Patlabor 2: The Movie (of 1) (

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Release Date: Monday, October 30, 2006

What They Say
The Winter of our Discontent

The neglected masterpiece of internationally-acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii, and one of the very finest anime films ever made, 1993's Patlabor 2 is completely remastered for this DVD edition. This disc features enhanced visual together with new Dolby 5.1 surround sound for both English and Japanese.

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 Forces 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... Ominous, beautiful, suspenseful and poetic, Patlabor 2 deserves the term 'visionary' in every sense of the word.

The Review!
Patlabor returns for its second big-screen outing, and once again Mamoru Oshii gives us plenty to think about before delivering any real action.

Patlabor comes with two audio tracks - 5.1 mixes of both the English and Japanese tracks. I listened to the Japanese track for this review, which is a remaster created for the 1999 Japanese DVD release. This is a very dialogue-heavy film, and good use is made of the available channels to accurately place voices and sound effects across the soundstage. Action sequences are a small part of the film, but these come across very well. There were no obvious problems.

Originally released in 1993, the video for Patlabor was also given the remastering treatment in 1999, producing the anamorphic widescreen print used for this release. For the most part the result is extremely good looking, and the detail in backgrounds is clear to see. While the first Patlabor DVD had some issues with black levels and blocking, there's none of that visible here.

The front cover has Shinobu, Labor behind her, standing in the snow-bound city - a very atmospheric piece of artwork. The rear cover has a few screenshots, along with the usual promotional paragraph & techincal information. A sixteen-page colour booklet is included, which gives a map of Tokyo showing locations from the movie, photos of modern-day Japan, details of the Labors used and profiles of the major characters.

As with the first movie, the menus here are simple but effective, with a lone Labor standing in the snow with a helicopter hover silently behind. Options are provided for Scene Access, language setup and extras, and it's all quick and easy to use.

Not much in the way of trailers with the release, as all the good stuff has been held over for the limited edition release. There's a short 1-minute 'teaser' film, the original theatrical trailer, and a selection of TV spots. Nothing really worth writing home about.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
It's three years after the events of the first Patlabor movie - Noa and Asuma have moved on from SV2, and are now both working for Shinohara Heavy Industries, helping to develop and test the new generation of Labors. Their old 2nd Unit is still on the go, though, and still under Gotoh's command - although he's finding it harder to deal with his new recruits, compared to the days when Noa and Izumi were on the squad. With SV2's future under question after a large drop in Labor-related crime in Tokyo, though, he may not have to deal with them for much longer. A missile attack on the Yokohama Bay Bridge - the latest in a string of apparent terrorist attacks - brings an end to quiet days, though, especially when the JASDF are implicated in the attack.

Gotoh and Nagumo, who's temporarily in charge of SV2 while its future is decided, are approached by a JSDF investigator, Shigeki Arakawa. He's traced a fighter plane involved in the bridge attack to the US military, who claim it had been stolen from them shortly before the incident. It's Arakawa's belief that the attack was masterminded by one Yukihito Tsuge, a former military officer & someone who Nagumo knows well - she trained under him while he was in charge of a project looking into the military potential of Labors. Now Arakawa wants their help in capturing Tsuge. As the attacks continue, though, the politicians begin to get involved and Tokyo slides towards martial law...

As ever with Mamoru Oshii's movies, Patlabor 2 majors on the dialogue and leaves the action to take a back seat until towards the end of the movies, and leans heavily on particular themes that are intended to make the audience think a bit about what they're seeing. In this case, the major theme is war and peace, and how a dose of war can perhaps be a healthy thing sometimes. Tsuge's attacks are intended to provoke one, and SV2 find themselves at the forefront of efforts to thwart his plans. With most of the story being seen through the eyes of SV2's commanders, and through some very long-winded exposition scenes, you need to be patient to get the most out of it " everything you need to know about what's happening on-screen is eventually explained, but there's also quite a lot of seemingly irrelevant philosophical musings along the way. In that respect this reminded me a lot of Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, although here it doesn't come across as being quite so preachy or superior.

Without wanting to get too much into political territory, another thing that struck me was how much this could be seen as a case where life has imitated art " if it had been made after to 9/11 or 7/7 attacks, I'm sure there would have been claims that the movie was some sort of allegory on how society & politicians responded to the terrorist threat, and looking at it from that angle adds a different layer to the story that makes it all the more appealing.

My taste in anime usually runs more to the action side of the scale than to stories you need to think about, so on the surface this is exactly the sort of story I would normally pass on " what action there is, is restricted to the final 20 minutes or so of the movie, and the rest is so heavy with dialogue that you daren't not pay attention. But partly because of the high production values " this film really looks & sounds the part " and because the events of the world portrayed on screen can be seen to tie in so well with recent real-world events, Patlabor 2 managed to grab me and not let go until the final credits ran.

In summary:
I don't know that I'd be quite so gushing about describing Patlabor 2 as whoever wrote the blurb on the back of the keepcase, but this is still one impressive movie. Watch it when you've got time to give it your full attention, and you'll be richly rewarded with a movie that delivers a powerful social commentary through the eyes of its lead characters, without being so heavy-handed that you feel you're being lectured. Highly recommended.

Japanese Language 5.1,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Trailers

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 118
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Patlabor