Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Patlabor!

The other day I finally finished the good ol' 80's Anime series, Patlabor On Television (that's actually the full name of the series) and it was pretty fun! The series is an alternate retelling of the Manga Patlabor: Mobile Police. That's right! Mobile police, as in police with mobile suits, which in the anime/manga world are basically big robots that you pilot from a cockpit within.  

"Alphonse" the main mobile police unit or "patlabor" featured in the series. It is an "Ingram" model The head is roughly the size of an average adult person.
The premise of the series is pretty interesting and is apparently an "alternate re-telling" of the manga that its based on (which also has a straight animated mini-series adaptation as well, which makes one wonder why they made this series in the first place... but I digress...). It is the near future and mobile suits called "labors" are being widely used throughout the world in a number of labor intensive industries and practices (e.g. construction, military etc.). This has lead the emergence of "labor crime" which, in the series, manly consists of scenarios in which angry citizens hijack labors and reek havoc to satisfy personal vendettas or two construction workers will have a disagreement and start labor-fighting or something like that. To deal with these problems the Tokyo Metro Police Force (cause the series takes place in Japan) forms two "special vehicle units" that specialize in dealing with labor crime with their own police issued labors called "patrol labors" or "patlabors" for short. The specific patlabors featured in this series are called "ingrams" (shown above.)

The men and women of Special Vehicles Unit 2.
The series is paced fairly lightly with the majority of episodes being one-shots in which a story arch is started and wrapped up in a single episode. Being an anime about police using giant robots, one would expect a considerable amount of labor vs. labor action, but the series is actually quite subtle in that respect. Robot fights actually make up a relatively small part of the series which focuses much more on character driven story-lines, largely driven by the main character, policewoman and labor pilot, Noa Izumi. Think of it as a cop drama except that the police happen to have giant robots. It's a pretty interesting approach because, as we all know, anime is typically NOT where you go for subtlety. The characters are also quite likable and most of the usual archetypes are accounted for (e.g. the hothead, the by-the-booker, the bumbling fool etc. etc.). Some of the episodes are hit or miss however, as some range from hilarious and/or action-packed to fairly boring and uninteresting, however even the most boring episodes are aided by the charm of the characters so if you like the characters you won't suffer too much.


All in all I found the series quite enjoyable (I mean I watched the whole thing right? That's 47 episodes by the way!) and a rather plausible vision of a future in which mobile suits are widely implemented in society. Though the series is lacking an abundance of robot battles, its subtlety was actually kind of refreshing as a kind of break from the seizure inducing, physics defying battles that we're used to in this genre (I'm not saying I don't enjoy that stuff... I'm just saying its nice to see something different from time-to-time). The characters are likeable and though filling the usual anime and police drama archetypes, actually act like real people for the most part. Especially the main character, Noa Izumi, actually acts like a REAL woman who would be doing a job like being a labor pilot. For example, she is both strong AND feminine rather than just totally submissive, weak and girly or cold and emotionless two common opposing archetypes in anime. Seriously, some female characters in anime seem like they were written by people who have heard of women and seen them on TV but never actually interacted with one on any sort of intimate level (I'm just sayin...). So yeah, my verdict is: Check this out if you want to see a plausible, character-driven, somewhat realistic mobile suite anime from the 80's which is light on emotional investment. Certainly not the best anime I've ever seen, but certainly not without it's charms. I'll be watching the aforementioned faithful manga adaptation mini-series in the near future so I'll tell you how that goes.

PS: I LOVE the way the ingrams are designed! frickin awesome!          
    

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