In case you were wondering what Patlabor would be like if the heroes were a cyborg cop sentai team with bolt on mecha suits and a robot dog that battled crimes planned by New Wave LARPers and executed by biomechanical robots, well I have the answer for you. It’d be a lot like Armoured Police Metal Jack.
This was astoundingly derivative. When I went in search of early nineties TV anime mediocrity this was the sort of thing I was expecting to find. But I wasn’t expecting to find something so densely packed with other people’s ideas done wrong.
Having lots of outside influences isn’t a crime, nor will it neccessarily mean your show is horrid. The franchise that reshaped the television anime landscape in the nineties, Neon Genesis Evangelion, wore its influences on its sleeve too. So what was Metaljack doing wrong? Outside of having a workhorse director and low production values, that is.
It’s influences were shows that were still fresh in people’s memories.
For starters you’ve got cyborg cops. Robocop had spawned all sorts of copyists in Japan from the arcade game ESWAT to the 8-Man revival OAV. Falling between those we had Metal Jack. Only, it doesn’t stop there. The cyborg cops have Super Sentai colour coding. They have Saint Seiya-like crown helmets to allow their flowing Eighties manes to fly freely in the wind. The main character is basically a Ryo Saeba clone. The monsters they fight are “biomechanical” monsters, so you’ve got the well strummed Alien and Guyver riff being played too. And while not clear from the first episode, you can throw some Bladerunner into the mix too.
To further throw you off kilter, you’ve then got villains who look like they’ve walked in from some other show entirely. That show being Neon Day-Glo Legend of The Galactic Heroes.
At its heart you get the feeling it wants to be a modern take on tokusatsu shows, it shares elements with Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and more obviously the Metal Hero series. The Metal Hero series Space Sheriff Gavan had influenced Robocop’s look in the first place and in the 1989 series, The Mobile Cop Jiban you had a downed cop turned into a cyborg. Who fought biomechanical villains. Just like Metal Jack. It was then followed by Winspector where you had a team of cyborg/robot cops, with its sequels following a similar line with various teams of cops.
So not only does it feel like mess of anime and sci-fi influences, it also is very much a “me too” show aping trends in tokusatsu of the time. And given that the animation is pretty threadbare, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have just watched the real thing instead.