a.k.a. WXIII: Kido Keisatsu Patoreba
Terrible accidents around Tokyo Bay have detective Kusumi and Hata both confused and worried. Whatever dwells in the cold water seems to be getting hungrier or angrier or both. Their investigation will reveal humans have a role to play in the development and well-being of the creature, and that this whole case smells fishier than Tokyo Bay. Hata’s new acquaintance, the beautiful biologist Saeko, also seems connected to the mysterious affair. This humble civil servant will have to set his priorities straight for the sake of national security.
summary by Kjeldoran
Highs: Dramatic approach; real characters; fantastic artwork and animation
Lows: Not very introspective; irregular development
With Patlabor: The Movie and Patlabor II: The Movie director Oshii Mamoru declining the offer for a third movie, many, including myself, had no idea what to expect of this new Madhouse production with a budget of Gainax proportions. The storyline was adapted from one of the many manga, Waste No. 13, hence “WXIII”, so all were relieved to see the new one stayed true to the tradition of demanding movies.
New director Takayama Fumihiko (Bubblegum Crisis, Gundam 0080) studied the first two movies well. Patlabor III: The Movie has exactly the same feel and pace of its two predecessors with a good dose of corrupted officials and dark pasts discovered in a plausible investigation. The biology theme is interesting but does not leave room for much philosophy, making me miss the former political and philosophical profiles. Take that away from a slow-paced and intellectual movie and you are not left with much. The intrigue is still present, thankfully. It culminates about halfway when you finally see the creature under every angle; a second, more human, intrigue develops from there, leading to the inevitable action-packed ending. Surprise, surprise, however, it actually integrates well in the storyline this time.
Animation does not get much better than this. Even with barely any help from computers, Patlabor III: The Movie has as many details as the first two movies but is also smoother; expect nothing less from Wings of Honneamise art director Ogura Hiromasa. Music surfaces at the right moments and is mildly enjoyable even if it must be a bore as a standalone soundtrack, with the exception of the splendid ending theme.
Patlabor III: The Movie can stand on its own without relying on the series or movies as crutches. It does include cameos of characters from previous installments, but while these are not necessary, they do not hurt the flow, either. It is a long way from the previous philosophical reflection, but still manages to grip the viewer with human drama.
Highs: Artistic, powerful ending; typically complex Patlabor story
Lows: First hour agonizingly slow; too many bleak, flat characters
The Patlabor movies have been, without a doubt, some of the more intelligent and complex anime most fans will ever have the pleasure of watching. This complexity can thank a virtually unparalleled attention to detail; biology, philosophy, religion, psychology… any science that affects the human psyche and human interaction has been given the red carpet treatment when it came to research. Perhaps a bit more of said research should have been done on the characters, too.
The best way to describe Patlabor III: The Movie is a Shakespearian play performed by a cast of first-year understudies. The characters in this movie are very realistic in not only their appearance but also their mannerisms, but that is where any connection between them and real people ends. Most of them are extremely two-dimensional; I had a hard time actually caring about what was happening to anyone because of this. There is a very muted, very falsetto hint of a relationship between Hata and Saeko that is contrived and unbelievable.
A lack of any personality makes the events of the first hour fairly dull. Had it not been for the interesting plot, I’d likely have fallen asleep several times. The good news is that the final half hour takes an amazing turn towards a moving finale. The mix of action, superb camera angles and traditional piano pieces top off an otherwise unimpressive movie… impressively. It almost makes the first hour worth the price of admission.
Looking back on it all, the title for this movie is misleading. If you’ve picked up this title expecting a plethora of sweet, mecha action, you’ll walk away disappointed. Heck, the Patlabors themselves don’t even make an appearance until the very end, and even then their cameos are brief. For a usual Patlabor story, however, this ranks as one of the best.
Mobile Police Patlabor III: The Movie can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.