Patlabor is one of those series with a bunch of different installments, most of them short, and some of which are considered better than other. I, however, have seen only 3 installments (so far): The Early Days OVA series (7 episodes, linked above) and the two movies, Patlabor The Movie and Patlabor 2 The Movie, in that order. These 3 installments are part of the same chronology, so this is the order that was recommended to me. I should also mention that the Early Days OVAs hail from the late 1980s, when many of my other favourite mecha anime like Gunbuster and Gundam 0080 were made. If I were more knowledgeable regarding the history of anime, I’d claim that the late 80s was a golden age of mecha anime.
Early Days is also the earliest of Mamoru Oshii’s works that I’ve actually seen. The OVA series is quite lighthearted compared to his later films like Ghost in the Shell and Jin-Roh, and even compared to the two Patlabor movies, but the same essential components that I think make Oshii’s films stand out were already there. I expected Early Days to be relatively action-heavy and at first I was disappointed when it turned out not to be, but later on the politics, both national and within the police force, started to really interest me, as did the musings on ideology and philosophy. And, of course, there were those story endings that felt inconclusive yet satisfying, such as the episode with the sea monster.
But, while I grew to love that aspect of the OVA series and the movies(the 2nd one in particular ends quite abruptly), I feel like it might present an obstacle to people who really want to get into the series. Because at first, if you expected action, or if you expected heavy drama, the OVA series does not immediately deliver. Sure, there is some action in every episode, but it can definitely feel underwhelming at times. Later on, however, the OVA series reveals itself to be a cool story about the everyday lives of a tight-knit group of policemen and -women, which is not something you see very often. And, while the action takes a while to deliver, oh boy does it deliver later on, especially in the movies. And while I do want to emphasise how good the slice of life aspect I described above is, I must say that I think it’s worth watching the OVAs just so you can experience the action in the movies.