1979-1990 Anime Primer
Patlabor: The Early Days (1988)

In the 90s, the dream of giant man-operated robots has become a reality in the form of Labors. Unlike the showy mecha of many an anime otaku’s imagination, Labors are utilitarian machines created largely for use in the field of construction. Naturally, however, it’s not long before they are also being used to commit crime. In response to the surge in Labor-related offenses, the Tokyo MPD establishes the Special Vehicles Division, which employs its own line of Patrol Labors— a.k.a. Patlabors. Patlabor: The Early Days follows the exploits of Special Vehicles Section 2 and its eccentric crew as they struggle to thwart bio-terrorists, unravel political upheaval plots and make sure the delivery boy from the nearest Chinese restaurant doesn’t screw up their order.

This 7-episode OVA is the first installment in the Patlabor franchise, which would prove popular enough to spawn a manga, TV series, additional OVAs and two feature-length films. While it features a fair amount of action and intrigue, its real strength lies in its amusing but relatable characters and down-to-earth depiction of how modern society might integrate the technology Labors represent. Creative talents behind the production include character designer Akemi Takada, mechanical designer Yutaka Izubuchi, composer Kenji Kawai, and lauded director Mamoru Oshii. Patlabor: The Early Days presents a breath of fresh air for mecha anime fans fatigued by high-stakes war stories and space opera theatrics.