"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.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 SVU's (no, not THAT one) 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 Futuregiant 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. 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 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 troll).
Captain Shinobu Nagumo, Division 1's captain and target of Gotoh's affections.
Hiromi Yamizaki, a Gentle Giant who drives the Division's patlabor-carrier truck.
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, as well. 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.
Also somewhat applies to Izumi when Alphonse (her Labor) is damaged.
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.
Bifauxnen: Kumagami is short, has a boyish haircut, and looks rather tomboyish (but still feminine). She's also an expert at judo.
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.)
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-
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.
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.
Downer Ending: Oddly enough, done humorously in one episode in the second OVA featuring a maze of abandoned sewer pipes and albino alligators.
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.
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...
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.)
Expy: The members of Division 2 strongly resemble characters from Police Academy in various ways.
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".
Grievous Harm with a Body: In the first manga volume, Noa gets her first (of many) Crowning Moment of Awesome 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.)
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 have 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.
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.
I Call Her "Vera": Police Officer Noa Izumi upon joining the squad affectionately names her Ingram AV-98 Patrol Labor 'Alphonse'. She previously had a dog and a cat named "Alphonse" as well, making the labor "Alphonse III."
Idiot Hair: Noah on occasion. (Her less-than-regulation hairstyle is apparently bed hair.)
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 an actual martial arts tourney.
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 Actually we do, briefly, and it's Mughi from "Dirty Pair" (which shared staff with Patlabor)., 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 Dragondescended 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.
Lady of War: Kanuka, and Takeo. Cemented for Kanuka when she took on a mob of Yakuza in a Kimono with a wooden sword. They didn't stand a chance.
Kanuka's combat skills, in and out of her labor are to be worshiped. Just ask Gotoh, who specifically called her in to assist SV.2 with the raid on the Ark in the first movie
Customs Agent: "Are you here for business or pleasure?"
Kanuka: "Neither. Combat."
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: 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.
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.
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.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Richard Wong/Mr. Utsumi, the cold and calculating agent of Schaft Enterprises, hides behind a happy-go-lucky facade.
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 Surrogate: Noah is a bit of a borderline example. She's obsessed with giant robots, but in a very girly way.
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.
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.
Put on a Bus: Lt. Clancy, sent back to New York. Came back a few times as a guest star.
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 Beamsattached 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 theri news van by hand.
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 Azuma's hot-headedness and curiosity in missions to confirm suspicions that he has already glossed over waaaaaaay before. Glossed over by Shinobu on the first film, when she comments that Gotoh is very good at making people do his bidding without them noticing.
He usually does this to avoid the higher-ups noticing that he is the one that is actually ruffling the feathers.
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.
Scary Shiny Glasses: Shinshi, once you push him over the edge. Utsumi can also be seen with them, though his demeanor and attitude don't change.
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.
Seinen: Only insofar as it's aimed at older teens/early 20s. There's no bishoujo to be seen.
The television series is pretty shonen though. Having a twelve-year old piloting a giant robot automatically makes it so.
Even if he's portrayed as in impetuous loudmouth with raw talent but no finesse, who ends up as the loser in most of his encounters with a force which is inferior not just technologically, but often numerically as well? Not much of a Mary-Sue—-er, Shonen figure.
Sentai: Parodied in one episode in which Shige dreams that the Division is a team of international crimefighters.
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 Gryphon Saga, which, while still mostly serious & featuring an escalating level of danger still has a major focus on Noah.
Another Gundam Shout Out occurs in episode 32 of the TV series, where some mercenary labor pilots attempt a Jet Stream Attack. It fails spectacularly. It hurts that the one pulling the surprise attack shouted out "Jet Stream Attack" before he hit—his target actually telling him to "Shut up!". Apparently, he's something of an Otaku.
Sitting on the Roof: Particularly egregious, as the Special Vehicles 2 building (formerly a factory of some kind or another) 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.
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.
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.
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 (Gotoh*
named after Gotohda even sharing his nickname of "Gotoh(da) the Razor"
and Nagumo), Ohta is probably named for the inventor of the Ohka (Baka) glider bomb - he looks frighteningly like his namesake.
Whole Plot Reference: An entire (dream) episode devoted to an Ultraman homage, specifically harking back to the series Ultraseven 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.
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.
"This page is about a work of fiction... but in ten years, who knows?"