22 Jun 2015
Lets straight to the huge, 7.6 metric tonne elephant in the room of this, the second OVA release from MVM Entertainment of the classic mecha series Patlabor - namely the Griffin arc, a major storyline covering section 2's fight against amoral former Shaft section chief Utsumi and his young accomplice Bud. This pair use their fights with section 2 and the titular super-advanced Griffin Labor as a way to drum up profit, whilst child prodigy Bud treats his fights with the team, and Noa in particular, as just one big computer game – with any damage to property and people seen as either irrelevant or part of the game he plays.
Wait, what’s that reader? “The Griffin arc? This wasn’t in the last OVA series!"
Congratulations, and welcome to one of the key problems with this release.
Whether MVM Entertainment knew this when they planed this release, or if it wasn’t known until it was too late, this release - despite its name as "OVA Series 2 Collection" - is in no way related to the previous OVA release made available by them in the UK. It is, in fact, a sequel to the 1990 Patlabor TV series that was released about two years after the “Early Days OVA series”, and was intended to wrap up said TV series with its references to previous stories (in particular the aforementioned Griffin arc) and characters which the series immediately assume the viewer know about. Another example of this later is the series is that of Goto's superior officer Kumagami, a character introduced in the TV series but not the OVA, yet who plays a significant part both in the Griffin arc and in some of the stand-alone episodes later on.
Now, to be fair, you can skip the Griffin arc episodes in this release - which isn’t difficult as the four episodes that make up the arc are self-contained on the first disc - without effecting the remaining twelve episodes of this release (Kumagumi's presence aside). These instalments cover a gamut of situations and moods, from the silly - the team are called in to rescue hostages from the irate star of a soon to be cancelled children’s show- to the more down to earth and touching - Noa's rescuing of a stray kitten, resultings in chaos for section 2 - all the way through to the downright weird, with one of the later episodes having a less than subtle nod to the Japanese superhero series Ultraman. However, unlike in the previous OVA the ratio of mech-based action to non-mech fare definitely favours the latter in later episodes, with more emphasis put onto the characters themselves than the Labors.
For those inevitably arguing about whether to watch this in its original Japanese dub or in the American dub track well.... you dont have much say in this I’m afraid as, unlike the previous OVA, the US Manga Corp release that this was originally mastered from only had the first four episodes dubbed, and those episodes were - you guessed it - the Griffin arc!
For the animation snobs yes, be aware that this was released in the early 90s, so there are no digital art touch-ups and no CGI mecha or effects. However, what you do get is some of the very best that 80s animation could give at the time, thanks to the creative team of Mamoru Oshii, Masami Yuki, Yukata Izubuchi and Akemi Takada that made up the creative team christened "Machine head". This ensures that, while the Labor fights were hand-drawn and painted, they are done with a skill that you rarely see these days without the use of a tablet and a computer.
So, would we recommend this to anyone? This is a tough one both as a reviewer and, I’ll confess, an avid Patlabor fan, Having owned the original Manga Entertainment release of the two movies, and imported the R1 release of the TV series. It's because of that history that I was probably able to understand many of the plot references to the New Files series that someone else whose just starting out with this, or who had only bought the first OVA series expecting a sequel, might get flummoxed by when it comes to understand what was going on!
Add to that the Bare-bone extras (details, or lack of, are below) means that, reluctantly, I have to confess that this is a tough release to recommend to all but the Patlabor die-hards.