The year is 1999 and Tokyo’s Mobile Police have a new weapon in the war on crime—advanced robots called Labors are used to combat criminals who would use the new technology for illegal means. The suicide of a mysterious man on the massive Babylon Project construction site sets off a cascade of events that may signal the destruction of Tokyo.
- Title: Patlabor: The Movie (Kidō Keisatsu Patlabor Gekijōban)
- Series: Movie
- Episodes: 1
- Status: Finished Airing
- Release Date: July 15, 1989
- Producers: Studio DEEN, HEADGEAR
- Genre: Action, Mecha, Sci-Fi, Drama, Comedy
- Rating: PG-13
Continuing my look at the Patlabor franchise, I now look at the first movie, which is the second entry in the timeline I am following. Curiously enough, the third movie is the next step in the timeline, but I am going to be going in production order, not chronological order for these reviews. So, without further waiting, let’s jump right into the review.
Like with the OVA series, the production is done by Studio DEEN and HEADGEAR, though, this being a movie, there are many more animation companies that helped out in producing this, such as Studio Swing, Aubeck, and Madhouse. The animation is pretty good, for the most part, though it takes on some odd stylistic choices during some of the comedic moments, which were rather jarring, at least to me. Much like the OVA series, the movie does have mecha action in it, but not as much as you would think. Still, the mech action that is there is very nice to look at. The soundtrack is also pretty good, having some pretty appropriate tunes that fit its scenes.
The tone of this movie is actually kind of heavy, with some themes that can give you some pause. Themes of political and police corruption, the progress of humanity and its impact on the land it claims are all touched upon, which are some classic science fiction topics to go over. It is because of this that it may feel like our characters over at Special Vehicle Division 2 are not touched upon very much, but we do spend time with them. At least, we spend time with Noa and Asuma, since they get the most of the screentime compared to everyone else.
Moving onto those characters, Asuma’s character in this film shows that is a pretty hard worker, despite him seemingly acting like he does not seem to be the case. Whether he is so focused because he wants to get back at Shinohara Industries or is doing it because it is his duty isn’t made clear and both interpretations can be seen as correct depending on how you look at things. Noa’s character shows once more that she is pretty protective of her Labor, which she gives the name Alphonse. You also get to learn a bit more on where that name comes from in this film. I should also point out that these characters aren’t the only ones in the spotlight, as Ota, even with him being as trigger happy as he is, does show that he can be capable at his job when things come down to the wire.
When it comes to villains in this film, there is one in the form of Eiichiro Hoba, and he is quite an effective mastermind despite being dead for the whole film. This isn’t a spoiler since this is established in the first scene and it is interesting to try and learn is thought process and why he would want to send all the Labors in Tokyo into a berserk state. For those portions of the film, you follow around Matsui, one of the side characters from the OVA series, and his partner as they go to the various homes that Hoba used to stay at. It isn’t die hard detective work, and it could be seen as plodding for some people, but I also get that investigations have to be rather methodical to get anywhere.
For what it is worth, I recommend the first Patlabor film as it is a rather good extension of the original OVA series while also bringing up its own plot points and themes. It is available here in the states through Bandai Visual’s Honneamise label with both English and Japanese language options. It also comes in regular and limited editions, with the latter containing an archive book and a second book with storyboards of the film. It is a good buy if you are a diehard Patlabor fan, but it would be pretty scarce to find at this point.