Return of the 90's: Mobile Police Patlabor Reboot

One of the best things about anime gradually running out of shitty light novels with impossibly lengthy names to adapt is this resurgence of older anime.   Dragon Ball, Heroic Legend of Arslan (though that's because of a newer manga adaptation of the source material), Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Saber Marionette J, and Peacemaker Kurogane...and now Mobile Police Patlabor.

Patlabor was a manga/anime franchise developed near the end of the 80's by a group called Headgear.  They're not known for much aside from Patlabor, but that's really all it takes.  If Gundam ushered in the real "Real Robot" part of mecha--a franchise in which robots were used as tools of war in morally gray battles that were humans versus other humans--then Patlabor took that to the furthest/final extreme of that.   The mecha in their universe were called "Labors", named such for their usage in making manual labor easier--they were used primarily in construction, but also found purpose in military and police applications, and Patlabor followed a team of policemen and women who dealt in Labor-related crime.

What was most fascinating about Patlabor is just how...regular, everything was.  It was a form of slice-of-life, but minus the usual coming of age stories and plus giant robots.  No one had crazy colored hair, nobody had fantastical origins and there weren't any "ace" pilots that were inexplicably better than everyone else and constantly jumping into impossible levels of danger and surviving "because plot".    In fact, the series focused primarily on the realities of robot piloting--the team only used them when absolutely necessary, and more often than not avoided firing their weapons or even training with them because "bullets were expensive", something that makes a lot of sense when you realize a single shell meant to be fired by a giant robot would have to be equivalent to several dozen magazines from a normal automatic weapon.  

The series relied on the quirky personalities of their main characters: a pair of laid back team leaders, a girl that was a total gearhead and loved her Labor to the point of naming it, a guy obsessed with the duty that came with being a cop, and more--as well as focusing on their day-to-day lives as cops to get the show over.   They dealt with everything from run-ins with federal agents and shadowy organizations to ghost stories, each time knowing how to perfectly balance the comedy inherent to the team and the drama necessary to take each case seriously.

The OVA is one of my favorite series of all time and the television series isn't too far behind.  Seeing this trailer gave me excited chills and I may or may not've shed a tear at how awesome it'll be to have these guys back, even if its just for a single cour.  

Now if I can just get Flame of Recca a remake...


  1. I saw the reboot at Wald9 cinema in Tokyo on the 15th of October at a midnight showing. I was a HUGE fan of the original series and was pretty disappointed by the poor quality and seeming lack of understanding Oshii had for the canon of the original (he was only one person from the Headgear team, after all). To put it succinctly, this was AWESOME! It got everything that made the original series and OVA so entertaining and topical. It continued the same elements that has made the Patlabor universe one of the most congruent and realistic shows in sci-fi. As you pointed out, it was primarily about the lives of the characters to which all the mecha stuff was simply a back-drop. If they continued with this same crew and approach, they would essentially be picking up where they left off, with a new police crew and characters – but with modern production values – and that would be most welcome!


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