was in a different continuity, but whatever). The Griffon also gets one in The New Files, replacing its wings, which broke off after it crashed into a mountain, with a pair of back-mounted hydrojets.
  • Mood Whiplash: From the mostly serious and adult movies, to the comical, sometimes juvenile television and OVA series.
  • The Movie: Three of them, though the third is actually a Gaiden Story in which our heroes appear only briefly.
  • Musical Spoiler: In the TV series, at one point Nagumo and Fuwa are at a restaurant, discussing who's responsible for the mystery labor that's been running around. The song playing over the radio is Schaft's theme song, with the only lings being "We are Schaft, Schaft! We are Schaft!
  • Never Found the Body: Hoba in the first movie, after jumping from the Ark into the ocean. In the climactic finale they pick up a signal from him in the building they're trying to demolish. Noa goes after him, but it turns out he really was dead: The employee badge with the tracker was attached to the leg of his pet raven.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nagumo's decision to reject the SRX-70 Saturn because she knew the manufacturer would use its data for military purposes leads indirectly to the disastrous events of the Gryphon Arc.
  • No Fourth Wall: The manga, multiple times, for the sake of comedy.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Richard Wong/Mr. Utsumi, the cold and calculating agent of Schaft Enterprises, hides behind a happy-go-lucky facade. (Mind, he actually is that happy-go-lucky under most circumstances - he just stays that way as he calmly orchestrates a calamity.)
  • Omake: The third theatrical movie was packaged with three humorous "Mini-Pato" shorts, which explained the mechanics behind the Revolver Cannon the Ingrams use, the background to the creation of the series as a whole (as well as a cynical look at the Mecha Show genre), and how the perpetually cash-starved Special Vehicles 2 was able to keep feeding itself (hint: Gotoh worked some magic, apparently some of his finest).
  • Otaku: Several Mecha Otaku, most notably...
  • Otaku Surrogate: Noah is a bit of a borderline example. She's obsessed with giant robots, but in a very girly way. She seems to be working her way out of it by the time of the second movie.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: It's six legged (two hands, four legs), eyeless from being underground for a thousand+ years and has sensory tentacles that it can use offensively growing from the back of its head.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Episode 27 of the TV series features a pretty standard group of ghosts and poltergeists with unfinished business, the only thing being that they're made up of former inhabitants of ever era all the way back to Sengoku...
  • Paranormal Episode: The anime is, at its heart, a Slice of Life, Cop Show/Police Procedural, with Humongous Mecha. But, during the 27th episode of the TV series, the SVU2 encounter ghosts, while holding indoor training execrcises in an abandoned building. It turns out that the ghosts were the spirits of earthquake victims, who once lived there. Their spirits couldn't rest because of an undiscovered burial site, which contained the remains of slain samurai, directly beneath the building SVU2 was training in. The spirits were lain to rest, once it was discovered, and rites were performed on the site.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: In the New York city dream, most of the characters who appear are blond haired, blue eyed versions of the core cast—with a few exceptions—as is everyone else in New York City. They're also all gun crazy. All of them.
  • Police Procedural: To a point.
  • Post-Cyberpunk: You get the feeling that the Cyberpunk period happened a few years ago in-universe, and now everyone has to go back to work.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: AND HOW. They're frequently referred to as such in-universe (with "cash drain" usually added for good measure), to the point that it's a Running Gag.
  • Real Robot: About as close to realistic as you can get, aside from some slightly whimsical giant police weaponry; even military Labors are pretty delicate and lightly armed.
    • Um, except that the TV series has in its main story arc a flying shiny black giant robot with wings that wouldn't look out of place in a latter-day Gundam show, and a labor with Frickin' Laser Beams attached to its head.
    • Exceptions. Both were very special models not meant for mass production, the close-range Griffon more so than the Phantom. The Griffon was also built without cost in mind and lots of overtime from the engineers in Schaft's Project Division Seven. It also helps that said flight was extremely limited and was brute thrust all the way, ending in crashes both times.
    • And everybody got utterly shocked when the Griffin flew, since neither of them thought possible a Labor was able to fly (in the first chapter Noa was informed -to her grief- that making flying a Labor would be very complicated), and later were still discussing it (reasoning that it could have not gone very far). Also, note that the Griffin removed its own arm before taking off to lose extra weight.
  • Red Shirt Reporter: Momoko Sakurayama won't let a little thing like danger get in the way of a good story—or being made into unknowing hostages by a criminal labor pilot. Her anatonistic relationship with Section 2 just makes all the more fun to see Otah stuff them back in their news van by hand.
  • Roboteching: Seen in an episode that parodied Macross (as well as Ultraman and a few other classic sci-fi shows).
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The series in general remains on the Enlightened end of the spectrum and relatively idealistic - even in the worst of times. Generally, humanity growing to live with mechs coexisting with them and how they are used in society is the end result, and all other things are just consequences of it.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Even at its darkest, the show remains very optimistic about human nature and the future, where men and machines work together to save the day and while authority figures are far from perfect, they're much more likely to be harmless bumblers rather than malicious bullies. Nowhere does this shine through more than the second movie, where the Greater Tokyo Area being put under martial law by the Japanese Defense Agency amounts to little more than a minor inconvenience for both the civilians and the bored and put-upon JGSDF soldiers, who uncomplainingly humor onlookers who want to take pictures with their tanks.
  • Running Gag: Noa frantically running from something, almost fainting, quickly recovering. Happens at least three times in the course of the series. Usually from something monstrous—like albino sewer crocodilians.
    • Gotoh using Shinohara's hot-headedness and curiosity in missions to confirm suspicions that he has already glossed over waaaaaaay before. Which is lampshaded by Shinobu during the first film, when she comments on Gotoh's habit of manipulating Asuma.
      • He usually does this to avoid the higher-ups noticing that he is the one that is actually ruffling the feathers.
    • The unit sometimes try to hide stuff and sneak out from Captain Gotoh; they never succeed in getting anything past him. It shows that they are somewhat unaware of just how curious he can be.
    • The unit's apparent informality towards everything in the opinion of most outsiders.
    • Ohta's trigger-happy approach to every mission; good thing that he is actually an excellent shooter.
    • Shinshi's tendency to get absolutely livid when he and/or his wife is ridiculed. Do fear the nerdy guy!
    • Sakaki's line to get everyone going when there's a call goes something like this:
    "Hurry up, or I'll throw the lot of you into the sea!"
    • Even Shinohara makes fun of this at one point in the series.
    • The public's perception of Division 2 is constantly mentioned to be on the lines of "violent", "freeloaders" and "a huge waste of taxpayer money"; the high command's efforts regarding Division 2 is to put them into a positive publicity stunt as frequently as they can so that the public opinion aims for the better. It's apparently not enough that the Division 2 has saved Tokyo multiple times and has even backed up Division 1 when they fall short; it's worth mentioning that the high command likes captain Nagumo of Division 1 way more than Gotoh of Division 2, so they don't quite help to the cause.
    • Shinohara and Noa have a habit of bickering that translates into the field; Labor 1's operation during missions usually has Noa going on a multitude of unlikely tangents while on the Labor while Shinohara pulls her down to Earth from the commanding car. He is never above making her mad or making her do stuff she doesn't want to do; she doesn't mind, except when he stops bickering... because THAT's when something's wrong.
  • Schematized Prop: The opening narration of the last half of the TV series included a detailed description of the AV-98 Ingram, the show's titular patrol labor, using what was for the time highly detailed Computer Animation.
  • Scooby-Doo Hoax: An episode featuring a "sea monster."
  • Secret Diary: Kanuka was writing an ongoing report on her coworkers during her time with SV2. It's somewhat less than flattering.
  • Serious Business: The two Maintenance Division centric episodes end up with most of Division 2 going mysteriously missing one by one, and a small civil war among the unit including beatings, nazi-esque "security squads," kidnappings and (non-lethal) hangings, respectively. The culprits? Some spoiled food and the confiscation of a sizable porn stash.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Cutesy mecha-fetishist Noah & wacky gun-nut Ohta get progressively less & less screentime with each progressively darker & more cynical film. Somewhat rectified in the manga & TV continuity with the Griffon Saga, which, while still mostly serious & featuring an escalating level of danger still has a major focus on Noah.
  • Shown Their Work: Seen here and here, for the manga version, which used an actual map of the city of Tokyo for accuracy. Also seen in the following link with the intercept sequence of the 2nd Movie.
    • The series as a whole went out of its way to depict a real and modern Tokyo, deviating only when copyright or trademarks got in the way.
  • A Simple Plan
  • Sitting on the Roof: Particularly egregious, as the Special Vehicles 2 building (formerly a manufacturing facility) has a couple of decks on the roof, and yet they still go onto the actual roof on occasion. Also a sort of Subversion (or maybe just a testament to how widely used the trope is) in that SV2 is on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay - there's pretty much no need to go up there specifically for some quiet time!
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic Versus Fantastic: Differs. See Mood Whiplash above. The two movies helmed by Mamoru Oshii are highly realistic with situations that could happen in the real world; the antagonists in both are terrorists that utilize methods that can be and have been used in real life. The TV show is realistic in its portrayal of labor crime as well... until the main story arc kicks in, and the SV2 battles Bond villains SPECTRE Schaft and their super-robot prototypes. Oh, and monsters, dragons and ghosts too.
    • ...well when you put it like that, the non-movie continuities sound scarier.
    • And then there's the live-action series. Oshii just looks like he's having fun with this trope there.
  • Snow Means Love: An episode of the second OVA revolved around this trope.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The Central Park Media release prefers to use "Gotoh", for instance, instead of "Gotou" or "Gotō". (The reason likely being that that third syllable, the "u", is typically meshed with the second when pronounced correctly in Japanese.) Maiden Japan, however, uses "Goto".
    • This is also the case where Bado/Bud is concerned, since his name alternates between both spellings, as seen in the subtitles of different episodes of the anime. This is also the case of the manga version, which initially referred to him as "Baddo" (with two d's, rather than one), but eventually settled on calling him "Bud".
  • Spider Tank: Many military Labors use this design rather than the bipedal form of most civilian models. (An episode of the TV series notes that, in a city, Labors have to worry about their width and turning radius.)
  • Strictly Professional Relationship:
    • Captains Gotoh and Shinobu, it is Played Straight, with Gotoh nursing unrequited feelings for Shinobu, who strictly enforces a professional relationship between them.
    • Also played straight by Noa and Asuma, in the OVA continuity (until the live-action series confirmed they ended up married, anyway). However, near the end of the Mobile Police/New Files continuity, their relationship shows signs of becoming "more than friends".
  • Super-Deformed: The "Mini-Pato" omake shorts.
  • Super Prototype:
    • SV2 has three prototype AV-98 Ingram mechs. One episode of the series focused on the introduction of a mass-produced line of Ingrams, subverting the trope a bit in that the prototypes weren't exceptionally good so much as the mass-produced ones were exceptionally shoddy. Also, other kinds of mass-produced military mechs are shown to be close in quality to the Ingrams, if not flat out better in certain regards, but the Ingram has a distinct lead in agility and the experience of its pilots.
      • Shinohara Heavy Industries is actually Genre Savvy about this trope. After the poor showing their first massproduction Ingram makes, they get SV 2 to help them develop a new one. The resulting Economy Model Ingram mk. II is actually superior in some respects to the original AV-98.
      • Interestingly, given that Labor operating systems work by "learning" the most effective movements of its pilots, the Ingrams can also count as Ace Customs as well. Visibly, all continuities give the three units different head designs after the first OVA.
    • The first film has the AV-X0 "Type Zero" which was supposed to be an advanced replacement for the AV-98. It proved to be a fearsome opponent in melee combat against other labors, and when it was overtaken by the Babel virus it completely mopped the floor with Ohta's Ingram and Noa only barely managed to subdue it with a shotgun to the brain. Seeing as the Type Zero wasn't seen in the subsequent films (the AV-02 Valiant shows up instead), it can be assumed that the design was abandoned.
    • The Type Zero also shows up near the end of the manga, piloted by Noa. It actually does quite well, until the bad guys deactivate the computers that did the calculations for the Type Zero — since it was a prototype it relied on an outside unit rather than having all the hardware inside the chassis.
      • In the TV anime and OVAs, the Type Zero is fully functional on its own, but the software is designed to avoid collateral damage, which gets them all trashed.
  • Super Robot Wars: Debuted in 'Super Robot Wars: Operation Extend.
  • Surprisingly Good English: Present in the original Japanese dub for the intercept sequence of Movie 2; it's in Japanese-accented but correct English.
  • Team Shot: Both ending themes of the TV series, as well as the final shot of the second OVA, which brought the franchise to a close.
  • Team Spirit: Notable in a couple of ways. The maintenance crew has greater importance in the series than is usual for a Mecha Show, and Division 2 (despite being labeled a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits in-universe) shows strong teamwork when the chips are down.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The first movie starts off with the Big Bad jumping into the ocean. As a result, the police can't find out in time how his virus works. A second, less clear gambit, may be that he attached his employee badge to his pet raven to set off a Never Found the Body-paranoia, and give his pursuers a Secret Test of Character. Division 2 is only able to prevent the destuction of Tokyo because they decide to try and save Hoba when they think he's alive. They wouldn't have made it to the backup-system in time if they had decided to collapse the Ark with him still in it.
  • Theme Naming: Most of the career cops are named for WWII admirals (Gotohnote  and Nagumo), Ohta is probably named for the inventor of the Ohka (Baka) glider bomb - he looks frighteningly like his namesake.
  • Throw-Away Country: Could be averted. According to an interview with the production crew, the country that shows up in the prologue of the second movie has background references to suggest that it can be Cambodia. Which does lead to Truth in Television since Japanese soldiers and police officers were deployed in Cambodia, years after the end of the Second Pacific War as UN-mandated personnel.
  • Trial by Friendly Fire: In the second movie, a pair of JASDF interceptors very nearly fired on allied aircraft over Tokyo, due to hacking of Japan's air defense network thanks to Tsuge's hackers.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Made in '88, set in '98. See the tagline below.
    • The 2nd OVA (made in '92) had a character ask about renting Die Hard 5. (Even funnier now that there IS a Die Hard 5!)
    • Really, aside from underestimating the leap in technology, they got just about everything else right.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: In giant robots, even.
  • Used Future: To a point; nothing is really much worse for the wear in '98 than it was in '88, aside from what a decade might do to something.
  • Villain Team-Up: Episode 42 of the TV series, titled appropriately Enough "The Men Who Returned" features 3 previous villains teaming up—and forming a Power Trio.
  • Welcome Episode: Only the TV anime, as far as Noa is concerned. The first OVA has the entire Division 2 transfer to Special Vehicles 2 the same timenote , and the manga starts with Noa still in training before getting any sort of Labor instruction.
    • Played straight with Kanukanote , and with Kumagami to a less jarring extent.
  • Whole Episode Flashback
  • Whole Plot Reference
    • An entire (dream) episode devoted to an Ultraman homage, specifically harking back to the series Ultra Seven with the squad acting secretly as a monster/alien defense team. They even go for some of the classic sound effects and the big bad of the episode is an Expy of Ultraman's classic enemy: Zetton. Noa gets to transform using a Beta Capsule version of the Ultra Eye into Ingraman. In fact, all the monsters and Ultramen who appear have the faces of military or police labors. The Zetton has the face of the Griffon, Ingraman is Noa's Ingram "Alphonse", "Zero" is the AV-0 Peacemaker.
    • The third episode of the first OVA is a hilarious Gojira send-up, down to the one-eyed Mad Scientist and the "Oxygen Destroyer" (actually a bit of dry ice in a plastic tube).
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Takeo Kumagami is extremely afraid of ghosts. She hides it initially with skepticism, but the mask soon falls away. One the Ghosts spirits are put at rest, she presents the spirits with an offering of flowers, sake and an incense stick.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Mixed with the Thanatos Gambit above: By killing himself, the Big Bad has left the police with only three choices: Do nothing and let Tokyo's infrastructure get wrecked, destroy all Labors, or destroy the Ark thereby dooming the Babylon Project. Since the Big Bad is The Fundamentalist who feels that Ludd Was Right, all three options suit him.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The big battle in the first movie is a Hold the Line action to prevent civilization from being destroyed against an onslaught of slow moving, dumb, but relentless horde of opponents that are afflicted with a highly contageous virus that infects one of the good guys and turns it against his friends. Only instead of living dead humans, it affects mecha. Construction mecha. The kind that were meant to easily demolish buildings and are used throughout the Tokyo Bay area. You may now begin panicking.

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