Labors are humanoid robots with drivers. This technology has revolutionized the construction industry as one Labor can accomplish the work of 45 men. However, this same technology also gives rise to “Labor crimes,” resulting in the need for a new branch of law enforcement equipt with and dedicated to the policing of Labors, the Mobile Patrol Labors.
The movie begins with a man throwing himself off a giant steel structure in Tokyo Bay. The structure is called The Ark, a man made island where the Babylon project is coordinated. The man who commits suicide is Hoba Eiichi, a programmer who worked on the project. Shortly after his death, Labors around the city begin to malfunction and go out of control. The PatLabor squad must unravel the mystery behind Hoba Eiichi and the rogue Labors, while questioning the efficacy of their own machines.
Upon first glance, one might assume this is a mecha anime. I would prefer to classify the anime as mystery or conspiracy. While mecha are central to the plot, they are not characters, nor are they involved in many flashy fight scenes. This is a thinking man’s anime–uncover the villain, his motives and why the Labors are malfunctioning to save Tokyo.
What I found most interesting about Patlabor besides the mystery was the use of biblical references. They are scattered throughout the film from the name of the Ark, to the PatLabor operator Noa, to biblical quotes left by the antagonist. Besides the obvious rampage of the robots, the film has a deeper theme about the morality of advancing technology.
This is from author Masami Yuki, also known for Birdy the Mighty: Decode and director Mamoru Oshii, best known for also directing the acclaimed Ghost in the Shell Movie. You'll find some mecha designs & technology that seem to be precursors for Ghost in the Shell.
I should mention that there are 2 different timelines:
Follow the watching guide for best enjoyment:
Note that this Prequel OVA is where all the characters are introduced, but despite having excellent animation for its time, the plot and antics are just average and leaning more towards comedy and slice-of-life than to action, so it's up to you to decide to watch it. It's episodic, focusing on the training of the characters. The plot is not essential for watching for the movies, although getting to know the world, character's personalities, and their backstories do help to identify them and expand their world. It could also be watched at a later time.
The mecha on this series is treated as 'real-life mecha', no more than machines meant to serve a purpose and they are not the focus of the show.
This is a classic anime and one that is still worth watching!
Each movie story is self-contained and their story is completely independent of the rest of the series, except that it is still the same universe with the same characters. The movies are like an extended episode of the series and one of the best, as they have plenty of action, detective work, politics, and an even more impressive animation that still outclass most current animes today.
The movie has plenty of intrigues, detective work, tactics & strategies, then it all ends with great action scenes in amazing animation, especially when you consider this is from the '80s."
The dub is good.