Patlabor Ep. 15: The Whale That Sang a Song


A humpback whale swims into Tokyo Bay at night. The next morning, Noa comes down to the office and is surprised to be there before Asuma. She then has a look at a postcard Hiromi got from home with a whale on it. She asks about whales, and he explains that they aren’t as common now, but he used to see many when he was a kid. He then shows Noa a picture of himself at the beach as a child, with a humpback whale in the background.  Asuma then comes in and turns on the TV to watch a news report about the whale in the bay. Kanuka comments that she’s never heard of a whale coming so close to shore before, and Hiromi explains that whales are generally very cautious. Hiromi wonders if they can do anything to help, but Ota butts in and says the government has better things to do than help lost whales. Kanuka then argues with Ota about humpback whales being nearly extinct, and Shinshi notes to Asuma that Ota seems to be frustrated by the recent lack of cases. Public opinion demands that something be done to save the whale, with citizens calling into TV stations and staging protests. In response, the government forms a Tokyo Bay Whale Rescue Committee comprised of representatives from each ministry, with Goto representing the police. Goto asks committee leader Takao what it is that SV2 is supposed to be doing. Division 2 is then sent to the scene to act as crowd control, which annoys Ota. Takao rides on a boat through the bay and announces over loudspeaker that all civilian boats must leave the area. Asuma, Noa and Hiromi sit around and eat snacks while Ota tries to pick up a car with Unit 2 for towing. Takao begins the operation, which involves several patrol boats moving together in formation to nudge the whale toward the open sea. Noa starts her shift in Unit 1 to relieve Ota, and the crowd complains that she and Ota are blocking the view. Two men in a boat use a bullhorn to call Division 2 a bunch of tax thieves and demand an end to the Babylon Project. Ota loses his cool and pulls out his gun, which causes the crowd to flee in panic. Ota fires and hits the water near the boat, causing it to capsize. Later, a news show discusses the failure of the rescue operation and switches to an underwater report in the bay. Several reporters and cameramen try to film the whale, causing it to leave the area. The next morning, Noa asks Hiromi if he’s worried about the whale, and Hiromi wonders if there’s a better way to save the whale. He hears sounds from a boat in the bay and tells Noa that they need a song.

Later, Takao sends an underwater Seadog labor to play recorded humpback whale sounds. The whale song gets the whale’s attention, and it begins to follow the Seadog Asuma and Noa congratulate Hiromi for his idea, and the whale leaves the bay. Everyone reads the stories in the newspapers the next day, but Ota complains that SV2 didn’t get more coverage. Kanuka turns on the TV to see if they make any mention of Hiromi, but instead they see a report that the whale is back again. Reporters mob Takao and demand answers, but she gives no comment. However, public opinion now turns against the whale, as citizens no longer care and see it as a waste of taxes. The Prime Minister struggles to answer a question about what the government should do, and the Diet votes to eliminate the whale committee. Goto announces that everyone is returning to their regular rotation, and before that he wants them to file their reports. Hiromi goes to speak with Goto and later asks Noa if he’s being too sentimental about the whale. The next day, a TV news report shows that the pier is now abandoned as the public has completely lost interest in the whale. However, the reporter points out that the whale is now joined by a baby whale. Kanuka asks Goto what’s going on, because public opinion has now reversed itself again and is demanding another rescue. Goto tells everyone that Division 2 will be taking over the rescue operation, and Asuma comments that the water isn’t their jurisdiction. Goto points out the low regard the public has for SV2, so it was decided to let SV2 take on the mission that will probably fail and take all the heat. Hiromi squeezes into a salvaged Frogman labor repaired by Shige’s mechanics and jumps into the bay. Asuma and Noa follow in the speedboat, while Goto and Shinshi fly overhead in a helicopter. Hiromi begins broadcasting whale song, but the whales don’t respond. Hiromi moves in closer, but the mother whale rams into him to protect her child. The Frogman’s speakers are damaged during the collision, and Asuma tells him to fall back. They then hear whale song and spot another whale coming in from the sea. Hiromi returns to the boat and explains that the male whale is an escort for the mother and her baby.  The three whales then leave Tokyo Bay together.


This episode is basically Patlabor at its most real world. Living in Florida, it’s fairly common to hear news stories about stranded or beached whales, and this is really no different. It’s also a great examination of media feeding frenzies and the public’s fickle attention span. The whale goes in the span of several days from being loved to loathed and back to loved again, all as the government remains clueless about how to resolve the situation. In the end, it falls to SV2 to take on a seemingly futile mission so that they can serve as the government’s scapegoats. In the end, the situation manages to resolve itself through no human action. Although SV2 didn’t have much to do this episode, it did shed some more light on Hiromi’s past and further show how gentle he is, despite his size.

Overall Rating

Patlabor Info

Naoyuki Yoshinaga

Kazunori Ito
Mamoru Oshii
Hiroyuki Hoshiyama
Naoto Kimura
Tetsuo Takahashi
Michiko Yokote
Hibari Arisu

Mechanical Designer(s):
Yutaka Izubuchi
Yoshinori Sayama

Character Designer:
Akemi Takada

Musical Composer:
Kenji Kawai

47 episodes

Japan 10.11.1989 – 09.26.1990


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