Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII -

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Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: Bandai Visual
  • MSRP: ¥10,290
  • Running time: 105
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Patlabor

Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII

By Chris Beveridge     November 05, 2007
Release Date: October 26, 2007

Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII
© Bandai Visual

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!

The Review!
Operating more as a police procedural than anything else, the WXIII movie delves into the larger world of Patlabor in intriguing ways.

Unlike the two previous films, this one comes out a bit weaker in comparison with what's included. While an English dub has been created in the past, it's not included here and we're instead getting only two versions of the original Japanese language. The first is a surprisingly bland stereo PCM mix which is done at 1.5mbps. This mix is good for what it is and does come across stronger with the forward soundstage but it sacrifices the directionality and overall sense of atmosphere to do it. Where this film shines is in the inclusion of the TrueHD 5.1 mix. The depth and clarity of the TrueHD mix gives it a much richer and deeper feel. There is a good deal of surround effects during the busier action sequences and it has some solid placement and clarity to it that you don't get to the same level on the 2.0 mix. The majority of the film is fairly quiet however and filled with a score that accents it perfectly.

Originally in theaters back in 2002, this film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is encoded using AVC. Depending on displays, this may have some slight letterbox bars across the top and bottom. Using a dual layered 50gb Blu-ray disc, the bitrate for the show typically runs into the mid to high thirties with several bursts into the low forties. While the first film showed off a lot of elements from the cel animation itself and the second one was cleaner, this film really feels like a theatrical production. The overall image is much more solid looking even with the minimal amount of grain throughout it. There's still some speckling here and there and a few panning sequences provide for some very minor line shimmering but these are negligible in the overall look of the film. Colors are vibrant and bold when required and the detail is all the more apparent and rich here. The previous DVD release from Geneon was a stunner on our equipment back then and the presentation is no less so here on an even larger screen with far more detail visible in it.

Bucking the trend of every other Blu-ray release out there, this box set release of the BD and DVD are done in standard thickness keepcases. The heavy chipboard box has a solid feel to it as it uses the cover art that now seems to be dominant for the series with WXIII moving about underwater. The background wraps around to the back of the box which also has a listing of some of the shows creative staff. All of this is in English which is consistent with the previous Blu-ray releases. All of the packages technical details are kept on the obi around the box as it has two technical grids to cover both the BD and DVD details. The Blu-ray keepcase has a new piece of artwork I hadn't seen before with an action piece featuring the Patlabor and WXIII going at it in the stadium. The DVD edition features a pencil sketch version of Misaki while various backgrounds from the film flesh out the rest of it. A booklet is included with numerous shots from the film and several pages worth of discussions and interviews that are in Japanese.

Due to this only having one language on it and apparently no intention of being ported for a US release, it goes right to the film with just the usual round of Japanese warnings. The top level menu is rather basic with a the box artwork used to provide the atmosphere with no music or animation tied to it. The bottom has the standard navigation selections with a very simple design to it that doesn't really evoke anything from the film itself. The submenus load quickly but you do have to select them, you can't push up and have them pop-up above the main menu as they get swapped out instead. The pop-up menu works in the same way during the film with the exception of an extra button to close out the pop-up menu.

The US release was done up as a big special edition which included lots of production material and the Mini-Pato releases. Nothing is included here beyond a trailer which is very unfortunate.

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 its 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 spin-off 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.
Though it's been a few years since I last saw this film, it's not unlike the others in the franchise in that you keep noticing more and more details with each viewing. 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.

In Summary:
Experiencing all three Patlabor films over the course of this year has been a lot of fun. During previous viewings I had only so much context for them since the TV series and OVAs weren't available. Going into it now with a different perspective has helped to flesh it out even more and I do find my appreciation of them only going up. Bandai Visual has put together a great looking and solid sounding release here but it's a step down in comparison to the first two. The lack of the English language dub as well as their continued lack of extras is bothersome. Yet at the same time, I'm buying these for the movies themselves and the presentation there is just solid. This release also appears to be one of the last where they're including what is really a useless DVD version so that's definitely appreciated. If only they'd knock something off of the price in doing so. Patlabor WXIII fans will likely enjoy this quite a lot, especially if their expectations are on par with the previous two films.

Japanese 5.1 TrueHD Language,Japanese PCM Language,English Subtitles,Trailer

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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