Patlabor: The Movie (1990)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Country: Japan
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Writer: Kazunori Itô
Cast: Shigeru Chiba, Toshio Furukawa
Running Time: 100 Min

Plot: A mysterious suicide and a series of unmanned robot run-aways sparks off a Police investigation into the suspicious software on-board thousands of industrial robots around Tokyo. Step by step, the police find themselves tangled up by the web of a perfect crime which awaits the approaching Typhoon to activate thousands of virus affected robots. As time runs out, Asuma and his team must complete a task that is doomed to be a failure before the Typhoon lands Tokyo.

This early Mamoru Oshii political thriller series is strong on mood and atmosphere. It’s set in the near future, when mankind has begun to rather consistently employ giant robot suits for labor purposes. The oddball bunch of heroes of these film are the first-ever cadre of metropolitan police for investigating crimes perpetrated with the giant mechanized suits.

It’s worth the time it takes to watch, just for the moody, beautiful artwork and Oshii’s requisite wordless connective scene in the middle of the movie. It’s a fun techno-political thriller that seriously addresses concerns of technology running out of our control.

The Patlabor police force itself is made up of extremely endearing characters, and therein lies the enduring charm of this series of series (it began as a 7-episode OAV series, graduated to two movies, a second OAV series, and a very bad television show). The human element these characters bring to the films make these movies more immediately accessible than Oshii’s more complex Ghost in the Shell.

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