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.
Labors 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?
Now 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.
While 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.
State 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?