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.
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.
From the moment I learned about the Patlabor franchise, all of my watching it was for the purpose of reaching this movie. It's widely regarded as the peak of Patlabor and one of Mamoru Oshii's greatest films. Being a major landmark in anime movies, the mecha genre, and allegedly one of Oshii's best political thrillers made it an essential point for several reasons. Oddly, approaching this movie chronologically almost makes it seem out of place. The Patlabor Early Days OVA was a character personality-driven mix of comedic slice of life police adventures with a dystopian undercurrent, and in my review for the first Patlabor movie
I noted how it went in a logical direction by continuing the more serious tone reached by the end of the OVA. I also expressed some disappointment how large the stride was, with the cast largely being pushed to the background to stage pure expositionary plot and that I thought it was getting away from the things that made Patlabor stand out. It doesn't necessarily benefit it to become a convoluted political procedural, but Patlabor 2 brings it in that direction even further. Literally for both better and worse.
A significant improvement of Patlabor 2 over its predecessor is that while it remains a dense political drama it pushes its thematic weight to the forefront and deals with more ambiguous and more personal themes than the first movie's which were quite buried (fairly acceptably, since it fell into the set-up of that dark underbelly mentioned in the OVA). The most difficult aspect of Patlabor 2 is that personal business: it's a movie made by Japan, specifically about Japan, and is understandably not too concerned with bridging the viewer's understanding of the deepest mechanisms of contemporary Japan's political status. Allusions are made in passing to previous real-life Japanese political turmoil in comparison with the movie's events with the assumption that the meaning is all implicit. Heaps of expository dialogue are thrown at the viewer and are always outpacing itself, rapidly establishing the political context of the movie's situation without spending the time to explain it because the setting wasn't built up to a suitable extent by previous Patlabor works in order to house the movie's plot and statements.
This leads into what feels so odd about Patlabor 2 when having come to it chronologically. It feels exactly like Mamoru Oshii, or perhaps the writers, wanted to make a political story expressing their thoughts on Japan and used Patlabor as a vehicle, it being an existing franchise presumably making it easier to get financial backers and talent on board. What made Patlabor "Patlabor" is pushed to the backdrop for these philosophical diatribes. The comedy is almost completely gone, the mecha barely used, and the previous cast is nearly non-existent as the movie is forced to revolve around Gotou and Nagumo, the most serious characters. After attachment has been built up for the others, it's disappointing that they're only forcibly brought to the head at the movie's climax as some sort of quota but without closure. The climax of the movie is also the only place it truly becomes action-oriented, and I'd never begrudge the movie for wanting to focus more on drama, so I only bring up this up for the fact that the previous movie had a similar structure but its final set-piece was much larger in scope and with a more complex strategy dictating the events.
Patlabor 2 is centered around civil unrest that begins when a bridge bombing sets up suspicion among Japan's numerous political bureaucracies. The country enters a cold war-like state with the police, ground forces, and air force all biding their time waiting for one branch to slip up so they can wrestle more political control out of the situation. This scheme is masterminded by Nagumo's former captain and ex-lover, who was previously unmentioned. This brings the opportunity to develop the implied romantic tension between her and Gotou, but although they are the most prominently featured characters in the movie no development is made on this front despite the movie concluding this Patlabor timeline. This demonstration seems to be done to criticize Japan's distancing from global conflict for the sake of peace while simultaneously assisting said conflict by still trying to profit from it under the table economically and by allying themselves with those fighting the actual wars. This brings up the topic of a just war and unjust peace, with the idea that Japan has avoided war to be an illusion. It's an interesting idea that bodes a lot of ambiguity about how to ethically handle Japan's new position on the worldwide political spectrum, and it's a theme that has increasing relevance for countries across the globe as indirect involvement in war keeps the public distanced and satisfied while the country still profits. It's a tenuous peace at best with no true allies but with moral grandstanding.
The least surprising thing about Patlabor 2 is Mamoru Oshii's direction. My favorite thing about the movie was its cinematography, with numerous shots of the cold, grey cities of Japan stuck in an empty stasis. Backgrounds are densely detailed with a nearly endless trading off of packed stills of zoomed out city-scapes. This glacially austere tone is assisted by Kenji Kawai's icy electronic new age score that glides by and only briefly shows signs of life with cooed vocals. Strong background stills are this movie's aesthetic backbone and it's light on movement overall, but I recall liking several shots. One is how a sniper is concerned about shooting down birds that obstruct his target, but then is ordered to fire anyway and shoots them down, symbolic of how Tsuge is risking the public's safety by luring them out of their illusion. The handcuff scene towards the end where Nagumo caresses Tsuge's hand before cuffing it is a great trade-off between her attachment to her job's responsibility replacing her attachment to the past.
When all's said and done, Patlabor 2 is one of Oshii's most literary works. The emphasis on its political drama and themes pushes the individual stories to the background which makes the former more of a success than say the unbalanced Jin-Roh, but it bears the unfortunate decision of attaching itself to the Patlabor name without really earning it. It's an extremely wordy demonstrative political drama, a political thriller without much in the way of thrills because of its sterile handling of the human emotions underneath it. It's in one sense the most interesting part of the Patlabor franchise for its thematic diversity, and yet another sense it's the least interesting by being the most ordinary and straightforward. There was nothing quite like Patlabor among its genre, yet Patlabor 2 feels like a straight-shooting political statement with the framework of something that had more personality. If Japan's political issues don't hold much relevance to you, this movie's implied emotional undercurrent gained by association will barely expose itself.
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.
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.