I watched the Patlabor Movie (1989) last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you’ve seen any Patlabor then you shouldn’t miss this movie. The story centers around a plot by a mad programmer who wants to stop Tokyo’s development by creating a hidden flaw in a new operating system for labors. Once a certain low frequency sound is made by the wind a hidden program takes control of the labors and sends them on a rampage. Learning about the plot just before a hurricane with the right wind speed comes to Tokyo, Special Vehicles Section 2 springs into action to try to prevent a tragedy.
Some Patlabor fans might be put off by the movie. It doesn’t have the comedy and “slice of life” character drama that was so much a part of the TV series. I thought the movie was not only great but quite appropriate. The action and intrigue stories were always a part of Patlabor. The first OAV series established that well. The first part of the TV series had much to offer there too. The movie focused keenly on the action and high-tech thriller storyline and as a result had to sacrifice screen time normally given over to character development. Several of the regular characters didn’t get much screen time at all. Asuma and Noa, along with Captain Goto were the focus of the story.
The movie returns balance to Patlabor by giving the audience more action and hard science-fiction. I think stories like this one are needed – especially after the last 12 episodes of the second OAV were almost entirely comedy and “slice of life” stories. Too many fans look at the Patlabor TV series and think that’s what Patlabor is all about. The Patlabor movies are important components of the whole package.
The main disappointment for me was the character designs. Although the animation quality was great, the characters looked ugly and, well, wrong. Sticking closer to the character designs from the first OAV and the TV series would have served the movie well.
If you want a good hard science-fiction movie then you can’t go wrong with Patlabor.