Patlabor: The Movie -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Beez
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Patlabor

Patlabor: The Movie

By Bryan Morton     August 07, 2006
Release Date: June 26, 2006

Patlabor: The Movie
© Beez

What They Say
"PATLABOR came along and changed everything" - Mamoru Oshii

A milestone film that paved the way for GHOST IN THE SHELL, director Mamoru Oshii's PATLABOR THE MOVIE gets a complete makeover for this edition, offering brand new re-mastered visuals and improved 5.1 surround audio never before released in the UK.

Set in an alternate 1999 in Tokyo where advanced robotic vehicles called Labors are heavily relied on to reshape the city, a maverick team of the Metropolitan Police force tries to uncover and thwart a devilish computer crime aimed at the heart of the Labor industry. As a powerful typhoon approaches the city and the schemes of a mad genius start to take full effect, time is running out for the team of Special Vehicles Section 2 to act on the offensive, or risk citywide devastation by eight thousand Labors gone berserk!

The Review!
The remastered edition of Patlabor's first big-screen outing arrives on UK shores, and with Mamoru Oshii as director, you just know you're in for something that's intended to make you think a little.

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 1989, 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, with the animation being almost free of nicks and scratches, and the detail in backgrounds is clear to see. As with the R1 release, though, the black levels aren't great, which creates some noticeable problems with the encode as black & grey areas tend to exhibit some blocking.

The release comes in a white keepcase and includes a 16-page booklet that gives the history of the Patlabor series, along with character profiles and technical info on some of the Labors seen in the movie. The front cover of the packaging has Noa, cheerfully guarding a police line with a shotgun slung over her shoulder and her almost lifelike-looking Labor in the background. The rear cover has the usual promotional paragraph and screenshots.

Very simple but effective menus for this release, with no background music or effects and very little in the way of animation. The main menu features two motionless Labors, hazard lights flashing while the clouds scud by behind them. Submenus are provided for Scene Access, Language Setup and Extras.

The standard edition is a bit light on extras, with just a promotional video, the theatrical trailer and 2 TV spots. There is a £59.99 limited edition version of the movie that's rather more heavily loaded with extras, but sadly that's not what I have to hand.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Tokyo, 1999, and the city has become heavily dependent on the robotic machines known as Labors - manned mecha used to carry out any number of tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans to do. They're primarily used for construction work - 45% of the Labors in Japan are in use on the Babylon Project, a massive engineering scheme to reclaim land from Tokyo Bay - but they have other uses as well. Unfortunately, organised crime is one of them, and so the Tokyo Metropolitan Police have a unit dedicated to handling Labor-related incidents: Special Vehicles Section 2, or SV2.

Officers Noa Izumi and Asuma Shinohara are part of SV2's 2nd Unit (the under-trained rookie squad), who have been covering for the 1st Unit while they've been training on the new Type Zero Labors. They've been having to deal with an increasing number of rogue Labors recently - Labors whose operators have lost control of them and have gone on the rampage - and the heavy damage that usually goes along with these incidents is causing the public to lose confidence in Labors, despite their obvious benefits. The official explanation for the incidents in "operator error" - the manufacturers aren't about to admit to fatal flaws in their products - but when it's realised that all the rogue Labors were using a new version of the system OS, it begins to become apparent that someone's trying to destroy the Labor industry from the inside - and Noa, Asuma and SV2 will play a key role in averting disaster.

The perpetrator appears to have been Ei'ichi Hoba, the man responsible for coding Shinohara Heavy Industries' newest Labor operating system, HOS " but with Hoba apparently dead after throwing himself off the roof of the Labor maintenance facility known as the Ark, finding his motivations or stopping his plans looks to be an almost impossible task.

Despite guns and mecha making an appearance on the front cover, it's important to stress that, while Patlabor does have a few action scenes, it's not an action movie " it's a police investigation story, with the Labors for the most part just being one aspect of modern Japan that the story has to incorporate. Throughout the movie it's clear that the Labors are just an everyday, accepted part of society, being used for jobs that you could realistically see giant robots being used for, and certainly nothing out of the ordinary. With Big Business heavily involved in the Labor industry, there are some in the police who would rather not rock the boat by reporting that HOS seems to be the problem here, so a lot of the investigation work is done by Asuma while he's off duty. He really comes off as the star of the show, as he's responsible for most of the gruntwork that helps to open up Hoba's scheme, and takes the lion's share of the screentime as well. He has personal connections to SHI, but that doesn't stop him from giving his all to the investigation " something that marks him out as someone with real integrity.

There are other characters here " super-technician Shige, responsible for maintaining SV2's Labors, unit commander Gotoh, and others " but they really only play bit parts in this story. From what I understand they all feature in other parts of the Patlabor franchise (as well as the movies there are OVA and TV series), and their appearances here feel more like they're been slotted in just to have their moments. They're an interesting bunch of people, but I would have liked to see a little more of them that we get here.

The other character to get a good outing is Noa, Patlabor pilot and Asuma's friend & partner. For the first two-thirds or so of the movie she comes across almost as the comic relief, but once the story moves into the more action-based scenes towards the end of the film, she really comes into her own. She's the sort of person who sees her Labor almost as another living being, and is capable of becoming quite attached to and emotional about them " something I'm not quite sure I can relate to " but she's also a dedicated police officer, quite happy to put herself on the line if it'll get the job done.

As you'd expect from Mamoru Oshii, Patalbor is quite slow-moving, with plenty of scenes where nothing's really happening other than the characters walking around, talking to each other and trying to work out amongst themselves just what Hoba was planning. That gives the movie a very relaxed feel, but it never gets to the point of being boring. Action's restricted to two main scenes, one at the beginning and another at the end of the film, but in each one the Labors are given a good outing to show what they're capable of " a little something for any viewers who expect their mecha to fight instead of do useful work.

In Summary:
Patlabor looks good for its age, thanks to the remastering work, while the story itself is slow but never dull " the way Asuma's investigation unfolds is fascinating, with none of the usual unlikely surprises you sometimes get in police shows. Add a cast of interesting characters, and you have a film that holds together really well and is just easy and enjoyable to watch. Well worth checking out, even if you haven't had any other exposure to the Patlabor series.

Japanese Language 5.1,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Promotional Teaser Clip,Theatrical Trailer,TV Spots

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


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