ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:00 - 8th August 2015, by Andrew Osmond

Patlabor Mobile Police OVA Series 2: The New Files

This is a strange, lopsided collection of Patlabor stories, spun off from a version of Patlabor we never got in Britain. No, it’s not a sequel to the earlier OVAs released by MVM. Rather, these video episodes were made to accompany a longer TV version of Patlabor, with its own continuity. If you’ve seen this series (available in America), then you can raise our rating by a star; but if not, you’ll find this set a frustrating watch.

The episodes are one-quarter action, three-quarters sitcom. The action comes in the first four parts (of 16), which together comprise an 80-minute story. And a very good story it is, in which the mecha-riding police face a devilishly strong robot adversary. This enemy is supported not by political terrorists but by arms dealers advertising their wares… and more than one of our heroes have very personal stakes in the fight.

It’s not perfect – some of the actual robot battles are disappointingly ropey, even considering the anime’s age – but it’s lucid, pacey and exciting. But there’s still a problem. The story is a continuation of a plotline in the TV show, with frequent references to past events being paid off. Yes, it’s easy to follow if you know Patlabor’s world and characters from other versions, but it’s annoying to watch the end of a story knowing that you’ve missed the set-up. The set also gives a prominent role to a female team member called Kumagami, who was introduced in the TV episodes but isn’t in the other Patlabor anime.

The other dozen stories are mostly comedies. A couple are sequels to stories in the TV Patlabor, including a spoof dream episode which throws the characters into a cheesy alien invasion, drawing on Macross and Ultraman. Like several of these episodes, it outstays its welcome. The big issue, though, is that these stories weren’t made to be seen on their own. They were supposed to be watched in between the TV episodes, as bonus extras; they’re ‘B’-stories, character pieces and filler fluff. In contrast to the action opening, they have no big stakes, no momentum. They’re also mostly not that good.

Some are just terribly thin, eking 20 minutes out of, say, heroine Noa’s toothache or her discovery of a foundling cat (though there’s mild amusement in seeing kitty being destructive in the cockpit!). A weird ghost story goes nowhere, and has nothing really to do with Patlabor. Other stories start strongly, with solid humorous situations. A kids’ TV host goes psycho; the male cops go starkers to hunt a terror suspect in a bathhouse. But the solidity is undercut when the action tips into indulgent slapstick and silliness. It would work fine in Lupin; in Patlabor, the unbelievability spoils the stories.

The most interesting episodes are a satiric account of a workers’ mini-revolt, sparked when the proles lose their porn – it was written by Mamoru Oshii! – and the better character stories. But the best episodes still raise issues. Even a delicate, mostly charming piece, in which Patlabor’s captain Goto and his female counterpart Shinobu must spend the night in a love hotel, wobbles between tantalising and creepy. The last episode has a big character revelation for the fans… but the set coasts too much on those fans’ good will.

A fair bonus if you’ve seen the TV (not OAV) Patlabor. Otherwise it just doesn’t hold up.
SCORE: 2.5/5
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