The date is 2002, three years after the events of PATLABOR 1 – Mobile Police. The destruction of a United Nations Labor team in South East Asia begins the build-up to a deadly terrorist plan that threatens to send shockwaves throughout Japan's military. With evidence of an impending military takeover, the scattered members of the original SVD (Special Vehicle Division) must gather to defend the city against danger. To make matters worse, the mastermind behind the operation is none other than Nagumo's former teacher and ex-lover Tsuge.
If you ask the average anime fan for an intelligent, well crafted movie directed by Oshii Mamoru that has politics and philosophy mixed into a complex plot that featured high tech shenanigans, and that had great animation, sound and characterisation, then the chances are that the answer will be Ghost in the Shell.
Or, they'll tell you about Patlabor 2.
Released in 1993, four years after the first Patlabor movie, the sequel once again united the talents of Headgear, in particular those of scriptwriter Ito Kazunori and Oshii himself. The movie received widespread critical acclaim, and although it's emphasis on taut drama rather than mecha action alienated some hardcore fans of the genre, the majority of people enjoyed the more mature stance taken by the film.
Patlabor 2 is set in 2002, three years after the first movie. The members of Section 2's Special Vehicles 2nd Division have matured during this time, with several of them leaving to pursue careers in different departments or in the public sector. All is peaceful until the day a missile destroys the Yokohama Bay Bridge, at which point the JGSDF (Japanese Ground Self Defense Force), declares martial law in the beief that the attack was commited by the JASDF (Japanese Air Self Defense Force).
Captain Gotoh Kiichi however, suspects that there is more at play than a simple military coup, and secretly brings together the old members of SV2 to find out what is at play, and more importantly, what is at stake.
In a departure from the standard mecha format of guts winning the day, Ito Kazunori opted for something far more subtle and mature when developing the plot for this movie. There are those who believe that any show involving mechs must follow certain rules, however Headgear has chosen to, once again, blow those beliefs out of the water. Patlabor 2 is anything but a typical mecha anime, and while the action is still present in the movie, at times it's more of an afterthought to the drama that has gone before.
In terms of writing though, this movie is head and shoulders above many others of the time, and many today as well. The plot, with it's heavy focus on political machinations and philosophical justification, can seem to drag at certain times (Gotoh's conversation with Arakawa on the boat is one example of this), however these moments are worth hearing if one remembers the politics that are at play. The machinations of the JGSDF, the Government, the JASDF, and all other involved parties is wonderful to behold, with nothing that occurs being as simple or straightforward as people might think. The complexity of the plot can, at times, be a little bewildering, however this movie isn't simply designed to be enjoyed, but also to make one reflect.
One of the most noticeable things about this movie, especially in comparison to the first one, is how much more mature the characters look. Takada Akemi has really paid attention to what she was doing as, while the majority of characters are the same as the first movie, they look a little different because the effort has been made to give them some physical growth. Given the penchant for characters in mecha anime to remain unchanged and unchangeable in terms of their physical appearance from one season to the next, the fact that the characters are presented as older in Patlabor 2 makes this a rarity in the genre.
As for the other visuals, the backgrounds and settings are very, very good. The detailed scenery adds and air of realism to the movie, which is understandable when one considers the fact that much of the city and it's environs is based on that of the first movie, which in turn was based on photos of Tokyo. This realistic approach is also prevalent in both the character design, hence the physical aging, and also the mecha designs, which follow the utilitarian principles of the franchise.
In terms of animation Patlabor 2 is actually better than the original movie. There are some extremely well choregraphed action sequences, however given the fact that much of the movie is free of combat, the difference in quality is more difficult to recognise unless one pays attention to the movements of the characters themselves. There's also a small amount of CG incorporated into the movie, however this is difficult to spot as pains have been taken to mesh the CG seamlessly into the standard animation.
One of my gripes with Patlabor 2 is the music. The movie has little music in it, but what is there is very techno based. While this is well choreographed for the most part, the music just isn't really to my tastes. That's not to say that the choice of tracks is bad, no, it's simply a personal preference. That said, there are some tracks which fit extremely well with the on screen action, and there are some pieces that, while being electronic, are more orchestral, and rather atmospheric.
The area where this movie does shine though, is in the voice acting. The cast from the first movie have been reprised once more, and in a rare occurence, this is true for not only the Japanese dub, but also for both English dubs as well. One of the benefits of this is that in all three dubs the characters seem far more self-assured and composed (for the most part), something which enhances the viewers recognition of them being older and more mature. Also, unlike the Bandai dub of the first movie, the acting in Patlabor 2 is far more competent, and many consider it to be better than the release by Manga Entertainment.
As for the effects, well, as with the first movie the quality of the aural sensation is very good indeed, which should be no surprise given that the production teams behind this film are, for the most part, the same as before.
Unlike the first movie, which was very much a character driven piece, Patlabor 2 is far more of a political drama, with a healthy dose of philosophical justification. That's not to say that the characters don't get any development though, as they do in certain ways. However it should be noted that this movie isn't really about developing the characters, hence the reason why there is such comprehensive characterisation at work. That said, this format works extremely well for the movie as, while the effects of the attacks and martial law do have consequences for the characters, the audience knows that this is simply a chapter in their lives.
As with any chapter in anyone's life, growth isn't always immediate, or apparent.
In all honesty I found this movie intruiging and rewarding. The emphasis on politics and philosophy, especially as this is supposed to be a mecha show, made for a refreshingly different story. The fact that the movie isn't afraid to use big words and concepts was also unusual in that Oshii and the rest of the crew seem to be trusting in the intelligence of the viewer rather than feeling the need to explain every tiny detail. Granted there are other mech shows that also use big words and concepts, but a good number of those have a penchant for over-explaining, which can often come off as patronizing.
Like the first movie, Patlabor 2 is aimed at a more mature audience, however unlike the first movie this is far more relevant to the time it was made. At the time of it's production and release there was a great deal of tension in Japan, much of it focused on the status of the JSDF within the UN Peacekeeping forces. The movie's premise of internal conflict, political byplay, terrorist activity, and civil unrest, made very clear comparisons to real life, and the fact that a number of real life events were either cited in the film, or used as a reference for the plot, meant that the story had an air of plausibilty about it that made it difficult for people to ignore. In addition to this, the fact that the movie is essentially a mystery thriller (something of a rarity in those days), rather than a no brain action flick meant that audiences, especially fans of political thrillers, could more easily relate to the story, something which meant that the movie appealed to the public in general rather than to the average anime fan.
If you liked the first movie, or Ghost in the Shell, then this is definitely one to watch. The fact that Patlabor 2, like the first movie, doesn't place an emphasis on the mechs may dissuade some diehard fans of the genre from giving the franchise a chance, however this is very short sighted given the content and quality of both movies. In truth, while the first movie was a tad naive in certain areas, Patlabor 2 more than makes up for this, and I believe it to be at least on par with GitS in terms of plausibility and conceptualisation. Viewers shouldn't be put off by the fact that this movie is also a little more "wordy" than the first one either, as it's the dialogue in Patlabor 2 that really separates it from the pack.
All in all, this is an excellent political thriller (that just happens to include mechs), one that, even now, holds a degree of relevance given the current state of the world.read more
In 1999 a UN peacekeeping in Cambodia goes terribly wrong. A unit led by Lieutenant Colonel Yukihito Tsuge using Labor Units are ambushed by guerrillas and he has orders not to fire back. So he's forced to watch as his men are killed, and left alone in the Cambodia jungle. Skip to 2002 and 3 years after the first movie. Many people who worked for section 2 have been reassigned Noa and Shinohara are still there now working for Shinohara Heavy Industries. Ota has been reassigned as a instructor. Shinshi as been reassigned to Tokyo Metropolitan Police General Affairs. Section 2 has gotten new labor pilots as well. Things certainly have changed. Things heat up when the Yokohama Bay Bridge is destroyed when a missile from a fighter hits it. From there things spiral out of control.
This is perhaps the best if not one of the best anime movies ever. The story is top notch, with it's relevance to today. Political intrigue, crossed loyalties, terrorist attacks, threat of war, and marshal law. It's hard to surpass the first Patlabor movie, but this one does. The characters thar are back, are just great. The relationship between Noa and Shinohara grows, and yet becomes more complicated. The ending is just superb. The animation now 14 years old is still good and match many anime coming out now. The music is top notch, and adds to the feel of the anime. I enjoyed it from start to finish 10 times now.
Overall a classic anime movie I think everyone who loves anime needs to see.read more
Remember your 2nd trip through your favorite shonen, and you come across those "smarter" episodes.
Those episodes that really made use of everything very well. Sure they didn't have that cool fight you were looking for, but you couldn't help but relish in that hidden, underexposed intelligence.
In a sense, the first Patlabor movie felt like that odd out-of-place episode.
Patlabor 2 is a movie of that episode; Hardcore, unrecognizable, and tricked out with a new arsenal of attack.
My primary concerns with the first movie's plot was that everything that made it smart and thought provoking was all disguised with motifs and allusions.
And it takes even less time here to realize that Patlabor 2 is all about setting up it's keys and figures to come to, and arrive at a calculated point.
Instead of showing us flash cards showing us pieces of the overall puzzle, Oshii kicks it the old fashioned way: Has the plot all about it. Nothing special.
But, of course, in exchange for his unusual directness, we lose everything that made the predecessor so flexible.
The easy to grasp sci-fi elements, familiar terms, and connecting phrases; they're all gone. Replaced with a story that begs you to have some knowledge of Patlabor, know a little about post-WWII intel conflicts, and be up to date with your opinions on economics and political ethics to have this movie really matter to you.
4 years is a relatively short amount of time, but from 1989 to 1993, the Cold War ended, and thus stories to reflect upon a half a century of intel warfare was yet to begin, so that's where the real power of this movie lies:
The ability to use itself to imitate a situation where the conclusion doesn't always get off so easy.
The concepts of technology demonizing humans' relationship with the planet are officially exchanged with questioning the nature of present peace, nowaday warring, and the fine lines they share. The highest compliment I can give to Patlabor 2 is that it's decision to become self-aware of it's own changings and reflectings of them are probably the firsts, and is a must for any serious attempt of philosophizing.
The trouble with orchestrating a futuristic political scandal is... reminding yourself who the target audience is, and Headgear(the creative staff), must've gotten lost in planning to remember that typical fans like a little more potato chips with their tuna w/ 100% wheat.
The level of the message may have skyrocketed in terms of real world use, but with their teaching methods, who's really gonna care?
If even possible, Patlabor's art has an even more polished look of reality that one could call it a dead ringer for the technical perfection that arrives later in Ghost in the Shell. Dark, studious, and with wonder, the angles and select backgrounds express a "take a look at how we live" impression. And it does take a very mentally detached mind to demonstrate the level of moral death that's reflected in this movie.
This being a heavily centralized political thriller, the tone of the world almost has to look and be perceived as "bleak". Sometimes that word doesn't properly describe the future that Headgear cooked up!
The rendering is always detailed 100%, with character movements being subtle, downplayed, but human.
The patterns Oshii use to put us into the experience does stretch out the length of the movie though, and with this being the quiet little patient that it is, trying to be this immersed in it becomes a fault.
Perhaps if you take a couple of coffee breaks, then you can help dilute the broodiness of the film.
One thing I was gladly looking for in this movie, sadly became extinguished before the movie ever began.
It's now apparent that Kenji's music being used for anything besides setting the tone, is not only a rarity but should be an event in of itself.
And with a movie as soulless as this, you'd think an artist would try to enrich and promote some form of spirituality. But... there's only countless reminders that the experience will be anything but jolly or merry.
And it doesn't even stand out. The more things you remember adding to this kind of impression, the more detrimental you think of it as.
Sadly, this movie has given up it's body in order to tell the story that it feels it must.
This section just offers further proof, that this movie is a departure from the standards typical Patlabor uses. If the first movie felt like a spicier episode, this one feels like the supporting characters spun off and made their own show... only it got cancelled after the first ep.
"Alienating" is the key word for this bundle of people that are labeled as characters.
In my 1st Patlabor movie review, I mentioned that some extra info of Patlabor would be nice to enjoy it more, it's almost crucial that you know at least the main characters to even "understand" this movie. Not enjoy.
And even if you saw some incarnation of the characters before it won't help you like what they did to them here.
I feel like I'm talking about the characters from Gundam 00 or Wing, because no one here feels worth caring about.
They're just figureheads for a simulation, and without any personality shown in their actions or without any stray character nuance, there's no suspense.
A similar style of character casts would be any of Takahashi's works(Blue Gender, Gasaraki, FLAG), in that the characters aren't outwardly enjoyable, but rather they're personal sides of them are formed by the events in the show. A bit unheard of, but they show the reflection stages help viewers with what's important or not with their reactions.
And that's still what's missing here, Oshi saps all humanity from the cast here in exchange of telling a point.
This movie came close to being at the same level of broody tolerating that Sky Crawlers earned, but... it just zooms past that.
It becomes too broody so that any hope to take in such profoundness is ostensibly improbable.
I've said it before above in this review, but there's little here to care about.
The characters, our only linking point to understanding this movie, are blurred until there's only shells.
I can only speculate that someone went up to Oshi, calmly put their hand on his shoulder, smiled and went
"Don't make something this disconnecting again. Because this was boring. Not inspiring."
Don't watch this for what sparse mecha screen time is here either. I count less than 7 minutes of the whole film where there's anything remotely endangering to anyone important to the story.
While anything this brainy was almost destined to be a mixed bag for people, this is just flat out ridiculous.
Nothing should be this hard to take in.
So we have the same score as the first movie. What does that mean?
Good, but for VASTLY different reasons.
If you liked everything that you weren't supposed to in Patlabor, namely the mecha and the action, you will die watching this movie. And I will be scattering your ashes...
But if you absorb only the moralizing and philosophy in this movie you might make it out with knowledge that you could only get in modern thrillers like Eden of the East and...
Wait, wha? Does that mean that you could get this same level of intelligence with better enjoyment too?
Well, geez, why watch this then?
That's the basic point behind this movie, it's as big a symbol for smart usage of animation as much as any, but you'll find no other anime that turns you away from those types more than this movie.
And it's such a shame too, not as much a shame as After Story was to me, but you'd almost think that classic like this would hold up better.
But it doesn't. It happens.
+ A very studious and broadened story on postmodern warfare and the stakes a unified country faces against them. The art is still as gorgeous and detailed as ever.
- Nothing worth caring about; too alienating, slow, dreary, and methodical. You can watch the same thing while enjoying yourself in a different anime.read more
I’ve been a longtime fan of the Patlabor TV Series. I caught a bunch of random episodes on Comcast’s Anime Selects on demand channel back in the day. Then I purchased a few random volumes of the DVD release. Eventually I purchased the entire TV series, and then the rest franchise (sans the original OVA series and the last part of the New File OVAs). But this this is something in an entirely different league then the TV series (which I loved). Now I know why old school fans speak so highly of this film. I do hope I don’t spoil too much, while trying to explain why this film is brilliant.
Patlabor 2: The Movie was helmed by Headgear, with Mamoru Oshii directing. This is a film that requires you to be familiar with the cast of Patlabor. I’d say checking out some of the episodes of the TV series and watching the first movie would suffice*. I understand that is a lot to ask, but doing so allows you to fully understand this movie, and thus is hugely rewarding. Patlabor takes place in the not-so-distant future where “labors” (robots) have taken the lead in industry, construction, and mechanics . Patlabors (potrol + labor) are police labors used to deal with incidents involving labors, or used in situations where a robot would come in handy for the police force of Tokyo. At any rate this film takes place a few years after the first one left off. Many of the stars of the series have moved on to bigger and better things, having been promoted to higher ranks, gone back to their homes overseas, or retired from the police force all together. What we are left with is essentially Goto, Nagumo, Noa, and Asuma. Although you can bet a few of the old characters will pop up to become the supporting cast. However the film wisely focuses in on Goto and Nagumo, as this is their story, and they are easily the most interesting characters in the franchise so it’s great to see them get their own story. It would have been tempting to again focus on the younger characters, but this bold move really pays off. Goto is a middle aged captain of the Patlabor units, a brilliant strategist, with chess master-like forethought. He is a manipulate, brilliant man, who is always one step ahead of everyone around him. But he is perhaps too smart for his own good, being exiled to an unimportant area of Tokyo (a common tactic used in Japanese government to get rid of people those with power have no use for). Captain Nagumo shares power with Goto in this film, due to reasons I won’t get into. Nagumo is a more by-the books boss, she’s intelligent and usually cold emotionally, but easily angered when others do not see things her way.
The film starts off with a battle involving U.N. Peacekeeping Forces (using labors) in Southeast Asia (yah! the U.N. rules !) in which only one man survives, and then cuts to the familiar characters in Tokyo. It is not entirely clear how this battle is relevant until much later in the film. In Tokyo a terroristic attack on a major bridge has the public confused and shocked. Much of the blame seems to be being put on the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) from the media. Things escalate quite fast, and right when it seems like it has to have been the JSDF eager to begin a coup d’état, a high ranking JSDF officer, Shigeki Arakawa shows up asking to see “the captain” of Section 2 (the Patlabor division), unsure if he means Goto or Nagumo the police let him meet with both of them. Shigeki Arakawa quickly gets to the point, that this is not some type of coup d’état, but just clear terrorist attacks being orchestrated by a band of followers of the man who survived the U.N. Peacekeeping mission in Southeast Asia. And so Goto, Nagumo, and Arakawa begin an investigation to try and get to the bottom of all this, all while relations between the Tokyo police and JSDF sour.
Patlabor 2: The Movie is one part political thriller, one part police procedural/mystery, one part character drama, with a dash of mecha added, because hey this is Patlabor after all! The comedic elements so prevalent in the TV series takes a backseat in this movie, but it does spring up from time to time. The film is frequently poetic, often taking it’s time to let you think about what is going on, and what the film’s themes are. It’s slow sure, but the pace picks up bit by bit, and becomes a tad suspenseful. It is a complex film, dialogue heavy (but never wasted) and feels like an Oshii flick. One of the best parts of the film is some heavy philosophizing by Goto and Arakawa. They discuss how Japan’s apparent and relative peace (and economic development) is based somewhat on foreign wars. The Japanese remove themselves from these wars, feelingit has nothing to do with them, or perhaps they are only lying to themselves. Maybe everyone knows the truth. Additionally the concept of a just war verses an unjust peace comes up. Not to mention the film asks the very pressing questions: what is the purpose of the JSDF? What is the true job of the Tokyo Police? What are these organizations supposed to do? What are they there to defend? This film came out during, and reflects, an important time in Japanese foreign affairs where the nation was finally becoming more willing to engage overseas by using the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (in peacekeeping missions for the United Nations). After so many years of refraining from using the military in anyway overseas, what would be next for Japan? Although Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution renounces war and the threat of force as a means to settle disputes, Japanese soldiers are still somehow deployed overseas and engaged in combat. In fact some even died. The JSDF was created to be a purely defensive force, but how far can those definitions be stretched and how leniently can they keep interpreting Article 9? Since this film has been made a contingent of the JSDF have been deployed in Mozambique, Iraq, Nepal, and the Golan Heights. While supposedly only there for humanitarian, peace keeping, reconstruction, or assistance, it really stretches the limits of Article 9. Oshii’s concerns were very valid.
The art is in a style I’ve come to love, traditional Production I.G. looks, with realistic character designs, wonderful backgrounds, and a subdued but beautiful color-tone. The animation while really great, will not completely blow you away. There are some interesting “camera angels” used, like extensive use of the fisheye lens. The music was done by Kenji Kawai whose soundtrack is almost spiritual. Bandai Visual’s Los Angeles dub sounds bored and uninspired. The actors are all uninterested and seem like they could have used better direction or something. This is a professional sounding dub, just not a very good one. Manga Video’s London Dub was directed by Michael Bakewell, one of the best and most interesting ADR Directors, and it boggles the mind why this dub is excluded from Bandai Visual’s release. Why did they even re-dub it at all but not dub other films they released that had no dubs? Manga Video’s dub stars one of my favorite actors, Peter Marinker as Goto, and he yet again delivers a performance that blew me away. Not to mention the script is a thousand times better and this dub just flows more naturally. The L.A. dub is a bit stilted and makes the film harder to comprehend then it should be. Bandai Visuals DVD case looks amazing, with two wonderfully detailed booklets and tons of extra features. But the lack of the better dub is hugely disappointing and frankly a stupid decision.
If I can find a problem in this film, it is that Oshii obviously wants to tell a very political story, but seems to have been forced yet again to revisit the same old franchise, one it appears he has already moved on from. But he handles this well enough. While Oshii wants to tell a political film, he only has police officers to work with here, so there are a few contrivances you will have to overlook. And the Patlabors are, for most of the film, not even used. But these are easily forgiven as the rest of the script is excellently written. The film is a mature, political, and thoughtful work that only older audiences will fully understand. This is a classic in every meaning of the word.
* I am well aware this movie takes place in a different continuity then the TV series, and actually follows the OVA series. But until that is re-released by Maiden Japan, it is difficult to come by legally.
(review originally posted at: http://predederva.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/patlabor-2-the-movie/ ) read more
Before he was one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Satoshi Kon was a manga artist. From early success in college to ambitious collaborations with the likes of Katsuhiro Otomo and Mamoru Oshii, his manga work is highly recommended to better understand his genius.