Patlabor: The Movie 2 (also LE w/books) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, July 10, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 11, 2006



What They Say
Set three years after the first film, Patlabor 2 draws police commanders Ki'ichi Gotoh and Shinobu Nagumo into the hunt for Tsuge, a rogue officer of the Japan Self-Defense Force connected with an escalating wave of terrorist attacks. But the investigation into the plot is guarded by secrets both personal and political, as the awakening fear of terror in Tokyo is slowly answered by the dream-like fade of democracy into martial law.

Tokyo, rush hour: the dead of winter. A terror strike from the air shatters the Bay Bridge. When news footage shows an unidentified F-16 fighter jet in the vicinity, the investigation takes a darker turn, as the cops of the Second Unit begin to trace the outlines of the shadowy military and political coalition behind the incident. But the conspiracy itself is out of control, and what began as a gesture is becoming a game where the peace, the freedom, and the very lives of the people of Tokyo are at stake!

This Limited Collector's Edition is a numbered edition with only 10,000 created and boasts an illustrated cover designed especially for this release by illustrator Yutaka Izubuchi (mecha designer of the Patlabor series and creator and director of the hit anime series RahXephon).

This Limited Collector's Edition contains 2 discs, one with the movie and extras and one with "The Making of Patlabor 2 The Movie" (Japanese with English subtitles), and two books.

Book 1, Archives, is 144 pages long and contains Exposition and criticism of the film (character, story background, artwork, etc.), Interviews with director Mamoru Oshii, Tokyo Location Map, Location Scouting, and Key animation drawing samples with explanatory notes.

Book 2 is the Storyboard by Mamoru Oshii and is 300 pages, translated into English.

The Review!
After an essentially problem free first release, Bandai Visual hits up with the second movie in the franchise and scores another solid hit.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this film in both its Japanese language and English language mixes. We went back and forth pretty regularly with it to check out the dynamics of various scenes. The movie received a 5.1 upgrade in Japan several years ago and it changes the feel of many of the scenes drastically in my opinion. The all too few but well done battle scenes were decent in its original stereo mix but now has much more overall interaction and a greater oomph to it. The Labor gun range was also an area where the directionality and stronger mix really played out well. Dialogue is much sharper as well and more finely placed throughout. The English language mix is equally as good with the placement and both tracks satisfy quite a lot. During regular playback, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally in theaters back in 1993, the movies received the DVD treatment in the late 90's and then a remaster in late 1999. The Japanese remastering done over time gave the show not only a bump in the audio department but a really nicely done anamorphic transfer as well, something the original US release was never able to acquire either. While I had some issues with the way that first movie turned out, more so because of its age and the problem of actual hand colored cels that make it difficult for things like smooth blacks to come across, this movie has a much more polished and smooth feel to it and managed to avoid just about any real visual problem I could find with it. The colors look great, the near photo-realistic style backgrounds are gorgeous, the character designs maintain a great look and feel with their colors and the print was free of issues like cross coloration or aliasing. The visual quality of the print is just fantastic and it was very easy to get into the film because of it.

Packaging:
Right from the start this release feels exactly like Japanese packaging just in how it's wrapped. Instead of the standard cellophane wrapping, it's almost like the bag material that Japanese releases used that has a sealing strip along the back. The box itself is a heavy chipboard type with gold foil style paper that makes the background really shine. The front panel has a good shot of a Patlabor and an attack helicopter in a really nicely done illustration as opposed to just screenshot style images. The back cover looks good with the gold there as well as it provides a number of shots from the film and a brief but decent summary of the world-view premise of Patlabor. The box looks great and like most boxes it lists most of the technical information on the bottom panel. Inside the box there are three items:

Patlabor 2: The Movie Storyboards " The gold bound book is about three hundred pages and it's filled with the storyboards for the film with all the notes and dialogue sections translated. This is a big undertaking in itself and it looks like there were two translators on it in addition to someone just dealing with the glossary of terms. Books like these are rarely done and hard to do but this one is just fantastic as it looks like it covers just about everything you want to know in English.

Patlabor 2: The Movie Archives " Done with a matte finish, the front cover of the book uses one of the Patlabor images from the box cover. The book runs about 180 pages in length and is probably one of the best produced books made of its kind. It's a mix of full color and black and white pictures, promotional posters and sketches that cover everything you want to know about Patlabor. This book more than makes up for the lack of on-disc extras and exceeds all the expectations I had about the release.

The disc packaging is a black glossy mini hardcover book design that has the plastic disc holders inside that actually snap together a bit so that it doesn't flop open on its own. The exterior design is a simple outline version of the Patlabors in white which looks good as a technical piece with the glossy black. The text for the film name is small and well defined, giving it something of a bit of classiness to it instead of a big bold listing.

Overall, this is a fantastic release in terms of its packaging and one that in a lot of ways simply stands far above a lot of other releases. There have been some that have come close to this kind of release with the multiple books and packaging but this one just feels like it's standing up there above the others, particularly in the Archives books.

Menu:
The main menu is a quickly loaded piece with a brief bit of animation to it as a do not cross line banner stretches out as the city moves by before it settles on a really nice illustration of the Patlabor and helicopter from the film while the sky changes behind it. There's no music to the menu which is a bit off-putting but it's laid out nicely, loops extremely smoothly and looks good. Access times are nice and fast and the disc picked up on our players' language presets perfectly with accurately labeled languages and subtitles.

Extras:
The on-disc extras for this release are split in two ways. The movie only edition of the release contains a trio of trailers and teasers and that's all. The special edition release comes with a second disc of extras. Though you may call it one extra depending on your point of view. The disc is basically the "Making Of" segment split out into the numerous sections with available English subtitles. In total, it runs just over half an hour in length and it does cover a lot of interesting aspects to the films creation, some of which are covered in far more detail in the books, but again I'm really not caring too much for the way its presented with only the limited edition set. This should have made it onto the other disc while leaving the LE to be just the books/box and all. It's a solid extra and illuminating much as the first one was however so it's a good piece to be included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bandai Visual's launch of their Honneamise label earns a much bigger star with the release of Patlabor 2 as it brings much stronger visual quality out while keeping to the same packaging level of care that we saw with the first one. It also to me brings out a much more engaging story that teases along better as it's told. While the decision to launch with the Patlabor movies may be a hard one simply because the market has been saturated with the features for about ten years already and because Patlabor is simply a really niche show over here. It's been very encouraging of the kind of mindset that Bandai Visual has in regards to its titles and what they want to accomplish.

That said, Patlabor 2 is very hard to describe without giving a lot away, as the movie is about peeling away the layers of society through the story and said societies relationship with the outside world. Written as a near-future story with really only one element of science fiction (the Patlabors themselves, which are very underused in this movie), much of it can be seen as an insight into the psyche of a national consciousness and give some understanding to the thinking behind it. Having an avid interest in Japanese society and culture, I really find such stories to be among the most interesting.

The storyline is almost entirely dialogue driven with the exception of the final ten minutes or so. Some brief bits of action are scattered throughout, but they primarily serve the storyline and not vice versa. The bulk of the story also focuses on the two Captains of Section 2. Through investigation and the changing level of panic in the country, the two work their way towards unraveling who is behind the terrorist attacks.

The movie contains very high production values and looks fantastic. The character designs are extremely well animated and designed. The flow and movements of each of the characters is dead on for the personalities, for the main characters at least. With the slow pace of the movie, the soundtrack also follows the same course with some subtle pieces playing throughout and the occasional big sweeping score.

There's one particular segment that really stands out on this disc is about halfway into it. The city has fallen under control of the civil government who uses the military to take hold of it. The citizens watch what's going on via their televisions and in the streets as the tanks and other personnel vehicles make their way throughout the city. Some of the soldiers are humanized, others are dangerous looking figures. All of this begins against the backdrop of a grim and gray fall season. As the sequence plays out, the days and nights get colder and the snows begin to fall in a most hypnotic fashion. The way its animated is gorgeous and blends quite well with the characters and the settings. Watching people walk through it, watching the tanks rolling by... the entire feel of the segment at this point is very somber.

In Summary:
Re-watching the Patlabor films after finally seeing all of the TV series and OVAs has been a real treat since I'm coming into them with much more understanding of the characters and dynamics, something that was completely lost on me the first time around. This movie is probably my second favorite of the franchise after WXIII since it's much more involved in talking about the social and cultural issues that change in the near future and explores them really well. It's rare for a company to start out with titles that many would consider to be jewel's in the crown of the catalog but Bandai Visual has done just so and their release of this film in such great treatment has me eagerly looking forward to whatever else they may do. Fans of this film are in for a real treat and have finally equaled the Japanese releases that we've longed for. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Teaser
trailer and commercial,Special Edition: Making Of Featurette,Special Edition: Archives Book,Special Edition: Storyboards Book

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
MSRP: 29.98/89.98
Running time: 118
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Patlabor