Plot: What’s it about?
In this future, massive robots handle the bulk of military work and manual labor and as such, these robots are known as labors. These robots are no simple machines either, as they represent the most advanced pieces of technology around. Their size and power are tremendous and should they have a malfunction, huge amounts of damage and destruction could happen in a matter of minutes. In an effort to ensure any problems are taken care of before too much damage is done, a special division of the police force is created, called the Patlabor division. Up until now, things have been smooth and with few speed bumps, but things are about to take a turn for the worse. It seems as though the newest operating system has some bugs to work out, as labors have begun to do things without prompting and that could become very dangerous. So the Patlabor division in sent to figure out what the problem is and solve it before more damage is done. But as more and more labors snap and become violent, can the Patlabor forces prevent widescale destruction before it is too late?
I admit I am no expert in the realm of anime, but I do try to watch a few releases in the genre when I can. Within the genre, I tend to gravitate toward the more violent titles, such as the hack & slash movies like Ninja Scroll. I love the blood and I suppose the main draw for me is the swordplay, which I am a fan of. This is not such a release and I worried I wouldn’t like it, but in the end I was won over by Patlabor 1: The Movie. This movie drops the sword fights in favor of robotic combat, which works out well and offers a lot of excitement. I loved the robot battles and they proved to be the highlight of this release, but there is also a solid storyline and selection of characters. The blend of plot elements and visual feasts in the robot battles add up to a terrific overall film, one which I am sure I will revisit soon. The actual animation is very good also, with attention to detail being downright striking at times. The basic movements look smooth and the robots have a complex, well detailed appearance. I think anime veterans will certainly want to explore this title, but newcomers will also find a lot to like with this one. In either case, I recommend this film & disc to all those interested.
Video: How does it look?
Patlabor 1: The Movie is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This might not be anamorphic, but the image is razor sharp and very well detailed at all times. If you have a screen capture program on your DVD-ROM, this disc offers a number of excellent scenes that would make perfect wallpaper choices. The colors look natural, but very bold at times and never do the hues smear or bleed in the least. The contrast is accurate also, with a high level of detail and no serious shadow problems. The animation doesn’t seem to have lost a step either, this is a wonderful visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc includes a Japanese stereo track, as well as an English dubbed track in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. I am not one for dubbed tracks in most cases, but the dynamic range and crispness of the English track make the Japanese option seem flat and a bore to listen to. The surround field is active throughout and especially when the battles roar to life, this one puts your system through the paces. This choice offers a much richer and rewarding overall audio experience in the end. But this not without cost, as the Japanese version uses a much more concise and clear manner of storytelling and that makes some difference. I recommend you choose the Japanese track (with English subtitles) the first time, then make your choice after comparing the pros and cons of each.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes trailers for both Patlabor films and information on Manga’s fan club & catalog titles.