Many elements in this classic 1989 anime film, Patlabor, were far ahead of their time; today threats of killer computer viruses are common; all of us deal with them in our email accounts, but in 1989 the internet was in its early public infancy, and the idea of someone creating a virus to spread death and destruction was a fantastic concept. I was blown away with its deep story, amazing imagination and palpable theme of discovery and mystery. Patlabor The Movie is not a relentless, action-packed movie, but I think that the battle scenes have a stronger impact on the viewer when they make sense in the context of a story.
The big difference about Patlabor is that instead of focusing on the mecha, it focuses on the people. Labors aren’t the solve-all, end-all super robots out to save the world, they’re functional machines, and could be related to much like cars today. Mamoru Oshii did an excellent job with not only the cinamatagraphy, but the setups as well. Needless to say, nothing felt jarring at all in the movie. To me, the movie is kinda of an exploration of man and his machines. Man creates machine. Man becomes dependent on machine. Man, therefore becomes machine. The animation is beautiful with simply awesome city shots and stunning character animation (for its time).
When some of the work labors go on the rampage and start reiking havok, it’s up to Azuma, Noah and her labor Alphonse to get to the top of this mystery and solve it. Fans of Gundam should be warned that if you go in expecting a thrill ride here, Mobile Police Patlabor’s approach has a more laid back approach to the giant robot genre. surprisingly, the creation of Labors led to the phenomenon of Labor crime. The film deals with realistic approaches to a very inhumane situation. It examines people, life, and the choices we make.
If you are in the mood for a serious science fiction piece Patlabor should be a great watch. It traces the path of the villians decent into insanity with remarkable feeling and compassion. This is like a combination of detective and investigation type movies, merged with a little bit of mecha action. The soundtrack adds to this atmosphere with soft, orchastral strains. Appropriate action comes in the form of the movie’s closing action sequence which is just enough to satisfy everyone’s daily minimum required action quota. After which, it all wraps up in a nicely done fashion. Sorry folks, not much to complain about here, just good quality storytelling, like they used to do in the good ol’ days.
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