In 2000, two fishing boat captains in Tokyo Bay discuss baseball and are interrupted when debris hits the water from a crashing airplane. Elsewhere, police detective Shinichiro Hata plays baseball and serves as pitcher until he’s tagged out to take a phone call. Hata runs over to a crime scene and asks an officer if his partner, Takeshi Kusumi, is around. Hata joins Kusumi inside a tent where a photographer is documenting the human remains of a labor pilot. Hata runs back to his car in the rain and moves the car to another spot in the parking lot, where he spots a woman examining her car’s engine. Hata gives the woman, Saeko Misaki, a ride and tells her she can smoke if she likes. Saeko comments that she knows it’s bad for her, but can’t quit, which Hata can relate to since he used to smoke. Hata drops Saeko off at a school, where she thanks him for his help. At a police station, Kusumi speaks up during a meeting and conjectures that the four attacks on Schaft labors are probably connected. Other officers think that Schaft’s stuff is defective or that it could be eco terrorists. A lead officer declares that they’ll investigate both possibilities of accident or deliberate crime. Hata asks Kusumi if they should coordinate with SV2 since the unit is made up of labor experts. Kusumi grabs his crutch and takes the train back home after picking up food at a convenience store. The next morning, Hata throws out his trash before meeting with Kusumi on a boat. The two start canvassing the shoreline and speaking to workers and labor pilots, but they learn nothing. Hata tells Kusumi that he should take it easy on his leg, but Kusumi says it’s nothing. They stop in at the Budokan arena where an American rock band is filming a music video. After lunch, they speak to a fisherman and ask about the attacks. One of them mentioned that it started 10 days after the plane crash in the bay. Kusumi laments that they have no clues or witnesses and hands things off to Hata since he’s still on the injured list. At Toto Biomedical Laboratory, Toshiro Kurisu shakes hands with an eyepatch-wearing man, after which Col. Goro Ishihara of the SDF leaves. A scientist named Shizuo Miyanomori asks someone over the phone if he disposed of “it” and promises to deposit the reward money. Miyanomori and Kurisu ride the elevator down to a lower level, where Miyanomori asks Kurisu what Ishihara had to say. Ishihara wasn’t happy that the capsule didn’t go up and thinks they should’ve used one of the U.S. bases. They enter a biohazard area, where Kurisu asks when they’re going to dispose of sample 12.
Later, a remote control submersible AOL-43 labor comes under attack while inspecting an undersea cable. Something grabs onto the labor and pulls it so hard that it severs the towing cable from the winch on the boat it’s being controlled from. Hata visits a large hangar where the pieces of the crashed plane have been reassembled as part of the investigation. He then meets with Kusumi and reports that one container stuck out to him because of the way it was torn apart. The container was registered to Hermes Enterprises, which he intends to follow up on tomorrow. Hata and Kusumi are informed that there’s been another attack and head for the bay. As they examine the wrecked labor, Hata notes that it’s constructed by Hishii and not Schaft. A worker shows them the video of the attack, but it doesn’t provide a clear look at the perpetrator. Asuma and Noa then arrive to meet with the workers, so Kusumi and Hata leave. Kusumi decides to investigate Hermes, but when they reach the location they find an empty office and a full mailbox. The company suddenly moved out at the end of the last month, and its forwarding address is fake, so Hata concludes that it’s a dummy corporation. Kusumi wants to dig through all the records and see if they can find a connection to the real company. Hata thinks that they should go online and find video of the news broadcasts on the various labor incidents. After having earlier been told he can’t smoke in the car, Kusumi asks Hata about a fancy lighter in the passenger seat. Later, Saeko sits alone in her apartment and doesn’t answer the phone when Miyanomori calls about a problem. Hata goes online to search for information, while Kusumi grabs food to take home. The next day, Saeko dryly lectures her biology students at college about cell division and shows them slides of cancer cells from a child who died. Hata stumbles into the classroom and speaks with Saeko afterward to return her lighter, although it was just an excuse to see her again. Later, Kusumi and Hata watch news video about the airplane crash, and Kusumi spots someone on a boat saluting. Kusumi wants to know more about the strange thing they saw on the video of the unmanned labor attack. Kusumi calls in a deaf woman to read the lips of the American man on the video, and she’s able to make out the phrases “check capsule” and “baker’s dozen.” At night, Hata and Saeko go on a date to see a play at the theater. Hata takes the subway home alone, but Saeko heads for the bay with her heavy suitcase. A couple park outside a club by the shore, and a woman makes a horrific discovery of half eaten people in the car next to them. Nearby, an alarm goes off at a cargo container storage facility when a guard is killed and the lights go off. Kusumi and Hata catch a ride in a patrol car that is sent to investigate the situation.
Hata and an officer named Nomura start searching the facility while Kusumi and the head guard try to restore power. Hata and Nomura find a damaged labor, and when power is restored the monster appears and eats Nomura. Hata runs away and is barely able to dodge when the monster lashes out with its claws. Kusumi ditches his cane, and Hata is able to reach the container control room. The monster starts climbing up through the facility to chase Kusumi and the guard. It gets trapped under one of the closing doors, but it’s able to break free after a losing a piece of its tail. The guard is unable to open a door, and Hata lifts the control room up to where Kusumi is. The monster grabs the guard and eats him, but it runs away when Hata turns on the lights. Hata uses the radio to direct Kusumi up to an exit. Kusumi hobbles over to the exit as the monster gives chase. Kusumi swipes the employee ID card, but he doesn’t know the code to open the door. He’s backed up against a railing as the creature approaches, so Hata moves the cargo crane into position. Kusumi jumps onto the crane and swings away as the creature lashes out at him. The crane swings back toward the monster, so Kusumi jumps back onto the platform as the creature jumps toward him. The monster then falls into the water with a labor and vanishes. The next day, the news reports the 12 deaths and speculates that it might be anti-Babylon Project terrorism. Kusumi and Hata meet with a superior and plead with him to close down the waterfront, but he notes that he’s only got their word to go on. Hata and another officer drive to the Toto lab, where Saeko’s car is in the parking lot. Hata looks at pictures on the wall and is surprised to run into Saeko. He thought she was a professor, but she explains that’s just a part time job. She asks him about his job, and he sees a picture on a desk of Saeko’s husband Koichi and her daughter Hitomi. Saeko mentions that her husband died in an accident three years ago. Saeko gets a call and tells Hata that her chief wants to see her, which Hata thinks has to do with the Babylon incident. She then realizes that Hata is a police detective. In a lab, Kurisu shows Saeko tissue samples under a microscope. At night, Kusumi meets with Goto at an amusement park. As they ride on a Ferris wheel, Goto tells Kusumi that the cargo plane made a stop at the Marshall Islands on its way from Honolulu to Haneda. Goto mentions that the U.S. has a military facility on the island. Goto then notes that the five attacked labors were all Schaft, but Kusumi immediately cuts him off to correct him. He notes that the last labor was Hishii, but Goto reveals that it used a Schaft superconductive motor. Kusumi then counters that the couple that got eaten were in a regular car, so Goto jokes that they might’ve had a superconductive vibrator.
The next day, a SWAT team is called in to Kazusa Labs, one of the labs analyzing tissue samples from the monster. An officer enters the lab and finds one scientist dead, with another being pulled up into the ceiling by a monster. The police decide to cover up the truth and lie to the public to prevent panic. At a police meeting, it’s explained that a piece of the creature regenerated and went into Kazusa’s ventilation system. A sketch is unveiled of the creature, based on Kusumi and Hata’s descriptions. A detective explains that the creature seems to be made up of a fusion of cancer and Nishiwaki cells. Based on the speed of their replication, he thinks it might be under human control. Goto, Kusumi and Hata ignore questions from the press after leaving the meeting. Hata conducts some computer research and learns that a substance found in an Antarctic meteorite was called Nishiwakitrophin. In 1984, Professor Nishiwaki and his team decoded the substance and developed a cell that replicates at amazing speed, the Nishiwaki cell. Hata then switches to media reports, and Kusumi comments he should be a research guy instead of a detective. Hata is surprised when he finds a picture and discovers that Saeko is Nishiwaki’s daughter, but he says nothing to Kusumi. At Toto, Miyanomori meets with Kurisu and Saeko to discuss the monster’s growth. Miyanomori doesn’t understand how the monster can still be alive since they stopped feeding it Nishiwakitrophin. Kurisu mentions that number 13 had no self-destruct system and had human cancer cells used in it. Kurisu asks Saeko if she did it and why she didn’t ask him first, to which she answers that she thought he’d say no. Kurisu is angry, but Saeko is happy that the “child” is alive. Kurisu dismisses her, so she asks what he’s going to do about the creature, and he answers that they’ll kill it. Miyanomori asks Kurisu if he thinks she was feeding the monster Nishiwakitrophin, and he notes that the police will come straight to them once the forensic results come in.
Later, Ishihara is part of an SDF naval operation in the bay to find the monster. The SDF deploys an underwater labor, which activates spotlights and fires flares to locate the monster. Kusumi and Hata visit Toto to speak with Kurisu and Miyanomori. Kusumi asks if a researcher could acquire Nishiwaki cells, so Miyanomori deflects by stating that Toto holds the patent, but there are many samples in circulation. Kusumi then asks if Hermes was one of the companies that acquired samples, which catches Miyanomori and Kurisu off guard. Kusumi then thanks them for their help and leaves. He laughs and tells Hata that the look on Miyanomori’s face proves he’s their man. Kusumi wants to bring Miyanomori in, but a superior tells him there’s pressure from above to lay off Toto for now. Kusumi thinks it must be the Americans. Later, Hata goes to a public phone and leaves a message for Saeko. The next day, Hata shows Kusumi some photos a fishing cooperative took of a half eaten dolphin, which matches the monster’s bite marks. Although Nishiwaki died in 1988, Kusumi decides to investigate him since he cofounded Toto with Kurisu. Kusumi hits the streets and speaks to all sorts of people in his search for info on Nishiwaki. He eventually visits Nishiwaki’s grave in the cemetery and starts running when he hears a car quickly drive away. He spots Saeko’s red car because she’d just been there to leave flowers and burn incense at the gravestone. Later, Hata stops by at Kusumi’s apartment and is impressed by Kusumi’s vinyl record collection. Kusumi makes tea and tells Hata that he found Saeko and asks Hata if he’s dating her. He mentions that her initials were on the lighter he found, and that Hata hasn’t been himself lately. Hata asks if she’s a suspect, and Kusumi answers that she naturally is one since she’s a Toto researcher. Hata disagrees and states that she’s not the criminal type, but Kusumi has heard that before. He asks Hata if he’s spoken to her lately, but Hata answers that he hasn’t. Hata vows to find Saeko, so Kusumi taunts if he’s going to ask online about his lost girlfriend. At Toto, Kurisu meets with Ishihara and gives him a virus chilled in dry ice to kill the monster. Ishihara doesn’t like how things have been handled, but Kurisu points out that they created what Ishihara wanted. Ishihara gives Kurisu a plane ticket and American Express card to leave the country tomorrow.
The next day, Hata visits Toto and has an employee open Saeko’s locker, which contains her briefcase and empty vials of Nishiwakitrophin. Hata then heads to Saeko’s apartment and has the landlord let him in, but the place is completely empty, save for one locked room with a wall-sized picture of Hitomi. Hata reads up on dolphins at the library and gets a ring on his pager. He calls back officer Mimura, who reports that the club near the waterfront only uses records, not CDs. Hata visits the Misaki family home and speaks with Koichi’s parents. His father Yoshitake mentions that Saeko left something with them last night to give to Hata. She looked desperate, but he didn’t ask any questions. Yoshitake asks if Sseko did something, but Hata answers that’s what he’s trying to figure out. They show Hata home videos of their granddaughter Hitomi, and Yoshitake explains that six months after Hitomi’s father died in an accident, she became sick from cancer and later died. Kusumi has an audio recording examined, which contains sounds of a person playing a piano. Kusumi is also informed that their biological sample contains traces of Nishiwakitrophin. At a police meeting, Ishihara lays out the strategy for taking down the monster with the virus in a warhead. However, the monster is now wearing part of a labor as a cowl, which’ll make hitting it more difficult. He says they have to hit it in one shot and have to recover all of its tissues. Goto asks how SV2 can help, so Ishihara answers they’re the specialists for shooting. Kusumi then bursts in and says he has something for them to hear. The SDF takes control of the Budokan to use as the site for luring in the monster. At the meeting, Kusumi explained that the monster was attracted to high frequency sounds and in each case attacked a sound source of over 25 Hz, including labors with Schaft superconducting motors, the dolphins and the club music. An official asked why that specific club, so Kusumi explained that the club used vinyl records, which can have sounds up to 40 Hz, while CDs cut out at 20 Hz. The SDF tracks the monster and launches an underwater Ryujin labor to broadcast sounds and attract the creature. The American director complains about having his video shoot shut down, but the SDF ignores him. Saeko drives and listens to radio reports about the area near the water being shut down because of the “terrorist.” SDF trucks deploy multiple spotlights inside the Budokan, along with Hannibal labors. In another part of the Budokan, the SDF hands over the warhead to SV2.
Noa comments about only getting one shot, but Ota thinks that’ll be enough. Goto puts Ota in charge of firing the warhead with Noa as his support. Saeko is caught in traffic in a bridge and hits a truck while trying to back out, but Hata vouches for her and lets her pass. The Ryujin surfaces and heads for the Budokan with the creature in pursuit. Ishihara comments that the monster belongs to the SDF until it reaches the Budokan, at which point it becomes Goto’s for the main match. Hata rides with Saeko and asks her if she created the monster, to which she nods a ‘yes.’ The Ryujin enters a canal and attempts to stop its broadcast, but there’s a malfunction. Ishihara gives orders for the Ryujin to be diverted through a different canal. The Ryujin turns into another tunnel, but the monster continues to pursue and knocks aside a Hannibal. The Ryujin tries to maneuver and damages its engine, so Ishihara has another squad move in and fire a bazooka at it. At the Budokan, Hata asks Saeko why she gave him the tape, and she answers that it might be because of his resemblance to Koichi or it might be that she wanted him to stop her. The creature emerges from the canal and attacks an AOL-43 stationed to lure it in. Saeko explains to Hata that she mixed Hitomi’s cancer cells with Nishiwaki cells, which created the creature. She says that it’s as though her daughter was reborn, but Hata counters that it’s a monster, not her daughter. Kusumi and Goto start broadcasting a recording of Hitomi playing Beethoven’s 8th Sonata on the piano. Saeko runs into the stadium as the creature is finally lured in. Lights shine on the creature and cause it pain. Noa pulls out Ingram Unit 1‘s stun stick and charges the monster, while Ota tries to line up a shot in Unit 2. The monster swings Noa around and knocks her into Ota. It then starts clawing at Noa, so Goto has all the lights activated. Noa uses the opportunity to grab her stun stick and smash off the labor parts covering the monster’s head. Several soldiers start shooting at the monster and come under attack from it, but Noa grabs it by the tail. Shinshi tells Ota that he has to get closer. Ota gets knocked down by the monster, which also tosses Noa aside. The monster rips off Ota’s shield, but he’s able to shoot it in the head. Saeko jumps off a girder from an upper level, but Hata grabs her by the hand. Kusumi spots them with his binoculars and starts running over. Several SDF helicopters arrive on the scene, and Ishihara tells Goto that the script is changing. Soldiers use flamethrowers to burn the monster, which causes its labor armor to fall off and reveal a pair of human female breasts. Hata isn’t able to keep his grip due to the rain, so Saeko slips out of his grasp and falls to her death. Later, people on a message board speculate that the police are lying about what really happened. Kusumi buys ice cream for himself and Goto, and Hata joins the Misakis in visiting Saeko’s grave.
Fumihiko Takayama (Gundam 0080) took over the director’s chair from Mamoru Oshii for this final Patlabor film, but he certainly evokes the style of Oshii with the slowly-paced scenes and atmospheric score by Kenji Kawai. This movie has been highly criticized for shifting the focus to new characters Hata and Kusumi and away from SV2. Indeed, there are a few minor scenes sprinkled throughout the movie featuring Goto, Asuma and Noa before the whole team appears in the finale to fight the monster. If the story of a sea monster on the loose sounds familiar, that’s because this movie was adapted from a manga story that also served as the basis for an episode of the original OVA series. I don’t mind seeing the world of Patlabor through eyes other than SV2, but I think this movie presents a missed opportunity. If they wanted to focus on two regular detectives, including a vet and a rookie, they already had a pair: Matsui and his partner Kataoka. Using them would’ve given us a fresh perspective while still feeling grounded in the Patlabor world. As it stands, Hata and Kusumi fall into standard police story tropes: a greenhorn savvy in the ways of the modern world matched with a crotchety old vet who lives in the past and doesn’t understand computers. There’s also the unnecessary police trope of the detective becoming involved with a suspect, which doesn’t quite work here because you never see an actual relationship between Hata and Saeko. She spends the whole movie as this flat character who is alive, but not living. I think the biggest problem with this movie is that it tries to be many things at once and can’t decide what sort of movie to be. It’s got elements of police procedural, horror, kaiju, government conspiracies, alien origins and finally, robots. There are many elements that could’ve been cut and allow the story to place its focus elsewhere. Did the monster need to have an extraterrestrial origin through an Antarctic meteor? Was it really necessary to have a cover-up by the American and Japanese militaries? The manic nature of the story stands in sharp contrast to the first two movies, which each had a single theme: the first movie was a techno thriller, while the second was about political intrigue. Despite these issues, I still enjoyed the film, and it certainly stands out in several respects, especially the animation and soundtrack. However, I’d caution any new Patlabor viewers to come into this movie with appropriate expectations, especially if you’ve seen the rest of the franchise first.