The Next Generation Patlabor is the live action sequel to the anime Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993). The Special Vehicle Division 2 (SV2) team, originally formed to use Patrol Labor – Patlabor to deal with crimes that involve industrial robots known as Labors, is no longer important, and the police headquarter wants to find an excuse to get rid of it.
The TV series begins by summarizing what happened to the characters after Patlabor 2. There is now a new team, although the new team members mirror the personalities of their predecessors. At the beginning, they have literally nothing to do. Even the calls to work are false alarms. Not a good start. The series gradually gains more plot, but mostly it aims to be a comedy and parody of other works, such as Gundam and Godzilla. The Patlabor is only occasionally used, despite the title.
I have always wanted to see live action mecha. Transformers movies fulfilled my wish. Pacific Rim (2013) is also excellent. However, I still want to see a Japanese live action mecha movie. G-Saviour (2000) is a tremendous disappointment. The idea of a live action Patlabor originally had the potential to be a good show, but this potential is wasted due to three strategic mistakes. The most important one is the setting of Patlabor and its team being nearly obsolete, greatly limiting what they can achieve. Secondly, Patlabor is severely underused in the series. Several episodes have absolutely nothing to do with Patlabor – if I wanted to watch a generic TV series about police, there would be plenty to choose from. Patlabor is potentially interesting only because of Patlabor – without Patlabor it is nothing. Finally, its focus on comedy is a really bad decision. Comedy enhances a good plot and great action sequences, as Transformers (2007) demonstrated, but comedy alone cannot support live action mecha. Together with its obsolescence setting, I believe it drove the viewers away right from the beginning.
The last TV episode actually serves as a prologue to The Next Generation Patlabor Tokyo War / Shuto Kessen movie (Blu-ray release 2015-11-3). It is required to watch Patlabor 2 (1993) in order to fully appreciate them. Tokyo War is simultaneously a sequel and remake of Patlabor 2. Students of the previous villain (again) stole a military weapon (again). It is an advanced attack helicopter that has an optical cloaking feature, i.e. invisible to human eye. The used it to fire a missile to bomb the bridge (again). A person who has inside knowledge (again) seeks the SV2 team to help (again). A live action remake can be worthwhile, but this movie is not. It offers nothing new. The live action fails to make it more exciting, in fact it is much less exciting. No wonder it is a box office failure.
Note: There is a director’s cut that is 27 minutes longer than the theatrical cut I watched.