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Patlabor 2 The Movie: Limited Collector's Edition (1993)
Released by: Bandai Visual
Animation Production: Production I.G.
Running Time: 118 Minutes
By Jeffrey Couto

Introduction

What a day! After last night’s basement flooding today was “clean up and recovery” day! I took a half day from the office and spent the morning hauling anything and everything that got damaged in the previous evening’s basement flooding, it was an absolute mess that stunk sky high! By lunch time it was mostly done and our contractor showed up with his crew to help hose down the basement. What a day, what an ugly day, but not all is bad because on the flip side of it all was something that I had been looking forward to sitting down and writing about, Patlabor 2 The Movie!

I actually had scheduled to have this review on the site much earlier this week, but thanks to the very unusual days we’ve had up here I had to hold off on it until today. Anyway, enough of that, let’s get right into Patlabor 2 and see what this outstanding release by Bandai Visual’s Honneamise label is all about.

Story

"A Japanese police unit who use giant anthropomorphic robots (called Labors) is caught up in a political struggle between the civilian authorities and the military when a terrorist act is blamed on an Air Force jet. With the aid of a government agent, the team gets close to a terrorist leader to stop things from going out of control when after the military is impelled to impose martial law." -- DVD Box

Review

If you’ve seen my other Patlabor reviews on the site, including the one for the first Patlabor movie you know that I am a serious fan of this series. When Patlabor 2 The Movie showed up at my mailbox this past week I was ecstatic because the DVD box promised the same level of care and quality that had gone into the first movie’s release, which frankly was some of the best I’ve seen go through the Japan Hero anime labs for a domestic anime film release. So where to start? How about the movie itself?

As you can see from the story description above this movie basically revolves around a terrorist group that is trying to throw Japan into a political and military mess the likes of which have not been seen since World War II. As usual our heroes of the Special Vehicles Section 2, Second Unit get mixed into situation, ultimately becoming the only thing standing between a peaceful Japan, or one that is filled with panic and uncertainty that is fueled by fears and rumors of armed military conflict within the nation. Running side by side with this is a story of growing up, maturing relationships and letting go of the past.

Patlabor 2 was designed from the ground up to be the concluding chapter of this series and this come across in a variety of ways that are both pronounced and subtle. While the series up until this point had traditionally focused on the young and spirited members of the second unit, the movie pulls back, centering its attention on commander Gotoh and commander Shinobu, the more mature members of the cast. We see the majority of the story unfold through their eyes and this gives the narrative and interesting feel, one that is laid back, more pensive and inquisitive than your typical Patlabor story. Rather than focusing on the problems at hand they are more interesting in finding out what is behind it, what triggered it and what does it mean within the context of contemporary Japanese society, its values and approach to life.

It goes without saying that this gives Patlabor 2 a decidedly different flavor than everything that had preceded it in the series, much in the same way that “Tenchi Forever” or “Urusei Yatsura the Final Chapter” did for their respective franchises. In fact if you have been a fan of the series up until the point the movie comes into the timeline you’ll see some character moments here that will sincerely reach you with their honest look at how we as people grow up and move on, which is best exemplified in this movie by Noah in perhaps one of the most touching moments I have experienced in my anime career (sorry I wish I could go into it but I really don’t want to spoil it for you).

Adding to this complex and multi-layered narrative are the powerful visuals of the movie, which are some of the best ever seen in an anime film. Mamoru Oshii, the film’s director, uses these to create a visual impact that complement the running themes of the movie such as having the weather gradually shift into winter, turning everything grey and white, which reflects the themes of maturity and growing up that are such an essential part of Patlabor 2 The Movie.

Overall the production quality here could be said to be top notch, with Production I.G. delivering some of the best anime production values seen at the time of movie’s original theatrical release. By mixing traditional cel-based artwork with subtle CGI animation the creative staff brought life to the world of Patlabor in ways that had never been seen before, with Noah’s training session with a new labor model and labor OS being the pinnacle of this “new-meets-old” techniques.

Now, as with the first movie, where this DVD set really stands out and the one area that blew me completely away is in the extras department. Bandai Visual has gone well beyond the call of duty here to not only give Patlabor fans the essential extras that we’ve come to expect, but also some other features that are a dream come true for many of us. First off there are the disc extras, these include: movie trailers, TV commercials and a making of special, which gives us a more in-depth look at the production of this film and how many of its ideas came about. In addition there are two extras books that accompany the discs.

The first book is a compilation of all the storyboards that were drawn up to illustrate each scene in the movie. This proves to be a hugely interesting piece that gives us a first hand look at how an animated film of this caliber is first drafted up and shows just how much work can go into it (this book alone is around 300 pages long!)! The second book is the piece de resistance of this boxed set and a must-own for any Patlabor 2 the Moviee fan. This book, which runs around 150 pages in lengths cover the entire film in great detail, with tons of background data as well as information and interviews with the production staff. Illustrated with tons of color and black and white photos this extra is second only to the book included with the first movie, which covered not only the film but the entire series.

Finally the packaging merits a mention here because it’s a true class act with packaging materials that are similar in quality to Japanese DVD sets. The box is made of very sturdy/solid-feeling material that doesn’t feel anywhere near as flimsy as some of the boxes we’ve seen come through here and the artwork on the front cover is a brand new (and quite gorgeous) piece of art by. Definitely a show off piece for your collection!

Final Thoughts

Patlabor 2 the Movie is the kind of send off that every great anime series should get. By taking its traditional approach, changing its tone and pursuing something that truly evolves the characters, taking them to a new plane of existence by the end of it all, Patlabor 2 is the type of domestic anime release that every fan should have as part of their collection. If you like anime to any degree this movie is something that you should attempt to more fully explore as it offers an interesting look at Japanese society and what it means to be a war or peace, in an ever evolving environment.

Jeffrey Couto

Beyond Japan Hero
Anime Syracuse

Copyright © 2006

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