The Lost Backlog of Summer 2014 #9: Patlabor 2: The Movie

p2m04Seeing as I had no confidence in the summer season, I decided to invent a backlog of shows to watch from one of three different areas. The ninth anime on this list was the second Patlabor movie, which premiered in August 1993. I sat down an watched it in a single sitting, and these are my thoughts on it.

Before you come in and say that seeing as I haven’t watched the TV series this came from nor the first movie, just here me out for a minute. My only experience with the franchise was about 9 years ago. It was a particularly dark period in my life which is way too depressing to even talk about here, but the place I was staying at had video on demand and one of the movies was the English dub of the third Patlabor movie, though I believe it was just called WXIII on the screen. I briefly thought it was going to be Wrestlemania 13 with a description of Bret Hart’s match against Steve Austin, but it was actually a mecha film. It kept me away from my own dangerous thoughts at the time, at least give me that. But I digress…

p2m03The real reason I mention that is I made a bit of an exception in going for a series sequel because it is a highly rated movie and a few of the “friends” on my MAL really liked it to the tune of 9s and 10s. Also a two hour movie makes a nice break from the 25-26 episode weekend marathons that have gone on throughout this summer feature series.

Set in 2002, Patlabor 2 can be summed up as a film about the impact of decisions made by those in power who are unsure of Japan’s role in the world, but are too distant to be informed about reality. It’s really a complicated plot the more that I think of it. Also, the timing of the release coming just after the dissolution of the Soviet Union also brought the argument of the role of the Self-Defense Forces in a post-Cold War world. The method the film goes about portraying this is by featuring Tokyo being brought to its knees by a former police officer that had experienced the horrors of war while working on a UN peacekeeping mission.

p2m05Mainly by deceptive tactics and distractions, Tsuge, the mastermind of the plot, forces the government to bring in the Self-Defense Forces to deal with the chaos in Tokyo. I don’t want to use the term antagonist to describe him because apart from property damage, I think they didn’t kill anyone. At the same time, two captains of the police, Tsuge’s ex-lover Nagumo Shinobu, and the laid back Goto try to stop him while dealing with all of the ignorant political bullshit coming from the heads of the police and government agencies.

While Patlabor is a mecha series, the Labors don’t come into play until the climax as they try to capture Tsuge. It actually means that most of the rest of the film plays like a political thriller maybe pushing into neo-noir territory. Goto spends much of the movie talking to an informant named Arakawa, that also happens to be much further involved in events than it seems.

p2m02Stylistically, I was pretty impressed by the film. It’s Oshii through and through in that there are tons of shots that are completely immersive. It’s a feeling that few anime in the present day have. There are a couple of scenes that use birds to make things feel more real. A blimp flying around without a pilot jamming communications is one thing, but to have a flock of birds following it around just adds to the feeling that something is wrong with the world at that point. Also, as the SDF tanks roll into Tokyo it begins to snow. Nature is simply going to keep going regardless of what people are doing.

p2m06As for the story, I’m still not sure what to make of it. There’s a sense I got from this film that it was advocating against the government’s preparedness against terrorism. The plot itself seems like a bit of a playbook on how to cripple a city. At the same time, the national government and military are completely useless and a burden on the locals while the police get the job done. It might just be better to say that the film is against ever greater layers of bureaucracy.

In the end, this proved to be one of the better things I’ve watched this year and I’d recommend it to almost anyone. I also don’t think it’s necessary to have watched the series or first movie to understand this film, but I imagine it would help in some scenes.

p2m07Next week: A guy who can see spirits travels around…didn’t I do this already?

2 thoughts on “The Lost Backlog of Summer 2014 #9: Patlabor 2: The Movie”

  1. Great analysis. I really love this film as well and I’ve bought two versions of it. It’s definitely a high quality movie and worth a watch although I think you’re missing out on some great shows in the summer season.

  2. At least you watched something you unabashedly enjoyed this Summer.

    It has been a while since I watched PatLabor 2, so I can’t comment on the “meaning” of the film, but I do remember the feeling of “realness” you describe. There does seem to be a lot of shows out these days that have abandoned the attempt to use the Anime medium to create immersive, representations of a world much like our own. Instead most anime produced these days chooses to to embrace the irreality of anime conventions both visual (big eyes, no nose, moe-types, speed lines, sparkles, etc.) and world dynamics (e.g. mecha can only be piloted by 16 year-olds). PL2 presents a “reality” that doesn’t require the viewer to accept anime conventions in order to become immersed in this world.

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