Patlabor News

Patlabor is a franchise comprised of 3 movies, 3 anime series
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22 years ago, an OVA series called Patlabor began, and solidified the reputation in Japan of the team of director Mamoru Oshii and writer Kazunori Ito. The series also was licensed for US release, and became one of several gateway series for a new wave of American Otaku. This guide is to help newer Otaku, who have never seen the series before, know the basics of the franchise. 


 They rarely carry (this many) guns.
 They rarely carry (this many) guns.

What You Need To Know

Patlabor was created as an OVA series in the 80s by the animation studio Headgear, consisting of director Mamoru Oshii, writer Kazunori Ito, character designer Akemi Takeda, mechanical designer Yutaka Izubuchi, and manga artist and writer Masami Yuki. Essentially, the purpose of creating Headgear was to form a creator-owned studio, so they would have more control over their work, and be able to promote it better then they felt they could in a more traditional production environment.

The title, “Patlabor”, is a portmanteau of “Patrol” and “Labor”, and describes the giant robots used by the main characters to stop crimes performed using construction labors – giant robots designed for construction work. Ultimately, Patlabor units are basically traffic cops with giant robots.

The Story

In the not-too-distant-future, the Japanese government undertakes an ambitious project to address overcrowding by reclaiming a massive portion of Tokyo Bay. This project, called the Babylon Project, requires a massive amount of manpower and heavy machinery. This leads to the development of the construction labor and its adoption in all sorts of projects aside from the Babylon Project, all across the world. Due to the availability of construction labors, this also leads to Labor crime. Thus, police departments form Patrol Labor (or Patlabor) units, to address this problem.

One such unit is the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's Special Vehicles, Second Section (or SV2 for short), which is stationed out in a very remote section of Tokyo. Because the section is so remote, the men and women of that section have very little to do between calls, except maintain the grounds and otherwise kill time. Consequently, if there's the vaguest hint that something interesting is happening somewhere in the building, everyone tries to spy on it.

The Characters

As with any ensemble cop show, we get a squad-room’s worth of characters to get to know, and they all need to be distinct and interesting. 

Captain Kiichi Goto: Head of SV2's Unit 2. At first glance he looks incredibly laid back and something of a slacker. This is actually an elaborate ruse. Goto is considerably more capable and savvy then he appears at first glance, and was nicknamed “The Razor” before he was assigned to SV2 as a punishment assignment. Has a soft spot for Captain Nagumo.

 

  

  

Noa Izumi: Spunky, perky girl from Hokkaido, who loves labors, and pilots the labor in Team 1. She names the Patrol Labor she pilots “Alphonse”, the same name she'd previously given her pet cat and her pet dog. Because her family runs a liquor store, she has been drinking for quite some time, having built up an incredible tolerance to alcohol – Izumi can drink every other member of Unit 2 under the table, and recover from a hangover sooner. Arguably the best pilot of SV2. Has a soft spot for Asuma. 

 
 
 

 

Asuma Shinohara: Son of the head of Shinohara Heavy Industries, one of the biggest labor manufacturers in Japan. Joined SV2 as a way of rebelling against his father. Is the Controller for Team 1, giving directions and advice to the team's pilot and carrier driver when on a call. Has a soft spot for Noa.

 

  

  

  

Hiromi Yamazaki: A large, gentle man from Okinawa. Too big to pilot a labor, he instead drives Team 1's labor carrier. Between calls he also tends SV2's garden and tends its chicken coop, and is considered to have a green thumb. Does possess immense strength, and is able of firing an anti-Labor rifle safely, and is able to fire a Labor Revolver with the assistance of Ota.

 

  

  

  

Isao Ota: Pilot for Team 2's labor. Brash, loud, aggressive, and trigger-happy. Loves firing his Labor's weapons. Expects military discipline from the rest of the team, even when its clear that they're not in the military. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Kanuka Clancy: Controller for Team 2. Police officer from the NYPD, who is liaised with SV2 to learn how their Labor teams run, so she can organize building one in the US. Is by-the-book and maintains a business-like demeanor with the rest of the team, though she cares for them dearly.
 

  

  

 

Mikiyasu Shinshi: Driver for Team 2. The only married person in SV2, aside from some of the mechanics in the Motor Pool. Is generally meek, humble, quiet. However, he will become angry and violent if his wife is mocked, or he's mocked over his marital status. Also invariably becomes a mean drunk when drinking with SV2, and usually ends up beating up Ota.

 

  

  

  

Chief Seitaroh Sakaki: Head mechanic for SV2, and is also known, respectfully, as the Old Man. The oldest man in the unit, having not only children but grandchildren. Gruff, loud, curmudgeonly. Runs the mechanics strictly but firmly, and often threatens to throw the mechanics into the sea if they fail to live up to his standards. Also berates Unit 2 when they regularly bring their labors back in less than perfect condition.

 

  

 
 

Shigeo Shiba: Also called “Shige-San,” Shiba is the second in command to Sakaki. Is a little more laid back than Sakaki, though he can also be firm with the mechanics when necessary. A total gearhead. Is good friends with Asuma.

 

  

  

  

  

Captain Shinobu Nagumo: Head of Unit 1 of SV2, which has slightly older Patlabors than Unit 2, because Unit 2 got upgrades before she did. Consequently, she goes on call less often. She shares an office with Goto, which means she sees a lot of Goto's layabout act – and also is able to tell that Goto is a much more skilled police officer than he looks. Has a soft spot for Goto.

 

  

  

Detective Takahiro Matsui: Detective with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and friends with Goto. Whenever a case comes up that Goto needs assistance solving, Goto turns to Matsui. 

 
 

 

  

  

Takeo Kumagumi: Only appears in the TV series and its spinoff OVA. Police officer who used to be stationed in Hong Kong. After Kanuka Clancy returns to the United States, Takeo is transferred to SV2 to take over as Team 2's controller. Takeo is also by-the-book and blunt with Ota, and the best hand-to-hand combatant in SV2 aside from Goto. However, she has an irrational fear of the supernatural, to the point that it can cause her to faint. 

 
 
 
 

So, what order do I watch these in?

The Patlabor Franchise consists of two OVAs, a TV series, and three movies. Normally, this would be the kind of thing I'd recommend watching in order of airing – except it's in two continuities. So, here's a handy chart showing off what show is in what continuity and what order they fall in chronologically. I'll also put in some order of release information too, just to be safe. 

Order of ReleaseOVA ContinuityTV Continuity
Mobile Police Patlabor - '88-'89Mobile Police Patlabor Patlabor TV
Patlabor: The Movie - '89Patlabor: The MoviePatlabor: New Files (Interspersed and following Patlabor TV)
Patlabor TV - '89-90WXIII: Patlabor 3 
Patlabor: New Files - '90-92Patlabor 2 
Patlabor 2 - '93  
WXIII: Patlabor 3 - '01   
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As an Anime fan, I've enjoyed a great many series that were originally licensed by CPM, but I can't feel quite so melancholic about their demise, at least not in the same way.

CPM is the 3rd of a series of major US anime licensors (sp) that have had to do major cut-backs, if not close their doors entirely (the other two being ADV - which is still around but had to do layoffs and sign distribution deals with some of their licenses, and Geneon USA which basically is no more than a holding company - which once again sub-licensed many of their shows to Funimation).

I was one of the ones who said good riddance - but not because I feel they were out-dated in their business practices, but for a different reason - Central Park Media had a boatload of really good films and movies, including Grave of the Fireflies, a film that is considered one of the greatest animated films in the history of cinema. Not just Japanese animation, but of all the films, live action and animated, in the entire world. That's an view held by not only me, and other anime fans, but by people like Roger Ebert, who is considered the best and most knowledgeable film critic alive today. I stress that because Grave of the Fireflies was out of print. If you wanted to get it, you had to get it used. I could go on about the truly classic anime they had licensed, but I already have - I've reviewed a lot of them for Bureau42 - but to get them I had to get them through Netflix.

 Grave of the Fireflies used is reasonably priced, about $20. Getting a copy that's unopened or advertised as in mint condition (so you don't have to worry about scratches) - runs $50, for 2 disks. It's about the same for the Record of Lodoss War OVA. I was lucky and managed to pick up a copy when it was still in print for $25 at Fry's.

I'm listing all these prices because that's money that Central Park Media could have made a chunk of. All they needed to do was a few things. If they weren't able to get DVDs in print, either set up sub-licensing deals like ADV and Geneon did, to get some additional capital to stay afloat and keep their titles in print - or set up streaming deals with sites like Crunchyroll and Hulu, getting the subtitled versions (CPM's dubs leaned a bit toward the iffy), allowing CPM to get some money from them, again, allowing them to stay afloat.

And that is what I wanted them to do. I wanted CPM to live. I wanted to see the Anime Industry in the US to be healthy again, perhaps leaner than it was before, but still alive. It tried to keep itself on life support by putting some of their titles available for streaming through NetFlix, and for sale through iTunes, but it was dubs only, and not the big titles - not Lodoss, not Patlabor, not Grave of the Fireflies. I kept wanting them to hold on though. As I became a staff writer for Bureau42.com, I started reviewing some of their shows, and other older anime series that had been reccomended to me, or I felt needed some more exposure. Among them was Record of Lodoss War, the entire Project A-Ko franchise, and at the time of this writing, the Patlabor Franchise.

However, as of a few weeks ago, I hit my breaking point. Over the past few months, I'd been singing the praises of Patlabor, of Project A-Ko, of Record of Lodoss War to high heaven. However, as I reccomended each show - I got asked one question I dreaded, and the one question I had to expect to be asked (and, if my efforts were to be successful, the person I was reccomending the show to had to ask), "Where can I find it?"

From there, the only answers I could give were - eBay, the Library, Pawn Shops, you can get it used on Amazon.com. I never reccomended Bittorrent, though I started considering it towards the end. I found myself needing to make a choice - do I keep quietly wishing CPM well, hoping it returns to health, or do I wish it ill, wish that it folds, so that it would be forced to liquidate it's licenses, thus allowing other companies to pick them up (or in the worst case scenario, making them available for fansubbing again). To help me decide, and because I'd been reviewing Patlabor for Bureau42, I decided to contact CPM and ask about the status of their licences, in part because I was uncertain if some of the shows I was hoping would be re-licenced were still licenced by them. I sent them an E-mail and waited, and recieved no reply. So, then I tried calling them on the telephone. This is significant because I live in Oregon, they're in New York, so it would have to be a long-distance call, unless I could find a working toll-free number.

I couldn't. So, I looked for a non-toll free number and found several, and of all the numbers I tried, all were disconnected, save one - and that one was busy. As I'd gotten up early  because of the time difference, and because I thought they were in an important meeting, I decided to call back in an hour. It was still busy. It was busy when I called an hour later, and then another hour after that. I spent an entire business day on the phone, trying to reach someone from Central Park Media, and had nothing to show for it.

For me, that was my turning point. Through their silence, through un-bounced and un-responded E-Mails, through the repeated tone of a busy signal, Central Park Media had painted a very vivid picture of their operation. It was most likely entirely inaccurate, but it was vivid nonetheless. The vision was of Central Park Media staff coming in for work, taking their phone of the hook, going into the break room, with a tape or DVD from the back catalog, and watching it, and then when that ended, moving on to another show. All day long.

They say to never attribute to malice what can be justified by incompetiance, but that day, in my mind's eye, the two possiblities intercected into an most annoying picture, and I came to the conclusion that even if the image that was so firmly entrenched in my head was entirely false, that the shows and films that CPM had licenced that I so loved would never see print again, as long as they were in the hands of CPM.

I have to take one little aside for a moment to explain a little piece of personal philosophy, that will explain my next steps. There are some people that believe that information should be free - as in beer, as they say in the open-source community - that information should be made freely available to anyone and everyone who wants it at no cost and no strings attached. I am not one of those people. However, I do believe that information, in the form of books, movies, music, that which is the stones on what defines one's culture, one's era to future generations, should be available. If there is something I feel is important to me personally, to the history of of professional wrestling (the status of much of ECW's tape library lead to me holding this opinion), to the status of anime fandom, it needs to stay in print. We know where we are going by the path that we left behind us, and we as anime fans better understand the path our hobby will take, and the titles that will come to our shores in the future, by the titles that were licenced in the past - from knowing how anime fandom moves in waves by genre, while certain things ("shonen series based on stuff from Shonen Jump" will generally stay popular), as an entry point to new fans and as junk food entertainment to older fans, or because it's just that good. Consequently, the series, the music, the films, the books, the manga, needs to be available, in some form or another. I don't need to be able to get it for free, I just need to be able to get it.

Thus, upon realizing that if CPM stuck around as it has done for much of this new millennium, quiet, waiting, sitting on it's catalog and not doing much with it - eventually, I and other people who want to be able to see these shows wouldn't be able to get them anymore. The disks would scratch, formats would change, and eventually, if we were lucky, all that would remain would be bittorrent. If we were unlucky, we wouldn't even have that. So - if CPM died, there was a chance that those series that they still held might stand a chance at life, with a different company, with fansubbers, or through Crunchyroll and YouTube.

So, in the course of my reviews on Bureau42, posts on the RPG.net forums, and on my audio feedback to, particularly, the Otaku Generation podcast, I begain bad mouthing CPM. Ultimately saying, on Otaku Generation, that CPM didn't have the common decency to file for bankruptcy so someone else could buy-up the licenses for the shows they currently held and bring them back to print.

This leads us to the death of Central Park Media.

I do not claim credit. It is highly improbable that I was responsible. Even if, by some freak of statistics, I was responsible, I do not want the credit anyway. I'm not particualrly proud for saying what I did, however, I feel that it needed to be said. Now, from here, it is up to the US anime industry and anime fandom - the industry to license the shows that merit saving, and anime fans to contact them and point out the shows worth saving to them (which I will be doing) - as well as, if necessary, fansubbing the shows that slip through the cracks.
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