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Patlabor 2 the Movie

 

Review by Chris Guanche

October 26, 2012

 

Summary

 

In 1999, UN Lhada pilot Yukihito Tsuge falls back as he comes under attack in Southeast Asia. UN Hannibal labors are ordered to hold position as enemy forces advance on their position. Tsuge asks for permission to engage the enemy and is denied. Several Hannibals are destroyed by RPG fire, so Tsuge fires the Lhada's machine gun in response. However, an enemy tank fires its cannon and hits the Lhada. Later, a wounded Tsuge crawls out of the Lhada after enemy forces move on. In 2002, Noa tests out a prototype labor frame at the Shinohara Heavy Industries factory. Asuma adds a cat to the cockpit simulation, but Noa is able to avoid it. After the test, Noa and Asuma ride on a bicycle and talk about the new labor control system they're testing. Asuma takes Noa over to the hangar where Ingram Unit 1 is stored. Noa comments that it's been a year since they stopped using the Ingrams, and Asuma notes that they're just used as a testbed for data collection now. Asuma suggests that Noa take Alphonse for a spin, but she answers that she doesn't need to anymore. Elsewhere, a police cadet uses a Lehrer training labor during target practice and misses, which earns him an earful from instructor Ota and an order to run five laps. Ota continues to yell at his trainees and is asked why they have to learn to use manual controls when nearly every function is done on auto. Ota asks the trainee what he would do if his control system was malfunctioning and his partner's unit was disabled. Ota decides to show them how it's done and hits the target in one shot. However, he pulls out his stun stick and destroys the target, which causes Shinshi to yell at him for wrecking valuable equipment. At the SV2 station house, Shige works on a Clash Buster and is informed that Goto has a visitor. The visitor, a young officer, speaks with Hiromi before finding Goto fishing. The officer informs Goto that Shinobu will be back later than expected. Shinobu gives a presentation at a police conference and notes that with the completion of the Babylon Project, labor use has dropped off in Tokyo but increased in other cities as they begin heavy construction projects. As a result, labor crime has increased and police departments across Japan have either created or are considering labor units. After the conference, Shinobu runs into two former classmates in the elevator who congratulate her on her promotion to SV2 Acting Chief. One of them mentions that the Tsuge School graduates are getting together, but Shinobu declines the invitation. One of them mentions Tsuge's disappearance after the peacekeeping mission, and Shinobu mentions that she received only one letter from him after his return.

 

Shinobu hits the road and calls Shige for a status report, but he tells her that everything has been quiet so far. The traffic in front of Shinobu on the Yokohane Expressway comes to a stop, and a Road Runner traffic labor drives over the cars. Shinobu calls the pilots to ask what's going on, and pilot Motohashi reports that there's a call of a car bomb on the Yokohama Bay Bridge. Shinobu looks at the bridge as a blimp passes overhead. As the Road Runner approaches the abandoned car, a jet fighter fires a missile at the car and destroys a large section of the bridge's deck. TV news reports that authorities are investigating who called in the bomb threat and if there are connections to other terrorist incidents. An eyewitness video shows an SDF F-16J fighter flying above the bridge at the time of the explosion. Matsui drives through traffic and calls a film equipment company to follow up on a lead about the bombing, but the man tells him that they already handed over their tape to the police. Matsui visits the company in person and is told that they gave the tape to an official looking person. Matsui asks the technician about their higher resolution tape and if he noticed anything on it. The technician mentions that he did a rush editing job, so it's not like he was specifically looking for something in the footage. Goto gets a call from Matsui and comments that the tape's disappearance raises red flags. Shinobu notes that she doesn't know what Goto and Matsui are up to, but she wants to be informed when Goto is going to make his move. A man from the SDF intel office named Shigeki Arakawa arrives to visit Goto and Shinobu. Arakawa shows them a tape from the filming of a TV show next to the bridge that shows a small black object in the air. He then shows them another tape with the shadow of a different jet fighter. He states that the SDF doesn't have an F-16 like that, and Goto asks why he's brought this to them. Arakawa explains that he wants their help to find the truth and have lines of communication with the police in the event of a worst case scenario. Arakawa takes Goto and Shinobu for a ride and informs them that on the night of the bombing a U.S. fighter on a practice flight went missing at Miyake Island. Goto asks if this is the fighter in the tape, and Arakawa confirms that the U.S. military unofficially reported it to them through back channels. Shinobu asks why the U.S would bomb the bridge, but Arakawa thinks both the U.S. and the pilot are victims. He elaborates that for the last year they've been monitoring certain former staff officers, along with politicians and elements of the U.S. military and defense industry. The group feels threatened by Japan's refusal to participate in an arms race in post-Cold War Asia. Arakawa thinks that the missile launch was an accident and that the F-16 still hasn't returned to base. The SDF has no proof of third party involvement, which is why Arakawa is turning to them. Goto doesn't quite buy Arakawa's story and notes that all he has is circumstantial evidence and guesses. Arakawa is pleased that Goto lives up to his reputation and asks him to look at a file in the backseat. The man in the file is their prime suspect: Yukihito Tsuge.

 

Arakawa gets a call and starts speeding as he makes a turn. He tells Goto that their target has moved sooner than expected and three armed F-16Js have launched from Misawa on an intercept to Tokyo in 20 minutes. The SDF tracks the units on radar and launches two F-15 interceptors. A call comes in from Misawa that none of their craft are in the air, but they're having phone troubles. An officer wonders if this is a system error and asks for an update, but neither of the pilots have made visual contact. The F-15s reach the position where the targets are, but the targets move to a new position. Flights at the airport are immediately canceled as the bogeys approach Tokyo airspace. The F-15s experience heavy jamming and lose position, so they're ordered to abort when the bogeys vanish from radar. Arakawa and Goto visit an aquarium, where Arakawa mentions that the SDF's BADGE system was originally closed, but due to politics and treaty obligations is linked to U.S. bases in Japan. As a result, hackers were able to access the system from outside and stage the fake attack. Arakawa mentions that the current version of BADGE was created in 1991, but the software was recently rewritten, so it's possible a mole slipped something into it. Of course, the government doesn't want to admit that the BADGE system was hacked. Goto asks Arakawa if he knows anything more on Tsuge, and Arakawa mentions the Tsuge School, which was the first group to notice the military potential of labors. Arakawa mentions that Shinobu was part of the Tsuge School and was involved romantically with Tsuge, but Goto already knew that. Goto mentions that Shinobu was on the fast track in the Security Bureau until she got exiled to SV2, so he wonders if the incident with Tsuge had anything to do with that. Goto asks Arakawa if Tsuge's ultimate goal is to start a war, but Arakawa answers that the war started long ago and it's a question of how to end it. Goto rides under the damaged Bay Bridge on his way back to SV2 and thinks on Arakawa's words about them living peacefully after World War II and what that peace is. Arakawa said that the world was invested in the Cold War and various proxy conflicts around the world, but now there are multiple civil wars and ethnic conflicts around the world. Japan's economic prosperity is based on the demand for endless war, and that's what its peace is based on. Goto doesn't like it, but he prefers an unjust peace to war any day. Arakawa countered that the line separating war from unjust peace wasn't very clear. Arakawa said that the Japanese reaped the benefits of war, but distanced themselves from it.

 

Goto returns to the station house and jumps into a heated phone call between Shinobu and the section director. He repeats his orders that tomorrow SV2 will mobilize in full and join with local police to provide security for Camp Nerima. Goto asks Shinobu what she's going to do, and she tells him that all the squadrons at Misawa have been grounded. Thirty minutes earlier, the base commander was taken in for questioning by the Aomori prefectural police. The police nabbed him right at the base's front gate, so Goto doesn't think the soldiers will be able to keep quiet after seeing that. Shinobu mentions that the Misawa base has locked itself off from the world and then demands to know where Goto has been and why he left without permission. Shinobu comments that Goto's promise to her meant nothing, so he apologizes and asks if she would've given him permission to see Arakawa if he asked. She says she wouldn't and asks how it would look if it got out that a police officer was secretly meeting with an SDF intelligence officer. Goto tells Shinobu that they need to think through things calmly, but Shinobu wants to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Goto thinks that Tsuge is a genius strategist if he pulled this off with just one missile. Goto doesn't want to mobilize tomorrow, and while Shinobu doesn't want to either, an order is an order. The next day, SV2 and regular police set up a perimeter around Camp Nerima. A police officer demands to know why the Clash Busters are lying flat on their carriers, so Goto lies that they're malfunctioning. The officer wants them to at least deck up, but Goto claims to be concerned that they might fall over and be an embarrassment on live TV. The officer accuses Goto of insubordination before stalking off angrily. Arakawa calls Goto and leaks that all the chiefs of staff are resigning over the mess and that things are starting to go out of control. He adds that the military is trying to pass off blame on the police. He thinks Tsuge might want to test them and have them fight the war he lost three years ago. At night, Chief Cabinet Secretary Ishikawa holds a press conference stating that the SDF is being deployed to keep the peace. Shige calls his mechanics at a convenience store and tells them to buy as much food as they can. Shige puts all the mechanics on 24-hour alert status, and the mechanics watch as tanks are transported through the streets. Tanks and Hannibals take up position around the Diet building. The next day, citizens attempt to continue their lives as normal, albeit with a heavy military presence of tanks and APCs.

 

Matsui conducts nighttime surveillance on a factory and calls Goto, who reports that they don't know if Tsuge's people have mixed in with the military units sent to Tokyo. Matsui reports that he's in Fussa checking out a blimp company called Shinteito Aviation, which came up when he checked out Tou-A Security Services, a front for Tsuge's group. Tou-A bought Shinteito when the company was bankrupt and later purchased three American made blimps, which have been flying over Tokyo lately. Matsui uses his binoculars and spots several armed men standing in the open outside the building. He also notes that the company made some large purchases in the week before the bridge bombing and wired lots of money to America. Goto suggests that Matsui investigate things up close, which Matsui reluctantly agrees to. He slides down a hill in the snow and cuts through the iron fence before breaking into the building. Matsui pulls a CD out of a computer and sneaks through the building, unaware that he's being monitored on video. Two men discuss whether they should kill him and decide to instead knock him out and detain him. Shinobu stops in at home and returns a call from Tsuge. She drives to a wharf and brings a gun with her before meeting with Tsuge on a boat. Tsuge drives the boat through the river and escapes onto another boat when Arakawa and his men appear in two boats behind them. Arakawa comments that you always follow the woman, and Shinobu asks how they knew where to find her. Arakawa explains that some informants turn to the police out of goodwill to protect their children - in this case, Shinobu's mother. Elsewhere, several Hellhound attack helicopters take off from near the water. Matsui wakes up handcuffed to a pipe as three blimps take off. He rips the pipe loose and runs to his car, which has been sabotaged. One of the Hellhounds flies to the SV2 station house. Goto and Shinobu are called into a Security Bureau meeting where she's criticized for exceeding her authority. Shinobu in turn criticizes the brass for ratcheting up tensions by mobilizing against the SDF. She believes there's a group in the upper echelons of the police that is using the situation to advance its own agenda. Goto leaves to answer a phone call from Matsui about the blimps taking off. The Hellhound opens fire on the station house and destroys all of the Clash Busters and their carriers. Goto returns to the meeting as Shinobu continues to argue with the brass, but she's relieved of duty. Goto is asked for his opinion and comments that a war started long ago, but they didn't see it. He adds that he's sick of all of them and would like to join Shinobu. An officer interrupts the meeting with news that a Hellhound has bombed the Trans-Tokyo Bay Bridge.

 

Hellhounds destroy spans of multiple bridges around Tokyo, cutting off parts of the city. They then turn their attention to communication towers, helicopter launch pads and telephone systems. Goto and Shinobu use a power outage in an elevator to knock out their escorts and escape in a car. Shinobu wonders what they can do, and Goto believes that SV2 has probably been destroyed, but they can still fight. The blimps fly over Tokyo and cause heavy jamming of radio signals. Hiromi lets all of his birds loose at the SV2 station house, and an officer asks Shige what happened to one of the carriers. Shige explains that he and Goto had plans in case this happened. Shinobu and Goto hide out at Sakaki's house, where Goto changes into civilian clothes. Sakaki asks Goto about the situation, and Goto comments that Tsuge's plan is terrorism disguised as a coup. He believes that the only way to stop things is to track down Tsuge and arrest him. After Goto leaves, Sakaki tells Shinobu that she can't worry about what she should've done and should instead focus on her next move. Shige and the rest of the mechanics show up at Sakaki's house, where he orders them to round up as many people as they can and go to Hachioji. Shinshi leaves to join everyone over Tamiko's objections that he might lose his job. Tamiko then reveals that she's pregnant with their second child, but Shige and Hiromi drag Shinshi away. Two mechanics visit the academy to pick up Ota. Asuma stops his car and tells Noa they can still turn back before they suffer the consequences. Noa says she doesn't want to be stuck as the girl who loves labors for her whole life and asks Asuma to keep driving. A police sniper fires on an unmanned blimp from a helicopter, so the blimps switches navigation and crashes into the ground, where it unleashes a cloud of yellow gas over Shinjuku. The cloud creates panic, but it turns out to be harmless. Arakawa meets with Goto and tells him the gas was harmless, but the blimp was filled with cannisters of the real thing. Arakawa shows Goto a picture of a reclaimed island that he believes is Tsuge's headquarters. A satellite dish there controls all the blimps. Arakawa then reveals that the U.S. intends to intervene if the situation isn't resolved in a day.

 

At Shinohara's Hachioji factory, the SV2 mechanics work on upgrading the Ingrams with body armor while Shinobu outlines the attack plan. They'll use abandoned labor transport tunnels from the Babylon Project to approach the reclaimed island. Shinshi notes that the part where they have to ascend to the surface is a perfect spot for an ambush, which the enemy probably knows. Asuma asks how they're supposed to get to the tunnel with the military all over Tokyo and their loyalties unclear. Hiromi receives an anti-tank rifle, and Ota begs the mechanics to give him a riotgun to fight tanks. Asuma and Shinshi start examining the CD that Matsui found. Later, SV2 uses maintenance trains to transport the Ingrams through the subway. The military catches on, but SV2 diverts to an abandoned subway station off from the main line. Goto addresses the team and tells them all he's glad they came. He tells everyone that they'll be under Shinobu's command with orders to arrest Tsuge. As everyone prepares to launch, Goto tells Shinobu that he doesn't want her to go down with Tsuge. Arakawa asks Goto why he isn't going with them, to which Goto answers that he has a few details to take care of. One of them is arresting Arakawa, and Matsui appears with several other police to arrest Arakawa for violating the Subversive Activities Prevention Act. Arakawa asks for an explanation, and Goto notes that all of Arakawa's information was incredibly accurate and well-timed. That's no surprise, because Goto knows Arakawa is part of Tsuge's group. But then Tsuge changed the plan from political demonstration to all out war, leaving people like Arakawa out in the cold. Given all that, Arakawa couldn't investigate things openly, so he used SV2 to do his dirty work and also to keep an eye on Shinobu. Arakawa thinks that's all conjecture, but Goto notes that Arakawa let Tsuge escape the other night on the waterway. Goto adds that turning to SV2 instead of just using the regular army isn't something an upright public servant would do. He says that he's enjoyed their discussions about fraudulent peace and a truthful war and adds that even if Arakawa is right about a fake peace, Tsuge's war is just as much of an illusion.

 

Elsewhere, Asuma uses infrared binoculars in the tunnel and spots two Ixtls: heavy wire-controlled mobile gun platforms. He thinks that they should use the Ingrams as a diversion while he and Shinshi sneak around and cut the Ixtls' control cables, followed by using Unit 3's ECM. Shinobu approves, and Asuma fires a flare at the Ixtls. Ota takes point in Unit 2 and fires his riotgun at the Ixtls, but he's forced to take cover behind large pipes. Shinshi wonders what they should do, but Ota decides to rush in and Noa follows. Hiromi fires his rifle at the Ixtls and disables one of their legs, but Ota's body armor takes damage. The walkway collapses, but Asuma manages to rescue Shinshi and drag him over to where Ota is. The Ixtls move forward to attack, and Asuma and Shinshi crawl through a duct behind the Ixtls. Ota pulls out his gun while Shinobu activates Unit 3's ECM jamming. Asuma and Shinshi use shotguns to destroy the control cables, and Ota fires several rounds into an Ixtl before knocking it over. He then attacks the other one, but Noa destroys the first unit. The second unit fires into the ceiling and lets in a flood of ocean water. Shinobu moves forward in Unit 3 and finds another Ixtl waiting for her in the service elevator, so she charges toward it. Later, the heavily damaged Unit 3 reaches the surface and Shinobu ejects from it. She finds Tsuge watching the sea and surrounded by flocks of seagulls. He tells her that from this distance the city almost looks like an illusion. Shinobu comments that even if it's an illusion, people accept it as reality and live there, unless Tsuge thinks they're illusions too. Tsuge comments that he returned to Tokyo and tried to get people to see the illusion they were living in, but they didn't realize it until the first shot. Shinobu says that she's no illusion and fires a signal flare for Goto. Shinobu quotes a passage about war from Tsuge's last letter to her. Tsuge says that people don't notice things until it's too late, but they should be punished for that sin. Shinobu places Tsuge in handcuffs and he holds her hand as Goto's helicopter lands and scares away the seagulls. Asuma and the others reach the surface and discover that the jamming signal is gone and they won. Goto thinks to himself that in the end all he has is the people of SV2. Matsui tells Tsuge that all of his people have been captured or surrendered. Matsui asks Tsuge why he didn't kill himself at the end, and Tsuge answers that he wanted to see a bit more of Tokyo's future.

 

Commentary

 

The second Patlabor feature film is a marked contrast from the first movie. Whereas the first movie was a technological thriller, this movie turns to political intrigue and civil war. In essence, it's a larger scale remake of the two part episode "SV2's Longest Day" from the first OVA series. The basic story is the same: a right wing nationalist with past ties to a cast member triggers a potential civil war in pursuit of his political agenda. In the OVA series, the antagonist was an old college friend of Goto's, but this time it's a former lover of Shinobu's. The focus of this movie shifts away from the regular cast, most of whom have been scattered to the wind in new jobs. The focus is instead heavily on Goto and Shinobu, but I welcome the change of pace since she doesn't get that much attention in most incarnations of Patlabor. Matsui also gets a lot of screentime, but one thing that definitely doesn't is labors. That's not at all a problem, because labor combat has never been a heavy focus for Patlabor anyway. It's interesting to see how some people have changed in the three years since the last movie. Noa isn't obsessed with Alphonse anymore, but by contrast Ota is still a reckless gun freak. Although most of the cast is on the sidelines, it is nice to see what they've been up to. The moody political tensions remind me a bit of what would later be done in the second season of the Ghost in the Shell TV series. As an antagonist, Tsuge is pretty atypical. He only appears in three scenes and is never shown plotting or scheming like most villains. The cast trying to figure out an absent villain's plan is rather like in the first movie, except for the part that Hoba committed suicide at the beginning. Overall, the movie is enjoyable, but it's definitely made more for people who can enjoy Mamoru Oshii's slowly paced stories that build up over time.

 

Overall Rating

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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