Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII Special Edition -

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 59.98
  • Running time: 320
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Patlabor

Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII Special Edition

By Chris Beveridge     September 19, 2005
Release Date: April 08, 2003

Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII Special Edition
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Veteran police detective Kusumi and his young partner Hata search for the cause of several deadly labor accidents in and around Tokyo Bay. Each detective applies their own style of investigation and they soon uncover a labyrinth of deceit with connections to the Japanese and American militaries! As they continue their investigation, Kusumi begins to suspect Hata’s new girlfriend, Saeko, a genetic research scientist may be involved.

However, neither is prepared for their encounter with the ravenous biological weapon, WXIII: Wasted Thirteen. While the detectives are the only survivors of the encounter, the government covers up the incident, and they must work with the military to lure the monster into a brutal showdown with the Patlabors of Special Vehicle Unit 2!

This special edition version will also include a full DVD of the Mini-Pato animated parody short films featuring screenplays by Mamoru Oshii, directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Jinroh, Blood), and character designs and animation by Tetsuya Nishio (Jinroh)!

The Review!
With it almost ten years since the second movie came out, Patlabor returns to the big screen again, though some will cry foul over it even being called a Patlabor movie. But for those who absolutely end up loving this film, this three volume special edition set is a must-have.

For our primary viewing session, we went with the original Japanese language track that was mixed in 5.1 for the Japanese theatrical/DVD run. This is a solid and quite enjoyable mix as it’s very subtle for the most part, with a lot of small background noises being used in the rear speakers and some occasional dialogue to enhance a scene. The rear speakers get more use towards the combat sequence towards the end, but throughout 90% of the movie it’s used to really enhance the mood and add to the eerie nature of things. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout this track and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

The transfer here is nothing short of breathtaking, with a large part of that owed to the stunningly realistic visuals that are here. This print, which seems to replicate the Japanese special edition release quite faithfully, is just gorgeous to look at. There are some scenes where the detail is just amazing, such as when the train goes by and if you look closely at the red paint you can see areas where it’s flecking and cracking, but it’s just so hard to see against the motion. Cross coloration and aliasing are pretty much non-issues here as this anamorphic print simply lets the gorgeous animation shine through.

This is one of the weaker boxes from Pioneer so far as it lacks the hardness of all their others, but overall it does look good and has a quality feel to the type of material used. The front is done up in black with the logo in silver against the brushed bio-hazard like symbol while there’s some Japanese text along the side. The back cover provides a listing of what’s on each disc as well as a massive grid showcasing all the features, what languages, subtitles and running time they have. This is one of the most informative pieces I’ve ever seen. The spine goes for a nice simple look with all black and the silver logo along the bottom.

The cover design for the movie release uses an interesting painted style to it that has it looking less like anime than most releases and a bit more like something that would appeal to the mainstream. The design used, with the claws coming halfway across the image, works well in separating the two main pieces, which is the characters along the top who take up the bulk of the show and the labor and its action moments along the bottom, which brings about the conclusion of the show. The back cover provides a handful of actual shots from the show and a few paragraphs of summary that doesn’t give away a whole lot, but some of the surprises. The discs features and production information is all clearly listed, though with a few extra bits since this film is MPAA rated R.

The MiniPato disc is in a white keepcase and reflects the ultra cuteness of the design with character shots and the small Patlabors running across the top. The back cover provides more shots from the show and gives an idea of what the premise is and a good listing of the extras. The insert shows more from the show and provides the features/runtime listing from the box set here for just this volume.

The Supplemental Disc is a simple gray piece with the symbol on the front and a sidebar with the text. The back cover breaks down what each of the features on the disc is while there is the grid containing all the features/runtime and languages available from the main box set grid for this volume. The reverse side of the cover has a great full color piece showcasing various scenes from the film. The insert has the features listings again as well as providing the chapter listings for the documentaries.

The box also includes an small booklet that’s just filled with more information. From production notes to interviews with the staff, full color artwork and a relationship chart. It even flips over halfway through to become a booklet for MiniPato which has its own production notes and making of segments as well as lots of color pictures.

Providing one of the most seamless looking menus yet, Nightjar has created a great visual piece here with the main menu looking like a computer screen layout of the future with the various selectable areas. Moving between menus is a breeze with brief transitional pieces that seem to mesh without break. Dialogue and subtitle selection is particularly solid as once the selection is made, the results show up in two areas, with the bottom area actually spelling out what you’ll get, which just looks great. With the handful of menus they’ve already done this year, they’ve got some contenders for the best of their work yet.

Movie Disc Extras:
The extras on the movie disc itself are very minimal. What we do get here is a couple of Japanese trailers with subtitles, some US TV spots, the US trailers and a glossary of Patlabor terms for those new to the Patlabor realm.

MiniPato Disc:
This release kills me. Right from the opening Nightjar menu, I was done in by laughter in seeing the 3D CG Puppets of Goto and others running across the screen and just being themselves. This is a great release that brings a special sense of humor this series and brings back the same actors in the Japanese version, which is great to hear them have fun and get into it all again. There’s three episodes on the disc with a total runtime of those being just over thirty minutes. The episodes range from informative (with Goto explaining revolver mechanics in his own way), wacky (as the mechanics prove they’re the real leads in the series) to the mysterious as Nagumo details a secret page from the SVU2 files.

While Pioneer could have just slapped that onto an existing extras disc, they went the extra mile for MiniPato fans. There’s a textless opening, a hidden textless opening with karaoke (that I admit to not finding yet), the TV commercial spots for it and a 35 minute Making Of segment. This segment was a real treat to watch in seeing the Headgear folks get so into puppets and what they did to make it all a reality. In addition to all the extras, the three episodes themselves are done up in Japanese or English 5.1 as well as a Japanese 2.0 track. I especially had fun with the dub for this, particularly the second episode, since the actor just had to go so over the top at times and try to keep up with the pure insanity of it all.

MiniPato rocks.

Supplemental Disc:
For those who love the movie, this is where you can let your film geek out to try absorb all the details about it and the Patlabor universe. The extras here have a combined running time of over 2 ½ hours. Every time you finish a segment, you realize just how much more there is to delve into. This is in its own clear keepcase with a simple gray exterior cover with the biohazard symbol while the reverse side of it features a complete collage of pictures from the film itself. All the extras on the disc are in Japanese 2.0 and are subtitled with one exception and all of the documentaries have multiple chapter spots, making it very easy to stop and start.

The first documentary is “All About Patlabor WXIII” which is much more than that, as they give you the timeline of Patlabor’s creation in general and how it progressed through different series over the years, to the two movies, MiniPato and up to WXIII. It’s great to hear the creators and actors talk about their continual love for the property and just how prophetic a lot of areas of it really is. There’s very little fluff here and it’s a treat to see some of the old episodes, manga and more. This runs 24 minutes.

The second documentary is “Behind Patlabor WXIII” and is a more focused look at just the movie itself and what went into it. They go and talk about the manga that the storyline originally came from, the why’s behind minimalizing the SVU2 group as well as a lot of the fun movie magic parts such as the music and the artwork style that they used. This runs 29 minutes.

The third documentary, “Meet the Cast” is a great piece that gives the actors a chance to talk about their roles, how they were cast and some of the things the director made them do to try and find the right voice for each of the new characters. I was really interested in seeing how the dynamic between them all was like. Seeing the actors for both Kusumi and Hata performing together in their roles was a lot of fun, as well as hearing Hata and Saeko’s actors talk about the way their characters relationship was growing. This runs 28 minutes.

A curious addition, and one that I wish could have been done just a bit better, but will still enjoy it regardless. Running just under an hour is the “Say Young 21” episode, this is the variety/entertainment radio show in Japan that hosted a Patlabor Theatrical Release Eve Party. So what we get is the voice actors from the series and some of the creative staff performing a radio drama. On the plus side, since there’s no real picture to associate with it, Pioneer has placed the production artwork from the film to play alongside with the audio. The downside? It’s not subtitled. A lot of fans have been asking for radio dramas to be licensed and presented to US fans and this is the first time I think it’s been done. Can it work? I hope that it can (subtitled of course), because these kinds of programs are just great and unique. Just listening to this without being able to understand it, I was able to get into many parts of it and enjoy it. I hope someone takes a chance on getting something like this again and doing it subtitled.

The 1997 Pilot Film, which runs just over two minutes, is also included on this disc and shows just how long this film was in production. It’s interesting to see what scenes were completed so early into the production and what they chose to try and sell the premise of the film with.

The final extra here, and one that impressed me greatly on the Japanese release, is a six minute 5.1 Sound Art Gallery. This gallery takes a number of the very detailed and very gorgeous backgrounds from the film and gives the viewer a chance to really soak in the detail and just how well done they are. This tends to get lost as the film plays and we get absorbed in the world, but taken by itself, there are a number of pieces I’d love to have framed and on my walls.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When it comes to Patlabor movies, it’s usually no surprise by now that there’s usually very little Labor action in them, particularly from the TV/OVA series leads in the Special Vehicle Unit 2. While that’s not unusual, what’s set Patlabor WXIII even more apart from the others is that the SVU2 group has even less screen time here. The story here is more of a standard police detective piece, but it’s set in the world of Patlabor and deals with them, and uses the Patlabor name really as a reference point of what to expect. Instead of constructing a new world to tell a story, the kind that’s fairly timeless, it uses an already built one and tells its tale, but also fleshes out that world beyond what we already know.

That, to me, is one of the draws of anime. Side stories and tales such as this are often ignored in US television and movies, or just relegated to spinoff materials that most of the audience will never hear about. With this, it gets a large budget and a theatrical run in several countries.

The story here focuses primarily on two detectives that have been teamed together for a bit. There’s the older and more experienced Kusumi who is recovering from a wound and uses a brace to help him walk about. His partner is the young and eager Hata. Both have their pluses and minuses, the type of partnership where the two do complement each other nicely, but also provides some moments where they can rub up against each other. You have the moments where Hata utilizes the net to get information with ease, as well as being able to pick up on the smallest of details to realize something, but you also have Kusumi with all the experience and the knowledge of things that are no longer current that come back to play. When living in a digital world, it’s easy to forget that analog things can still affect it.

The two end up assigned to dealing with some mysterious goings-on in Tokyo Bay lately, which has resulted in some rather grisly deaths and disappearances. There’s talk among the fishing community about giant fish and other mysterious things, leading to some tall tales. The two go about their investigations both together and separately, each using their own natural skills to glean bits of information. For Hata, the story also touches upon a potential romance with a woman he gave a ride to, Saeko Misaki. Initially knowing her as a teacher at a local university, he ends up coming across her later on in a research company where he learns that she’s a rather involved scientist.

A good part of the early half of the movie is spent getting to know the characters, the budding subtle romance and the investigation itself, as well as the continuing missing people. Everything changes drastically though when the power goes out at one of the massive storage stations at the Babylon Project in the bay. Kusumi and Hata end up with a couple of uniformed officers at the scene and investigate what’s going on, trying to find out why the power went off. The entire situation goes to hell when the emergency power comes on and the red lights go up everywhere and ends up revealing a massive, well, monster that starts chasing anyone it comes across and outright eats them. The monster proceeds to go after the two detectives, and we get an engaging and thrilling chase sequence inside this structure as the beast thunders across hunting for them.

It’s from here that things get intriguing, as they try to discover what the creature was, where it came from and how to deal with it all while the higher-ups in the government are trying to cover it up. Probably one of the best aspects of this is that Goto from SVU2 gets involved in a few ways as he and Kusumi apparently know each other, which brings in a nice new level to things. Goto’s style and attitude is always welcome on screen and he fits perfectly into the tense situation with his laid back style.

This release is the third time in the last six months that I’ve seen this film, and each time I keep noticing more and more details. And with each viewing, I get even more impressed with just how gorgeous the visuals are. The characters themselves are what we’ve come to expect from Patlabor movies with their realistic look, but it’s the city itself that becomes a full character in this film. At times, it looks so completely realistic that it’s almost breathtaking. Some of my favorite sequences are the quietest ones, where it’s pouring hard outside and just seeing that rain come down, combined with the audio mix, it’s so close to being there.

To me, the Patlabor movies have always been a hard sell. In their own way, they irk hardcore Patlabor fans since the SVU2 cast isn’t huge in it, or it’s just one or two characters. The mecha fans don’t get too excited since they’re relegated to one or two key sequences. The ones who end up loving this stuff the most are the ones who come for the story. Patlabor: WXIII has a great detective story with an enjoyable and well rounded cast. The films kept me wrapped up in it for its entire length without checking the clock once during any of the three viewings. I’ve found this movie to be quite engaging and definitely high on the repeat viewing list. It’s an easy recommendation for those who enjoyed the first, as they’re definitely close in style.

For those waffling between the Special Edition release and the regular version, I’m finding it near impossible to not recommend the SE over the other. There is just a huge wealth of material across the two extra discs here that it’s a shame not to see them. The MiniPato piece alone is worth the price of admission!

Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Original Trailers,Patlabor Glossary,MiniPato Episodes,MiniPato Textless opening (with a sing-a-long feature),MiniPato TV commercials,MiniPato Making Of,Layout gallery with the "Say Young" radio program, 5.1 Channel Sound Gallery,1997 project pilot film,Behind Patlabor Documentary,Meet the Cast Documentary,Behind Patlabor WXIII Documentary

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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