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How to get Patlabor on Blu-ray without losing your shirt

One-Hundred and Eighty dollars. That’s roughly how much it costs to purchase both Patlabor films on Japanese Blu-ray from Bandai Visual and that doesn’t even include shipping and other fees you might incur. Sure the discs have English subtitles and dubbing, but $90+ per film? If that sounds like a bit much, there’s a reasonable English-friendly compromise courtesy of Proware out of Hong Kong.

Proware released Patlabor Movies 1 & 2 on Blu-ray last year. I had a chance to watch the first film, and I’ve checked out the second, and I must say the quality is rather solid. The discs are Region A coded, which means they will play in any North American Blu-ray player. Provided in a 1080p/AVC transfer framed in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, both movies look great. The clean-up work that was done is not the picture perfect remasters classic Disney films get, but the color correction is excellent and elements like film grain and visible paint strokes help give the image a nice sense of texture and a human touch. I haven’t seen a comparison to Bandai Visual’s Blu-rays, but I would not be surprised if it turned out to be the exact same encode. Anime releases in other asian countries, especially Hong Kong and Korea, tend to take the same audio and video streams from the Japanese DVDs/Blu-rays and I have a feeling that’s what we’re getting here.

The discs also includes the 5.1 Sound Renewal audio in Dolby TrueHD and a stereo Cantonese dub. Early listings for the discs indicated the English dub would be included, but that didn’t come to pass. That’s fine for me as Patlabor is a show I associate strongly with it’s Japanese cast. Speaking of, back in 1998 that cast was brought in to re-record their dialog for the surround sound mix so it’s a tiny shame that the original stereo mix isn’t included. That tends to be how these kind of releases work; in order to incorporate the Japanese video encode on a smaller Blu-ray (25GB vs. 50GB) things like additional audio tracks and special features are dropped. Sadly that keeps Proware’s releases from being as definitive as I was hoping. Can’t win ‘em all, and besides, the Japanese voice actors sound as lively as ever in the re-recorded version.

The most important part of the BDs for English speakers is the subtitles. As far as foreign English-friendly releases go I’d say these subtitles are among the best I’ve come across. I’m not entirely sure where the subtitles came from. They don’t appear to be the same as the subtitles Manga Entertainment produced years ago and I’d be surprised if Proware commissioned an original subtitle script. My guess is they copied the subtitles from Bandai Visual’s Blu-ray. There’s the occasional typo and grammatical error but my main criticism is that the timing is occasionally awkward and imprecise. However for anyone who has dealt with English translations on foreign DVD releases there are no deal-breakers to be found here. And if the subtitles are indeed an original translation then I have to hand it to Proware; this is not a turkey translation.

Oh yeah, did I mention the Patlabor movies are really good? The first film feels like an expanded and extended episode of the original Patlabor OVAs, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a well put together film that drags a little at times but is a worthy addition to the franchise. The second film however is very intelligent science fiction with themes that may resonate even deeper now than they did back in 1993. The third movie, Patlabor WXIII is… well, it is what it is but since Proware didn’t release it on BD I don’t feel any particular need to talk about it.

Proware’s Patlabor Blu-rays will run you about $25-$30 per film not including shipping. There are also no special features included, not a one. Still, getting both films for around 2/3 the cost of one of the Bandai Visual Blu-rays is a steal, especially if the video was taken right off the Japanese versions. I tend to use www.yesasia.com for importing asian releases however you can also probably find it at www.play-asia.com and www.dddhouse.com. If you’re interested, I wouldn’t dawdle. These kind of releases can go out of print at the drop of a hat and when they’re gone, they are *gone*.

Now Proware, how about releasing the spectacular looking Patlabor OVAs and TV series on Blu-ray with English subtitles? Hey, a fan can dream.

7 Responses to “How to get Patlabor on Blu-ray without losing your shirt”

  1. Chainclaw Says:

    Of course you could always just get them on DVD. I’ve never considered the quality of blu-ray to be superior enough over dvds to justify paying significantly more for them

  2. Matt Says:

    Surprisngly the North American DVDs for the movies are still widely available- I had assumed they were out of print. So yeah, if you’re not a resolution/quality snob like me that’s an option. The main point of this blog was to let any HD videophiles who may visit AAW know about this option so I wasn’t taking DVD into account at all. However it looks like you’d only be saving about $10-$15 by going DVD over the Proware’s Blu-rays. I’d say it’s well worth the extra money to get the movies on BD. The visual fidelity is far and above anything DVD can replicate.

  3. Baca Manga Says:

    Wow Great share, i always read the latest update of your blog.

  4. Chainclaw Says:

    Based on why I’ve seen from Blu-Ray, I’d disagree. It’s not so much better as to justify 15 dollars more. But I’m naturally cheap, so maybe that’s just me.

    I’ve also had the Patlabor dvds for a long time now. The first movie was great, but after that the series starts to decline.

  5. Ghostwriter Says:

    Recently on YouTube,I watched the beginning of a series called “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.” If you looked at it,you might be thinking,”There’s something familiar about this.” And you’d be right. As you may know,a number of Japanese animators helped make a number of American cartoons. The heyday for this was during the 80′s and 90′s.
    In my opinion,I think this collaboration helped anime get a foothold in the United States. I admit there were some imported anime like “Robotech” brought to this country that helped but the collaboration on series like “Thundercats,””Inspector Gadget,””The Real Ghostbusters,”and others made it easier for Americans to embrace anime.

    It’s like putting sugar on medicine to make it taste sweeter. So,what’s your opinion on this? I’d like to know.

  6. Chainclaw Says:

    Yeah those were the cartoons I grew up watching. Those and Transformers of course. Interestingly enough, I just found out the 1980′s Transformers cartoon actually had a final season that was only released in Japan. It was never avialable here at all. Not until June of this year, when it’s scheduled to be released on dvd on this side of the pacific.

    I’m dissapointed we had to wait this long for it, but eager to see how this “Japan only” season compares with the rest of the show.

  7. Ghostwriter Says:

    One of the reasons I’m so interested in anime is partly because of watching stuff like “The Real Ghostbusters.” One of their best episodes ‘Night Game’ had as it’s opening shot power beams bursting out of a pitcher’s mound at a minor league baseball stadium. That and other effects that would be seen in imported anime to this country and other collaborations between Japanese and American animators.
    In fact,I have a great deal of respect for both Japanese and American animators. There were times that I wish for the third adventure of “Animation Runner Kuromi” that the studio where she works gets picked to work on an American series. So,what does everyone think?