VOICES OF: Shigeru Chiba, Toshio Furukawa, Issei Futamata, Daisuke Gôri, Sharon Holm

1990, 100 Minutes, Directed by: Mamoru Oshii

Description: The year is 1999 and Tokyo's Mobile Police have a new weapon in the war on crime--advanced robots called Labors are used to combat the criminals who would use the new technology for illegal means. The suicide of a mysterious man on the massive Babylon Project construction site sets off a cascade of events that may signal the destruction of Tokyo. What is the connection between the suicide, the new mobile Police AV-XO Zero Labor, and a berserk prototype tank? When Patlabor cops Noah Izumi and Azuma Shinohara investigate an unexplained wave of rogue Labors rampaging across the city, they uncover a sinister revenge plot to infect Tokyo's population of 8,000 Labors with the deadly BABEL virus. With the future of the city hanging in the balance and a typhoon poised to trigger the devastation, Noah, Azuma, and their team mates must destroy the source of the virus--the giant Babylon Project tower in Tokyo Bay--in a battle to the finish.

In my review of Ghost in the Shell I said that Japanese animation (anime) can be more than a bunch of RoboTech type giant robots manned by wide-eyed Pokemon style kids beating the crap out of each other. You wouldn't think it watching Patlabor: The Movie (incidentally also directed by Mamoru Oshii, who would direct Ghost in the Shell later on).

Patlabor, yes, is about said robots, in this case, a police department in a future Japan (actually the movie takes place in a "future" 1999; the skewed chronology probably makes sense when one considers that this movie was made in 1990). However, while Patlabor adheres to a lot of anime clichés it actually doesn't feature a lot of robots beating the crap out of each other. 

Well, at least not until the last twenty minutes or so. Until then it is more of a techno-thriller, a sort of high-tech who-dunnit in which the malfunction of said giant robots (called "labors" in the movie) is being investigated - the sort of thing that Michael Crichton (Congo, Runaway) would write in his sleep.

If you're an anime fan then you'll find Patlabor to be quite satisfactory. In fact the animation is okay (some bits are quite good even) and the script is slightly more intelligent than some cheaper anime efforts. Unfortunately the story tends to wander and lose focus at times. 

Also, it is populated by some gratingly loud and irritating characters who get up to those juvenile shenanigans that anime makers probably think appeal to small children but will annoy anyone over the age of fourteen.

However, if you're new to anime, avoid Patlabor: The Movie. It'll probably put you off the genre and then you'll end up missing true gems like Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Wings of Honneamise.



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