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.
With only a few exceptions, it typically never happens. From the blinding of nostalgia glasses, lack of care and production that made the original great, changing the initial formula ever so slightly to differentiate itself, and the most sinister, but common one of all; a formulaic cash garb, sequels can aspire debates from opposing sides of people’s enjoyment and criticism whether or not they are a cinematic success. For a sequel to be considered better, or on par with the original, it has to evolve. While subjective, evolving can mean a number of factors (but not all): A
deeper look into the new or continuing narrative that opens up more possibilities, extensive care on improving character development and dialogue, having a more compelling or motivating reoccurring or new antagonist/opposing force, making sure it doesn’t break the established, core formula the original set-up, and presenting new ideas that won’t leave the audience bored or confused.
Mobile Police Patlabor, the long forgotten 80s – 90s franchise’s second movie, Patlabor 2, is the exception to the mostly true stereotype of a sequel not living up to the original’s heights, and goes above and beyond on how to do one correctly, even being more enjoyable and overall superior to its prequel in the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking way possible. Directed by Mamoru Oshii, with screenplay by Kazunori Ito, Patlabor 2 is an ode of excellence that one may not fully grasp on a first watch. It incorporates and takes inspiration from the many seemingly domestic and international issues Japan was facing at the time of the film's creation, including; the end of the Cold War and the aftermath events, the Japanese 1990 market crash, Japan Self-Defense Forces’ participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, and ideas of a military coup 'état due to terrorism, and transform these set ideas into something truly astonishing to witness and soak in while watching, and how basing events in real life to fit into an already set universe is one of the greatest and most riveting, authentic directing approach to make a movie excel in the highest quality possible.
Taking place 3 years after the events of the first movie, the audience learns first-hand how the military takeover of Tokyo by JGSDF (Japan Ground Self-Defense Force) commences and how martial law taken into effect, implanted with the belief of the JASDF (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) being the prime suspect of the terrorism done with the Yokohama Bay Bridge being destroyed, and the fake video tape used to cover the evidence. With Kiichi Goto, captain of Section 2’s SV 2nd Division, Shinobu Nagumo, captain of Division 1, and Shingeki Arakawa, they’ll seek to find and learn the culprit’s motivations, and put rest to the terror threat. With its stunning and atmospheric visuals, powerful music, and a heavily focused political narrative that moves away from Patlabor 1’s character driven, mostly mecha-action film formula, Patlabor 2 proves that a sequel with such drastic changes into a more mature, dark, philosophical setting and narrative can shine a new light on the creativity and depth of Patlabor’s already established premise, taking a leap and succeeding into cinematic success with a compelling and engaging story while also keeping older fans of the series excited for these drastic changes the movie goes through.
Re-occurring characters and majority of the members of Section 2's SV 2nd Division besides Goto and Nagumo have very little screen-time and development than the prequel film, in favor towards establishing a very coherent yet cryptic narrative with heavy subject matters of war, terrorism, and military takeover. While we get to witness characters maturing and moving on from 2nd Division in a realistic approach, some fans of the first movie may not appreciate this change, considering how fun and diverse the original cast was. With as much character interactions and character-driven narrative aspects the first film used, comprising those into Patlabor 2, in my opinion, wouldn’t have the same overall outcome that made the sequel a much more enjoyable experience, as the change to a dialogue and cinematic-driven narrative is a welcome change to mix up the initial formula of Patlabor 1. The main antagonist of Patlabor 2 is also a hit or miss for some who grew to really appreciate the depth and ideology of the opposing force in the first film, or have an appreciation for a well-crafted antagonist with clear motivations that drive him/her to proceed with their actions and oppose the protagonist. Patlabor 2 never really has that common occurrence with antagonist, instead rather surrounding their character with mystery and unclear motivations until the very end that are not directly addressed, but scattered throughout the movie their true motivations and purpose. This change, like the lack of character development, was an improvement from Patlabor 1, as being in constant mystery and suspense was more preferable than knowing right away why the main villain is doing what they are doing.
Thematic, visually impressive sequences and cinematography are scattered and in many numbers all over Patlabor 2. Each shot was delicately and aesthetically crafted into setting up the appropriate mood to drive the narrative forward, while also engaging the audience with very impressive shots. An example out of the many was after the tape of the bridge bombing is found to be faked, the next scene, ‘Wyvern’, establishes a suspenseful, seemingly confusing shot of the culprit attempting to cause panic to the JASDF with a fake attack of the Wyvern planes never being airborne, setting up tension and further explaining the motivations of the culprit behind the terrorist attack incidents. The way the planes moved, the dialogue, and control center all felt authentically real and intimidating. There were many instances when the more suspenseful and action sequences never once made me have to suspend my disbelief like most mecha shows/films do. I consider authenticity to be a very important aspect in these types of works, and Patlabor 2 nailed it with flying colors.
The next sequence, ‘Just War and Unjust Peace’ is a dialogue exchange between Goto and Arakawa about the contradictions of the supposed peace Japan has been fortunate with ever since the end of the Second World War; with Japan supplying different countries with weapons and military equipment to further the economic growth of their country with the cost of blood. Utilizing very well-done cinematography, and a fantastic track ‘Unnatural City I’ to incorporate the mood, and philosophical dialogue of opposing ideas of what war and peace truly mean, this is one of my favorite sequences in Patlabor 2. It demonstrates the core elements of what the movie is trying to portray to the audience with the duality between what’s right and wrong while also shining a light on characters’ motivations and their philosophy. More sensational scenes that will always be forever imbedded in my mind are the amount of times Patlabor 2 makes use of no-dialogue establishment shots of the setting, establishing the mood and atmosphere to build-up the narrative and tension. Some, but not all, include ‘Unnatural City’, ‘Gunship Attack’, and the final scene of the film. Patlabor 2 made use of constantly keeping me engaged throughout the entire film, having scenes that remain my all-time favorites in anime, achieving so much in such little time.
While not only leaving a huge impressions with its visuals and cinematography; the music, voice acting, and dialogue all blend in together very nicely to what’s happening on screen. Soundtracks will almost always leave a lasting effect and almost completely outshine the scenes in which they’re in. From the opening cinematic (which also was impressive on its own), to each individual scene going into heavy subject matters along with striking atmospheric ones, the music never once faltered. The voice acting, while some may find it dull, actually works in favor of this movie. The expressionless tone of some of the characters, like Arakawa, establish a mysterious and seemingly ominous aura around his character near the beginning of the film. It would make since too, that, the head police officers of their respected divisions wouldn’t be hysterical and frantic, rather calm and composed of what they’re doing, especially given the philosophical, almost seemingly cryptic narrative each will go into at certain times throughout the film.
Patlabor 2, in conclusion, can best be described as a rewarding experience for fans of the first movie and the OVA/TV series that came before that. It’s not advised you go into this movie without further knowledge on the established universe and characters, as this film was intended for those already fans of the series in a darker, more gripping tone and atmosphere than any of the Patlabor anime before it. From all the great characters, amazing soundtrack, and fantastic visuals/cinematography, Patlabor 2 truly is Mamoru Oshii’s magnum opus and quite possibly the best Japanese film I’ve seen in my entire life. Do yourself a favor and get invested in this world, you won’t be disappointed.
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.
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.
Patlabor 2 the movie is an anime that nearly half of my MAL friends have watched in the last year. Every person I've talked to has said this film is one of the greatest anime films ever made and an indisputable masterpiece. Obviously I went in to this with VERY high expectations. However, my overall feelings towards the film are a little complicated.
Firstly, I want to say that Patlabor 2 is in fact an excellent film. The animation is jaw dropping. It does a masterful job instilling mood and atmosphere. It has some excellent character moments and I love to watch Goto and Shinobu's relationship
whenever they share the screen together. It makes an admirable effort to explore complex and controversial political theories on the nature of war and peace. It directly references Japan's decision to participate in UN peacekeeping in 1993. Oshii took a strong political stance against what he saw as the loosening of Article 9 of Japan's pacifist constitution and creeping militarization. Oshii's stance was of course bashed as unpatriotic by Japanese conservatives, but he stood his ground and showed he has some balls. The fact that Oshii like Hayao Miyazaki is so unwavering in his principles adds a layer of ethos to an already emotionally powerful and visually stunning film.
My key issue with Patlabor 2 is that it simply isn't a Patlabor movie. This movie seriously exists because Oshii was drinking with his old buddy Hayao Miyazaki in some bar in 1993. A news article came on the TV saying that Japan was deploying a few soldiers to assist the UN in Cambodia, so of course these 2 old lefties just freaked the fuck out. I'm 100% certain that the movie Oshii wanted to make got rejected, so he pitched this story he wrote as a Patlabor sequel and shoehorned in the Patlabor characters at the last minute. Patlabor 2 is a Patlabor film like Mario 2 is a Mario game. Outside of a 30 second training sequence, it seriously takes over an hour for the titular Patlabors to even appear in this film. That appearance btw is just some empty Patlabors getting blown up by a helicopter. What do we get instead? We get about 7 solid minutes of characters talking about how Japan's post WW2 peace and prosperity is rotten because the prosperity of the wealthy nations is built on the suffering and exploitation of the poor nations. Japan's wealth is gained by trading with the United States, who endlessly engages in wars of capitalist imperialism and resource exploitation. By fully embracing capitalism and foreign trade, Japan has bloodied its hands by fueling these wars of imperialism that cause suffering in the Middle East, Africa, and Central America. Oshii brings the film to a screeching halt so we can get the Cliffs Notes on the famous Leftist essay "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism".
Mr. Oshii, we need to talk. I love you man, but this needs to be said. In case you forgot....THIS IS A FUCKING PATLABOR MOVIE! This is a goofy franchise that you originally started to ripoff Dominion Tank Police! It's a story about cops using construction robots with adorable little batons to fight crooks using construction robots to rob banks! If you wanted to make a dead serious, anti-imperialism, anti-war film to protest Japan's policies then save up your money and make THAT film. When you cram this shit into a franchise like Patlabor it becomes ridiculous! Imagine some guy was supposed to write and direct a Spider-Man movie. However, that guy just read some essays on Marxist thought and it really blew his mind. He ends up making a film in which Peter Parker just sits around a bar, drinks whiskey, and tries to convince the bartender that the workers need to seize the means of production. Would that be a good Spider-Man story? NOO! It would be fucking stupid! To a degree, that's exactly what Patlabor 2 feels like to me.
Lastly, we need to talk about the Japanese peacekeeping effort of 1993 and how Oshii essentially made Mt. Everest out of a mole hill. The main antagonist of this film is a grizzled veteran who returned home a shell of his former self after his nightmarish tour of duty. He had to watch dozens of his best friends die and now leads a rogue faction of the Japanese military. They want revenge on the government War Pigs for callously sending thousands of young Japanese men to their deaths in a pointless war. In reality, zero Japanese actually died in that conflict. In fact, only 70 people died in total. It was an EXTREMELY minor affair. However, this film portrays the Japanese deployment to Cambodia exactly like its the US in Vietnam or the Soviets in Afghanistan. I understand why Oshii was so opposed to this deployment given Japan's past and how sensitive a topic that is. However, when the film in dead seriousness acts like Japan's minor UN deployment was like fucking Nam, it once again veers into silliness.
Despite my rambling, I actually do like this film. I will happily add it to my extended list of favorite anime films. However, this film has some irksome features that prevent me from shouting its name to the heavens like so many others. I always see it get praise for finally bringing seriousness and intelligence to the Patlabor franchise. However, it was never a question of COULD Oshii make Patlabor more serious? Oshii is a really smart guy and obviously can write WAY more complex than he did in the Patlabor OVA, first movie, and TV series. It was a question of SHOULD Oshii have made Patlabor so serious? I honestly don't think so. I really think this should have been an independent, standalone story. I will definitely recommend this film to my offline friends, but not without adding some caveats.
It is easy to say that the most beautiful anime are those produced by Studio Ghibli. For sure, Ghibli’s films set the bar for what is anime art. However, although five of their films populate this list of the 20 most beautiful anime, other examples from the past four decades are just as impressive.