One of Judge Mike Pinsky's favorite anime shows is back in action. So why is he so disappointed by this disc?
"Target: lock on!"—Noa Izumi
If you are reading this review, chances are that you are at least vaguely familiar with Mobile Police Patlabor in its various incarnations. There was an OVA series (7 episodes) which led into three theatrical features, the first two directed by future Ghost in the Shell maestro Mamoru Oshii (who also wrote and directed several episodes of the series as part of the Studio Headgear team). Headgear rebooted the series for television. The television continuity ran 47 episodes (some of which I have reviewed here at DVD Verdict). The "New Files" (or "P-Series" as they were called in Japan) were a set of 16 new episodes originally packaged as bonus features on the Japanese tape collections of the television episodes. I suspect most of them were probably scripts left over from the television series.
Central Park Media's DVD release of the first four episodes of these "New Files" are, um, well—not actually the first four episodes. In Japan, the "P-Series" episodes were actually packaged out of order. These particular four episodes do belong together however, forming a sort of mini-movie to wrap up one of the major subplots from the television series.
Yes, this is the return of the dangerous Griffin and its sinister corporate masters. The Griffin's pilot, a video-gaming teen, makes short work of Shinobu's Division 1 team in the first episode. So, with the help of a vacationing Kanuka Clancy, Noa Izumi and Division 2 hope to usher in the year 2000 by finally, um, not getting their asses kicked by an obviously superior force. Where is a Y2K Bug when you need it?
It has been well documented on this site that Mobile Police Patlabor is one of my favorite anime shows. The series has always featured strong writing that has managed to blend action and comedy without playing the audience for fools. And it served as an ideal training ground for the cyberpunk flights of Oshii, who could probably benefit from a return to this series in order to remember how to lighten up. It has also been well documented on this site that I am perennially disappointed with the DVD releases of this show. I suppose complaining about the lackluster quality of this disc is probably a moot point. Since this series follows directly from the television series, and even following this Griffin story requires knowledge of the show's continuity, new viewers are extremely unlikely to pick this disc up. And fans of the show are probably committed to buying this simply to have a complete set. And Central Park is just looking to port all their former VHS titles over to DVD with as little effort or expense as possible.
Still, I am going to complain anyway. Do not expect sharp prints or an expansive sound mix. Voice acting is flat and uninspired in the English version, especially compared to the fine work being done now in many of the newer shows. The show does not look much better on DVD than it does on my old VHS set. Considering that Central Park's U.S. Manga Corps line specializes in 80s leftovers, shelling out for restoration—or even extras (apart from a sketch gallery and enough trailers that CPM could have included an entire episode of the series)—is as likely as Captain Gotoh ever scoring with Shinobu. The episodes lack sharpness and definition, making the show often frustrating to watch, especially for a dedicated fan like me.
Pity. This could have been an opportunity to draw in new fans and reestablish Mobile Police Patlabor as an 80s classic. Instead, one of my favorite shows just ends up yet another title cluttering the already crowded anime shelves.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Central Park Media
• Sketch Gallery
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