Today I watched Mamoru Oshii’s Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993)
While the first film in the Patlabor series was more or less true to it’s mecha focus, the sequel goes in a much more political thriller type direction. While the story continues to center on a unit of Tokyo mecha police, this group is now pulled into some very twisted intrigue. The plot this time begins with an attack on a Tokyo bridge in witch a military jet launches a missile at said bridge. Soon our heroes are approached by a Defense Force intelligence agent about how this may be some kind of false flag launched by an unknown party, possibly upper members of the Defense Forces or police chain of command.
This film focuses heavily on it’s political subtext and meditations on the nature of war and peace and how that relates to modern Japan. This is in stark contrast to the previous film, which never quite found an easy balance between Oshii’s typically serious philosophizing and the series’ sense of humour. Now the humour takes a definite backseat to some very serious topics of discussion, like how an unjust peace weighs against a just war.
I think that the film has a problem in how it’s entire plot is made to serve these themes. The basic plot ended up raising a lot of basic questions with me about the villain’s motive and resources that were never really answered. While villains often get away with some ridiculous stuff, I felt that here, with all the serious themes, it stuck out like a sore thumb. Furthermore I really don’t know what the villain was really getting at with his whole plot, again he just seems to be a vehicle for themes that Oshii wants to talk about.
That being said, the topics up for discussion here are extremely compelling and complex. The film offers them as more than just dialogue and text too, Oshii is very skilled at pairing ideology and imagery in some very interesting ways. He takes a meditative look at the surroundings that inform the topics of discussion, notably the cityscapes of developed nations and modern Japan. It really is a beautiful movie and a thought provoking one, those two features make it most certainly a worthwhile experience. 5/5