This year I finished up two big, fan-favorite\mecha franchises: Mobile Police Patlabor and Armored Trooper Votoms. Otaku bucket list item checked. Feel the power of my nerd aura, etc. Though the two are both real robot series originating in the 80s with multiple installments spanning three decades, there isn’t actually much commonality between them beyond that. In terms of their production and their content, Patlabor and Votoms are quite different, and, because of this, I find it interesting that I like both of them as much as I do.
Votoms is Ryosuke Takahashi’s baby. He is the original creator of the concept, directs all of the installments of the main story, as well as a particularly good side story, and is responsible for much of the series composition. It would be hard to argue that the show is anything but his vision. The story is about one character (though other interesting side characters orbit around him). Chirico Cuvie is the center of gravity of the Votoms universe. His tale is ultimately a tragedy and is largely a bleak and gritty affair.
In contrast, we have Patlabor. Patlabor is a collaborative effort, in terms of the creative side of things, with the likes of Naoyuki Yoshinaga, Masami Yuki and, of course, Mamoru Oshii steering the story. The series features an ensemble cast and adopts several different tones throughout. Its feature films are quite dense and serious; its OAVs and TV are at times sweet, at times silly, but always entertaining. Patlabor‘s diverse cast allows for a flexibility in the kinds of stories it can tell and, thus, in the kinds of tones it can maintain. I have been left musing on political philosophy, genuinely moved emotionally and also laughing at the dumbest shit all while watching some iteration of Patlabor.
I suppose the two series do have one additional trait in common: their strength is in their writing and characterization rather than in their robots.