#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?

#8b : Angel’s Egg

For my original entry for Angel’s Egg, click here.

Sometimes you have to recover your tracks in order to move forward. In terms of classic anime and in particular, Angel’s Egg, I have a little more to say…

Angel’s Egg was a one of my earliest entrees here at The Classic Anime Museum and it has been one of my more viewed entries, even receiving reference links. I am proud that in particular that Angel’s Egg is linked in some way with this site. I love this film, I love the atmosphere it projects, I love the art and I consider it a masterpiece of 80s anime cinema and one of Mamoru Oshii’s best works of all time. It’s not an easy film to watch since it is more symbolic and esoteric, but in terms of great film making it is one animated feature that is distinctly it’s own in terms of any category you throw at it.

AE_21Much is written on director Mamoru Oshii’s struggle with faith and the all supposed Christian symbology. But if you take a step back, isn’t much of Christian imagery borrowed from other more ancient, or pagan references? Could these references also elude to Eastern spiritual practices as well, or another alternative? The vast open space of Angel’s Egg makes this a film that can have much in terms of interpretation, which leaves it as perhaps the most profound and powerful films ever made in the Japanese animation industry during the decade of the 1980s, if not all time. Assuming one’s interpretation, or an accepted standard is one thing, but sometimes when other opinions are offered as well, they are just as valid.

AE_22Propose now another possible metaphor for the piece of art that is Angel’s Egg. Could this be a film about the fragility of holding to the material world. To quote from the Bible “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth, and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” I had to look up the passage as I am not a perfect Bible scholar, it’s from Matthew 6:19. Or if we philosophize from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure with none other than Socrates where we notice that we are “Only Dust in the Wind”, and “Like the Sands of time, so are the days of our lives.”… With this in mind we fall for the greatest illusion that what is material is eternal, which of course is not true. It is human to mourn the loss of what is seen and touchable, but to consider it permanent is a grave mistake.

AE_23Solid structure, matter and form are standards that we often base entire civilizations, relationships and lives on. Yet this is the most unstable force in the universe. This makes me think of the relationship in astrology between the Moon and Saturn and the pair of signs associated with them, Cancer and Capricorn. Both are opposites, yet mirror images of each other dealing with growth and decay, love and austerity, protection and isolation. Is it a time to be sentimental, or perhaps hard nosed. We need both sides, but when one side of the extreme takes on a priority there is imbalance. This is not a bad thing because after all we as humans get caught up in the games and circumstances that we deem as life. At times we crest, but soon fall. We also hit rock bottom too and find the strength to rebuild by knowing what has passed can’t ever return.

AE_24These concepts are the basic dynamic of Angel’s Egg. The girl, very innocent and naive holds like a mother the giant egg she possesses. The object is in every way her identity. She brings it with her, treats it kindly and never lets it leave her sight much like a cautious mother. Enter then the young man with the cross like stick, or weapon, or whatever it is. He becomes the catalyst, a source for change who cruelly breaks and destroys this precious object. The girl whose whole existence in life has now been destroyed in the end destroys herself, unable to find any reason to live beyond sticking to what she only knew. It is a sad end, but we all fall down from time to time and we mostly see something outside of the job, relationship, situation, or loss that has occurred in our lives. We put on another hat to keep going with life because we still feel that life still has something left to provide for us, despite the pain and sorrow.

This year of 2020 made me think of this interpretation particularly. It has been painful for many of us dealing with loss as well as uncertainty. Those who hold so dearly to rigid ideas are struggling the most to control a situation that seems so random. I hope you are all doing well despite the times.

#188 : Dallos

“And if the band your in starts playing different tunes… I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” There is tension in the air… on the moon of all places, which has no breathable air except for the enclosed colonies where the inhabitants live. These colonists who mine resources to feed the Earth are beginning to find their social treatment and political conditions unbearable. Beyond these tensions on the dark side of the moon is an odd mystery. A gigantic mechanical device that many of the inhabitants revere as a deity sits in utter silence. The name of this mysterious giant as well as the production that features it is a landmark title in the history of anime, Dallos.

Dallos is known for two distinctions in the general knowledge category of anime. The first was the fact that it was the original direct to video release, known better as the OVA. The second was it was directed by Mamoru Oshii (Angel’s Egg, Ghost in the Shell), which is partially true. Also directing was a quiet legend, mostly unknown here in the west, Hisayuki Toriumi (Gatchaman, Salamander, Lily C.A.T.), who as the senior of the two should honestly be listed first. As the first OVA release, Dallos broke ground in terms of distribution of anime at the time. Within a couple years the category became a viable market for projects that may have had the budget, subject matter, or space for creative freedom to afford itself to be either on television or the cinematic big screen. Long before the internet, or digital sharing, the OVA was a gray area to work in as an in between, a place Dallos fit into very well.

With a slick presentation, Dallos does perform in terms of the action sequences in terms of detail and fluidity, but the story is something that still leaves me questioning. Though we do have a good cast of characters, no one really stood out in this hard sci-fi dystopia as the major focal point. The young, slightly angsty Shun Nomomura is our obvious protagonist, yet the overall collective and environment felt like the star of this show. Dallos is an anime about society under Orwellian social control, an anime about the status quo bourgeoisie versus the working class proletariat, an anime about native Earth born humans versus spacenoids (Gundam?), an anime about the varying opinions of generations. All great themes, but unfortunately with all this great drama, it never focused itself into a cohesive narrative that went anywhere, or answered to any conclusions.

Mixed with the underdeveloped story is the concept of the supposed deity like machine Dallos itself. A giant mechanized mystery on the far side of the moon that looks like a face has no real mythology beyond the respect by the original moon settlers. This older generation, well into the twilight of their lives, try to explain this to the younger elements with little acceptance. Such is youth to take life into their own hands, but they to will soon learn. Autonomously Dallos defends itself  during the uprising tensions, but as to any explanation as to what the mechanical behemoth stands for, or even it’s purpose for existence is a pure mystery.

The DVD copy that I own also contained a retrospective containing interviews with many members of the crew from Studio Pierrot including Oshii. Even though this was not an episode of the OVA series it was my favorite part of the whole viewing process. Perhaps the inclusion of two directors for one project weakened the possibilities of what could have been? The discussion of doing a hard sci-fi production with no promotional material, like toys or model kits, and having heavy subject matter was a great idea, but needed more time for polishing the final product. Dallos had so much potential, but is nothing more than an experiment that just did not fall completely into place. A visual treat for sure, but a disappointment in terms final explanation. A longer narrative run could have helped? Although Studio Pierrot’s upcoming OVA for 1985, Area 88, performed flawlessly as a short run episode count series as well. Area 88 by the way was directed by Toriumi.