PATLABOR: The Movie (1990)

(Also commonly called Patlabor 1: The Movie)


Format: 99-minute feature

Rating: PG (AC, V)

Type: Mecha/Mystery/Police Drama

American Production: Manga Entertainment

English Dub Production: Animaze..

Japanese Production: Production I.G.










Character Design:


Mecha Design:




Artistic Merits:


English Dub:


Musical Score:




Humor Content:


Action Content:


Drama Content:




DVD Presentation:

not reviewed

DVD Extras:

not reviewed







      In the year 1999, mecha called Labors have become an integral part of national economies as they are used both in construction and for military applications. To combat illegal use of Labors, the Tokyo Mobile Police have been equipped with combat-oriented Labors themselves. Their equipment, abilities, and dedication are put to the test when construction Labors mysteriously start going renegade during the construction of the Babylon Project in Tokyo. Investigation reveals that these may not just be random incidents, but can the TMP and regular police sort out what’s happening, and why, before it leads to widespread destruction?


The Long View

      Patlabor: The Movie is an extension of the Patlabor TV series from the year before, which is itself a remake of the original Patlabor OAV series. With two other movies following it and a second OAV series in the mix, Patlabor is a significant anime franchise. I have not seen most of the other Patlabor content, however, so this review is of the movie as a stand-along project.

      Although billed primarily as mecha, Patlabor is actually a surprisingly intelligent and well-thought-out police story. The mecha action is secondary to the efforts to sort out the underlying mystery behind what’s causing the Labors to go renegade and what a programmer of their upgraded operating system, who recently committed suicide, might have to do with it. In fact, a significant chunk of the story focuses on the efforts of two detectives that have nothing to do with the Tokyo Mobile Police beyond being friendly with Goto, the TMP’s leaders.

      The character development in Patlabor is not deep (presumably they are more fleshed-out in the series) but it is sufficient to give us a cast of distinctive characters that are, thankfully, not just anime stereotypes. The character and mecha designs are solid without being outlandish; female characters are drawn with reasonable proportions, for instance, and the Labors look exactly like what you’d expect them to look like. The overall technical merits and art design are good, except for the guns used by the TMP Labors; yes, I know they’re supposed to look like revolvers, but they look archaic in the hands of the Labors. The English dub is solid if unspectacular, but the musical score is not; it is, without question, the movie’s biggest deficiency.

      Patlabor has some mecha-based violence and a character whose suicide is strongly implied but those are the only objectionable factors and neither, I felt, was strong enough to warrant a rating higher than PG. Parents should be aware, though, that despite the rating, this is a story aimed at more mature audiences. Children younger than teenagers would probably find it boring.


DVD Extras

      Review is based off of the Encore Action broadcast and a VHS release. The DVD release has not been reviewed.



Principle English Voice Actors


Voice Actor

Noa Izumi

Briony Glassco

Asuma Shinohara

David Jarvis

Isao Ota

Martin McDougall

Keiichi Goto

Peter Marinker

Shinobu Nagumo

Sharon Holm


Blair Fairman


Bill Duffries


Michael Fitzpatrick

Kanuka Clancy

Tasmin Hollo


Don Fellows


Edward Glen

Mikiyasu Shinshi

Ron Lepaz




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