Following Patlabor: The Movie, which I have mostly positive thoughts on, comes Patlabor 2: The Movie. Something I feel a lot better at and much more thematically rich as well. Mamoru Oshii comes back in full force with his military and political theming. Something that I am not completely ok with in general Patlabor practices, because the police shouldn’t be doing the military’s job. This movie is a special case and after some internal arguments for since my rewatch, I’ve decided to let it slide this time. Just for this movie in particular because a lot of things in Patlabor 2: The Movie are a matter of particular circumstances that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It’s a great movie that looks at the particulars of too much military escalation. Very 2020, don’t you think?
Massive Spoilers from this point forward.
Unlike the other Patlabor movies, the old cast from Special Vehicles Section 2 Division 2 in previous installments are not the main focus. Instead this is Division 1, Captain Shinobu’s movie with a lot of side work from Division 2’s Captain Goto. She has a bit of a relationship with the main villain involved. She’s back for a vendetta. The police divisions are filled with new recruits with the original cast retired and working for other areas now. Noah Izumi and Asuma Shinohara are working as test pilots for Police Labors, Ota is somehow a police instructor, Kanuka Clancy has a position in New York, and such. They do show up to reunite in the end, but I’ve mentioned already, none of them are the focus.
There are better articles talking about the main themes of Patlabor 2 like the one right here, but the theme of Over Militarization permeates throughout the film. The Japanese Air Self Defense Force and Japanese Ground Self Defense Force have built up their units and have a little too much free time on their hands. Unlike something like the United States using its military power on the go it feels like, Japan isn’t at war with anyone and has no enemies at this point. In situations like this, one small thing needs to happen to set military forces off against each other. IF you don’t think that’s true, think of World War One. In this case, a passive aggressive war (for now) starts out with the bombing of the Yokohama Bay Bridge.
This is a bleak film for the citizens of Tokyo and moves Patlabor in directions it hasn’t been since the two-parter of The Early Days OVA with war at Christmas time. Here, there is a huge proxy war going on with fake attacks on citizens which arouse the citizens more and more. JASDF and the JGSDF are at each other’s throats, protests are happening all across the city, and every unit that can mobilize is stopped due to the situation at hand. Something tells me this is the uniquely Japanese thing, because in America people would be killing each other at this point. Look at us now. With mobilizing not happening on anyway, what else is there to do?
With the appearance of JASDF gunships causing chaos across the land and threats of gas that lead to nothing, its time stop it all. At least before the Americans come into bring in even more chaos to it all. This film’s writing is very auto pilot and I’m going ot say that in a very good sort of way. Even if these characters aren’t as strong as they could be, as a Patlabor fan you know them enough to trust what they are doing makes sense. Goto does the brilliant job of investigating who caused it all with his connections, and he leaves Shinobu and his former Division 2 to take out the threat. Not major character movements, but the movie is strong enough to carry enough everything else with minimal character movements and its thematic story telling.
The major problems I have are towards the ending of the film itself. All minor things in this grand scope of the story itself. This is the reformation of the Special Vehicles Section 2 Division 2’s former major players after a few years. I wish there was a little more pomp and circumstances for it other than “they are here now by your command”. That being said, it’s nice to see them again together after being separated for so long. Maybe for us, but it feels like they’ve been separated and wanting to be back together by how they move and think in the beginning. Their days of glory are gone, so it’s time for one last hoorah to tie it together. Once more tying into the depressive tone of everything where there meeting together is more business like then anything else.
I keep thinking about how capturing one person could put all of this to a stop, but that is something that shows how hollow everything going on in this film is. The needless proxy war in which people wanted to show off their military power just to show it all off. That and the fact it ties into a great mecha action sequence make the finale feel powerful. We’ve spent all this time with people and units barely engaging with one another, it’s time to see all of that subdued nature of the story and pent up aggression released in one fantastic action sequence with Patlabor Units against drones. All revealing that the person was alone in his conflict while just giving us some cool things at and get excited about as well.
This film is yet another step forward in Mamoru Oshii writing and directing his movies with live action directional styles and language. The duller colors of the movie ingrain the tone that it is going for along with the much harder hitting music. Everything moves in a way that it feels like they have a lot of weight in minimum levels. The missile hitting the bridging and destroying it feels like something that could happen in real life. Same the Mecha action in the finale with Ingrams vs drones that add an extra layer of awesome to it all. The character designs are about the same, just updated a little bit with age. Patlabor 2: The Movie is a Solid and wonderful experience for fans of the Patlabor OVA series. An ending chapter meant for people with the know-how with tons and tons of rewards of all despite the sadness.