Anime Corner: Patlabor: The New Files Review

Reporting in for duty one more time!

What’s the Story?

In the near future of 1999 a new technology has revolutionised construction, the Labor. These mechanical giants allow for building on a scale that was previously unheard of, but as with any new technology there are those who would misuse it. For cases such as these the police has a certain division, the Special Vehicle Section, who with their Patlabors (Patrol Labors) to fight to bring peace to Tokyo. Of course that’s when they’re not dealing with TV mascots taking hostages, albino alligators and searching bath houses for terrorists. The life of a police office is hardly ever quiet, but when you’re in the Special Vehicle Section it’s also far from normal!

The Review:

Last year I took a look at Patlabor: The Movie (you can read my review HERE). That film was really what got me into the Patlabor franchise in the first place, and the more I rewatch it the more it becomes one of my favourite anime films. I love this franchise and I want to get my hands on as much of it as I possibly can, no matter the dark corners of the Internet I have to transverse (well, excluding the illegal ones I’m not that desperate yet but I feel like I’m getting close). That brings me to today’s subject for review, Patlabor: The New Files. This is the second OVA series of the franchise, and while I feel like the first OVA, Early Days, is essential to appreciating the films, this second set is much more connected to the TV series. At least that’s what I’ve been able to piece together, I’ve not actually seen any of the TV series at the time of writing this review. Not for lack of trying mind, but I just haven’t found any legal way to see it in the UK, much to my eternal frustration. Still, while there are a couple of new faces and some plot threads I’m assuming are carried over from the series you can mostly just dive straight into this like I did.

Let’s start by talking about those carried over plots, since that’s exactly where the first disc of the OVA begins. The first four episodes wrap up the ‘Griffon’ arc, who I’m assuming was a major antagonist in the series. Overall it’s a pretty solid little arc and certainly the most back to back action you’ll find in this OVA. The plot centres around a corporation that has illicitly developed a Labor for combat and they want to show it off to potential buyers by putting it up against the SVU’s Patlabors. Several confrontations are staged across Tokyo before it comes down to Noa and Alphonse taking on the Griffon. The action is good and there’s some nice police procedural work as the SVU track the buyers and try to work out where Griffon will strike next. There are references to previous encounters with the Griffon and a few new faces that I’m sure appear in the series, but once I wrapped my head around those the story was easy enough to get into.

My only real complaint with the ‘Griffon’ arc is the design of the titular mech. There’s something about the designs of all the other Labors we see that feels realistic to me, well, as realistic as a giant robot can be. They’re functional if not entirely practical, I can see them existing in the real world (whether they’d actually work in the real world is another matter). The Griffon though, that looks like it came straight out of an anime, which admittedly it has, but nothing else in this franchise looks like it and that bugs me. The only other episode to make reference to the TV series is the alligator one and honestly that’s pretty funny and you don’t need to know that much going into it.

The rest of the OVA is made up of standalone episodes that you can go into with the bare minimum knowledge of the franchise. There’s not that much action outside of a couple of quick encounters and some episodes hardly even feature the titular Patlabors. There’s a much more light-hearted and comedic vibe to this series, so much so I’d be tempted to put this more in the slice-of-life category than the typical action tags that go along with mecha series. We see the offices of the SVU going about their daily lives, getting up to hijinks and occasionally getting involved in some bizarre case or another. One entire episode is just us following around the two Captains as they try to get back to Tokyo in a storm and end up sleeping in a love hotel. We see Noa struggle to do her job when she’s suffering from a tooth ache, tensions rising at a little office getaway and the Maintenance crew going crazy when their pornography stash is confiscated. Now I know none of that sounds like the most riveting viewing, but with this cast it is. The whole OVA creates this very relaxed, almost introspective atmosphere that I’ve come to associate with the Patlabor franchise and honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Verdict:

In the end, Patlabor: The New Files is a solid entry into the franchise. I’m sure people who’ve seen the TV series will appreciate the nice epilogue this gives, while newbies like me can just jump straight in and appreciate it. If you’re looking for lots of mecha action this probably isn’t the right place for you, there is some in the ‘Griffon’ arc, but most of this series is made up of more sedate, slice-of-life style episodes. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, I love these quirky characters and it’s great just to spend time relaxing in their company. Until the next call out comes in I’m just going to be chilling out here, see you then.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.

6 comments

  1. Scott · March 4

    Yeah, you are exactly right about the Griffon arc. My least favorite part of the franchise even if it still has a lot of its cool bits and great character moments too as they are pushed further then the rest of the show ever did. It just doesn’t feel like it belongs. Glad you enjoyed it still because these characters are just great.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. iniksbane · March 12

    Started watching the TV series after watching the first move. So far, I’m 12 episodes in and it’s pretty good. I mean it’s a police procedural, so you have to be into that kind of thing, but otherwise it’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • neverarguewithafish · March 12

      I do love me a good police procedural. I’m really looking forward to seeing the TV series, I just have to find it first.

      Like

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