Look! Up in the sky! What is it? Is it a mecha? Is it a comedy? No it’s… Patlabor! That’s what I think every time I hear the title. It appears to be a mecha anime at first but trust me when I say the sci-fi elements are just for show in the core series. I mean, they do matter a lot in the movies but in the original series they are just there to make the police look more eye-captivating and that’s it. You might as well see the robots as fancy police cars and nothing more.
It also appears to be cop show but again that is also just some poor excuse to place the characters into context and to have some action here and there. There is no actual storyline in here; it is just the (almost) everyday lives of a team of futuristic police officers, as they try to have a life and a job.
Then it appears to be a slice-of-life show, since there is nothing grand-scaled going on here and it’s mostly character interaction that matters. Which again it is rather off, since it is not a serious show about the daily lives of normal people either. The characters are specially picked to pilot robots and fight crime, a thing they do rather clumsy.
So it’s a comedy, right? Lots of goofing around and silly people doing stuff? Not really, the comedy is hit or miss. Maybe drama? Nothing concrete because there is no overall story and the humour is watering everything down. Ok, action perhaps? Nope, simplistic spars and training silliness. So what is this anime good for anyway?
Well, the tv version is famous for its character interaction as their main focus, while the movies are famous for their heavy sci-fi themes. And that is pretty much all of it. It was all too unorthodox back then, since Ghost in the Shell was not around yet and slices of life were solely about high school or university students and their romantic interests. Patlabor felt special by being about cops who are NOT chasing criminals but just do paperwork and try to live by in their simple lives. Getting enough money for booze is for them harder than fending of aliens in classic mecha shows. The production values are also very good for its time and that helps to like the cast and the setting easier.
To be frank, I never liked the premise much. As unorthodox as it may have been for its time I still found it aimless and boring without some good action or an on-going plot. Even the character immersion falls short because of the episodic nature of the show. As for its scenario themes, I found Ghost in the Shell using them in a much better way. The daily lives of the defenders were also portrayed far better in another mecha anime named Daiguard. So as much historical value as it may have, it still fells uninteresting because of its simplistic take on a genre most are affiliated with for its action and interesting sci-fi themes. It may be a nice time killer if your expectations are not high but I have already watched much better alternatives.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 2/2 (good)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (episodic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (silly but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 2/3 (famous retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much episodic pacing)
Memorability 3/4 (unorthodox for its time but not that special today)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
It would be great with some plot and heavy action.