To round off my Patlabor experience I watched Patlabor 3 the Movie: WXIII (2001). The WXIII in the title is short for Wasted 13 – more on that below. The movie was great and I recommend it to science-fiction fans but with a warning. This movie is not a standard Patlabor story. It’s a side story and there’s almost no mecha action. Like Orguss 02, Patlabor 3 the Movie takes place in the same setting as the title but focuses on different characters and a different storyline than usual. The characters of Special Vehicles Section 2 are only seen very briefly and don’t figure prominently into the plot.
Patlabor 3 is a high-tech detective story and shows us two Tokyo police investigators, Kusumi and Hata, who try to find the source of a chain of murders and labor attacks near Tokyo Bay. They discover the perpetrator is not a terrorist but a biotech lab’s experiment, number 13 of the “Wasted” series, that escaped into Tokyo Bay while being transported by plane. Number 13 didn’t survive by mere chance, however. A scientist, distraught at the loss of her husband and only child, injects cells from her deceased child into number 13 and feeds it special chemicals to increase its chances of survival. Detective Hata develops feelings for the scientist and tragedy ensues.
The escaped lab experiment turned killer is a theme done to death in numerous lousy science-fiction movie but in Patlabor 3 it is done well. The carefully crafted plot and poignant exchanges between characters make it a movie worth seeing more than once. Although some reviews online state this movie is making a statement about “a society choking on its own technology” I didn’t see the social commentary in Patlabor 3 that was present in the preceeding two movies. That may be because a new director, Takayama Fumihiko, took charge of this project. Takayama was more interested in letting the story unfold than trying to get an audience of science-fiction fans to question the value of technology (a losing proposition).
My only disappointment was, if you’re going to make a detective story in the world of Patlabor, why not use Detective Matsui? Matsui got precious little screen time in Patlabor and he would have been perfect for this movie. It’s too bad we saw so little of that character over the years.
Patlabor 3 is an interesting and suspense-filled movie. If you have the time to see it you’ll be rewarded.