DVD Cover, sourced from www.wikipedia.org

DVD Cover, sourced from http://www.wikipedia.org

For all that it is much more polished I find that I now like Patlabor 2: The Movie considerably less [1] than Patlabor: The Movie.

There is still a lot to like about Patlabor 2, but it is a much more alienating film than its predecessor. I find this to be a trend in director Mamoru Oshii’s work that would continue until Ghost in the Shell became a film that really didn’t work for me.

Visually Patlabor 2 is a superb film, and it contains a lot of interesting developments.

In the time between the movies most of the characters have moved on to different roles – Noa is a test pilot for new Labors, Ota is teaching marksmanship [2] at the academy, etc – but are called back together as events spin out of control.

The story itself owes a lot to the earlier OAVs, particularly the two-parter The SV2’s Longest Day, only now it Captain Nagumo who has the history with the insurgent military officer. Unlike Goto’s friendship in the OAVs, Nagumo’s is a romantic history, and this is given as the reason for her relatively slow promotions etc.

There is a degree of sexism here that I’m not ready to spend a lot of time unpacking [3], but Captain Nagumo still comes across as a strong female character for the most part, and as an effective leader in the final action sequences.

The movie length allows for a longer, and more chilling, build up to the takeover of Tokyo by the renegade elements of the JSDF. The ominous visuals, and eerie soundtrack, for this section of the film are still as effective as ever.

Less effective is the attempt to philosophise around the insurgency; the ideas of a “fake peace” and an “unreal war” really don’t make much sense to me. The movie actually works best if you accept that Yukihito Tsuge’s real motive is revenge for the loss of his peacekeeping unit in Southeast Asia through lack of support.

More convincing is the idea from Goto that, fake or not, it is the duty of the police to defend the peace that does exist.

Overall Patlabor 2 is still a visually compelling film, with a lot of good character work that somehow seems to be lacking a point. This is still a film I’ll come back to over time, but it is a relatively marginal recommendation compared to Patlabor 1.

[1] This is why the Patlabor 1 review became the Twenty Days review and Patlabor 2 is just another review. I want the Twenty Days series to cover a wide range of directors if possible, and Patlabor 1 is already the second Mamoru Oshii film in the list.

[2] The idea of Ota being let loose on cadets is hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

[3] To start with it seems that most of the consequences of the relationship fell on Nagumo and not on Tsuge.