#225 : Patlabor: The Movie

A man examines a woman’s passport and asks, “Sightseeing?” The woman responds, “No.” And then tips her sunglasses finishing with, “Combat.” … Tokyo is becoming the great metropolis for the upcoming 21st century, a true Babylon of the future. With the help of Labors, we see the use of mecha to aid in the evolving construction of this vast city. Labors also have functions and purposes with the military and even law enforcement as well. Progress, and yet all is not well in utopia. A new Hyper Operating System (HOS) is being used for these labors and lets just say it has a few bugs in the system. Following up from the OVA released in 1988, Patlabor would move to the big screen in 1989 with Patlabor: The Movie… a fitting title.

P1Movie_1Labors all over Tokyo and even in other parts of the world are starting to go a little crazy, malfunction and erratically begin acting on their own terms, coming to life so to speak. The developer of this HOS upgrade system, which seems to have something to do with this phenomenon, was a mysterious man, one Eiichi Hoba. Not much is known about him in this movie except he has a very elegant looking raven (thus quote the raven, evermore) and Hoba fancied himself someone like the Abrahamic God, being his name E. Hoba which sounds very much like Jehovah. Ironically he commits suicide at the very beginning of this movie and without ever saying a single word he gives a sly grin whilst jumping off to his death. I believe his actions and facial smirk was all he needed to make a statement?

P1Movie_2Now what about the traditional cast of Patlabor, the crew of Tokyo Police Department’s Special Vehicles Section 2 Division, this wouldn’t be a Patlabor production without them? And you are correct. They are here in full force, you have to get past the introduction. Perhaps this story was is the followup, the possible 8th episode for the previously made OVA? Or not? We begin with Not and Asuma visiting Section 1’s commanding officer, Captain Nagumo, as she finishes her testing in the new Type 0 Labor, the transition mech featuring the new HOS system. Once back at headquarters wejoin Section 2 in full gear during a job to stop one of these troublesome runaway Labors. Much is questioned as to why and how these Labors are malfunctioning. While Patlabor productions often showcase everyone in the cast, I feel we see much from Asuma as a character in this movie, for it is he who feels the calling to dig deep into the mysteries of these troublesome Labors and the connection with th previously mentioned HOS.

P1Movie_3While Patlabor is credited to the Headgear collective and each individual member does get their moment of fame, I have to give a shout out to director Mamoru Oshii. As a big fan of his work: Patlabor in general, Urusei Yatsura, Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell, etc., Patlabor: The Movie interestingly often gets underplayed. Mostly because I am obsessed with the 1993 sequel, Patlabor 2: The Movie. Still, Patlabor: The Movie totally fits his style and approach in terms of visuals, editing, camera angles that sometimes harken a feel of the mysterious. So in total we have a well crafted production that defies any genre… so typical of Patlabor in general? Mecha, comedy, drama, thriller, action film… I say yes to all of them and also a little of something else that cannot be explained with typical words. It’s an intelligent movie that can pass as a more mainstream flick.

P1Movie_4State of the art for 1989, but de rigueur now, Patlabor: The Movie gave us a look into the complexities of technology in our modern world. Though not the first story to tackle this issue in the overall, Patlabor: The Movie would show us the issues dealing with the underlying software that is so common place in our gadgets today. In many ways Patlabor: The Movie has aged quite well because of this, as well as the more subtle imagery that does not scream out a late 1980s aesthetic. While technology does bring a sense of convenience, we have to ask what are we losing in order to gain something that is newer, faster and very appealing? My advice from all this… stick with what works… don’t upgrade. Do I sound old fashioned?

Anime Wisdom from Tetsuo Shima… What have I done? The destructive power of anger as seen in Akira.

Many view Akira as one of the the most groundbreaking films in the entire catalog of Japanese animation. This was a film that here in the west opened our eyes to technical expertise and visual eye candy that we thought was only possible in terms of the impossible. Many see it as a badass action film. Many others see it as a reflection on power and control in society. Many others see it as a gateway, a sign post, that once crossed you can’t go back. All so true, but this is also a story of a troubled young man who took his personal hatred so far that it literally destroyed the world.

Anger, resentment, pain… feelings of inadequacy, fear… putting up a front, a wall, a shield… depression, anxiety?… No one is born this way, but for many of us we learn this sort of behavior and adopt it as our reality. I find it scary how accurate Akira is to our current reality. Akira was set in 2019, I am currently writing in 2020. Tokyo was to hold the Olympic Games. The streets are full of rioting. Police are not afraid to open fire and behave in a militaristic manner. Science and technology are puppets of the government, medical industry and large scale business. Complications over the ideal blessings seems to be the products of these institutions. We have an overload of control which for someone who are not on top of any hierarchy, be it a job, social position, in a gang, etc. can make you feel left out.

Enter Tetsuo Shima, the runt so to speak in Kaneda’s bike gang. He is the one who always has to catch up, find a way to be recognized and situate himself into his peer group. Just who would have thought he had dormant psychokinetic powers after being taken by the military during a bike accident? Little Tetsuo not sure how to control himself ends up taking revenge on everything around him, which in turn begins to break down his body. This is true for us as well, though not on the scale of this anime. It is a metaphor for how we end up destroying ourselves and the world around us as well all because we can’t control our anger. Yet Tetsuo was not born this way, many of us are not, but we end up holding onto some type of anger that eventually begins to show itself in the body. At least we can counteract this if we catch it early and have awareness to our inherited patterns and emotions.

I shifted my frame of reference about Akira and Tetsuo as a character after rewatching Harmagedon recently. Harmagedon was a film that Akira’s creator Katsuhiro Otomo worked on. He did the character designs. The main character of Jo Azuma has his issues with anger, but is surrounded by like minded people who channel his inner demons, and inherent psychic abilities, towards constructive means… that being fighting the outer demon. Tetsuo is not so lucky and tragically loses himself and all of Tokyo in the process. It is in the end Tetsuo does see his mistakes, but it is too late. His sacrifice does lead him to peace, but also death. I am not sure Otomo borrowed ideas from Harmegedon for Akira, but the similar theme, with a different outcome, cannot be denied.

I too suffer with issues of internalized anger, resentment and insecurity. I also know what its like when your body tells you that you need to calm down, transmute the feelings and build a new foundation to stand on. The past can often haunt you and even though it may not be one’s fault, it is I who keep those feelings alive. Thankfully things can reverse, without scientific explanation, but it takes work as a recapturing of joy in the moment. I doubt many of the people I have hurt in some form, angered, or frustrated, or who have hurt me, or caused me to continue certain emotional patterns for too long are not reading this, but in any case all I can say is I am sorry. I am only human and can make mistakes, but I don’t need to feel that I am a mistake.

#224 : Lily C.A.T.

Space can be a lonely and dark place. When one is on a long interstellar space flight time can play funny things with it’s crew. Moving at light speeds puts us decades behind our home world, which begs the questions of are we really returning home? Now if that wasn’t bad enough lets add a killer virus invasion on this ship as well. Two strikes for sure, but let’s add a third. Two of the passengers brought on board are not who they say they are and one is a suspected murderer. Did I really sign up for this flight? The saving grace, at least for me, is the fact that we get a cat to join us on this trip. Thankfully this is all fiction… an OVA from 1987… Lily C.A.T.

LilyCAT_1Certain anime titles are painful for me to watch and Lily C.A.T. is one of them. Not because of the subject matter, a dark who done it mystery set aboard an interstellar spaceship, or the occasional depiction of blood, or violence to human characters. Or even the fact that this is an average run of the mill thriller sci-fi OVA that can be lobed in with a slew of other titles that are very similar. As someone who loves cats and has had cats around since my birth watching the few scenes of violence towards, or hearing, the extreme cries coming from the feline character always makes me uneasy. Seeing a cat in pain or suffering in plain bold sight hits too close to home from personal memories that just hurt. No cat should suffer, as well as anything else either.

LilyCAT_2Lily C.A.T. is often compared to the film Alien, but I also see this OVA as a combination of three anime productions as an alternative (this is my theory by the way). I see Lily C.A.T. as a mix of Gall Force: Eternal Story (which is in many ways similar to Alien), They Were 11 and Dallos. The obvious double whammy of a who is the stowaway here (They Were 11) and confronting a killer alien virus, which leaves two people left alive to start over (Gall Force), are obvious if you are familiar with these two films. But Dallos is a little more of an outsider, unless you examine the production credits. Both Dallos and Lily C.A.T. have a similar visual look as they were both made at Studio Pierrot (with differing character designers) and feature the talent of Hisayuki Toriumi, a long time veteran of the anime industry.

LilyCAT_3Toriumi’s approach for a darker and more serious sci-fi is characteristic of the earlier Dallos. But unlike Dallos, Lily C.A.T. does actually have a plot that progresses without plot holes, has an ending that has some sort of resolution and makes… SENSE! Maybe something got lost in the shuffle when production began for Dallos, or perhaps there were plot holes from the start?… hey now this one is about Lily C.A.T. remember?… Toriumi had been around for decades and is in some ways one of anime’s best directors that never gets much attention. Many of the Tatsunoko classics like Gatchaman as an example as well as Area 88, Baoh and a co-director on Mysterious Cities of Gold. Nice resume! And those character designs which are attributed to both Yasuomi Umetsu and Yoshitaka Amano are stellar mixed with the production work of Studio Pierrot.

LilyCAT_4For a thriller that mixes up a lot of ideas, Lily C.A.T. is a damn good action sci-fi drama examining relationships in a time of crisis. Of course I had my difficult moments, but I know this was all a work of fiction and no cats were really harmed in the process. Still… those cat cries are terrifying. This was also one of Streamline Pictures releases way back in the VHS era and the dub is quite good as well. Mike Reynolds as the captain is one of my favorite roles he has ever portrayed. We learn over time the secret of who this Lily C.A.T. really is and this reminds me a little of 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of the character HAL… even yet more sci-fi influences. I guess there is no harm in mixing up a lot of stuff to come up with something quite entertaining.