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."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.
— Tagline used in the Early Days OVA
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
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
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
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
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
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 was announced, set in 2013, and is intended to be a sequel
, not a reboot, of the series. Known as The Next Generation -Patlabor-
, Seven "episodes" are planned to be shown in theaters, followed by a 12-episode live action TV series, and lastly a feature-length film airing in spring 2015.
Patlabor provides example of the following tropes:
"This page is about a work of fiction... but in ten years, who knows?"