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[ a parent's guide to anime ]

[ rated pg ] Patlabor

A Parent's Guide to Anime
Rated: PG
Parental Guidance Advised

Patlabor 1

Review by Walter Yoon:

A sci-fi techno-thriller in the same vein as most Michael Crichton books and films. There is only one death in the entire movie: a suicide by jumping off a building. Even that one death might have been faked, so it is more appropriate to say there are no definate deaths.The dubbed version has a few curses in it such as "s--t", "bas---d", etc. The subtitled version has no profanity whatsoever. There's no sex or nudity. Some people may be offended by Biblical references scattered throughout the movie. The movie has strong female roles.

Patlabor 2

Review by Daniel Huddleston:

The year is 2002; the city is Kanagawa, a port city near Tokyo. The construction robots known as Labors have been used to implement the Babylon Project--one of the most ambitious public works projects ever undertaken. Things are quiet for the moment, and the members of Special Vehicles Division 2 are either taking a little time off or are hard at work in new jobs. The old gang is drifting apart. Japan is a nation at peace.

[ 24kb ]

But questions unique to peacetime arise as Captain Kiichi Goto of SV-2 investigates a terrorist bombing of a bridge. Why exactly is Japan a peaceful nation? And is peace needed or even wanted by everyone? In an age of military cutbacks and waning importance for Japan's Self-Defense Force, is it not conceivable that the nation's protectors might begin to long for an enemy, just so that they would have relevance again?

Patlabor 2 is the story of a political stunt gone horribly wrong. When the JSDF hires an arms dealer to fly an anonymous fighter plane through Japanese airspace, they never dreamed that they had hired a man who hated the dreamlike blanket of security that enveloped his homeland. They never dreamed that with a single missile and a single, faked videotape, he could sit back and smile as his homeland fell apart at the seams.

Patlabor 2 is one of the most intellectually stimulating anime I've ever had the pleasure of watching. It blends science fiction, philosophy, and politics with a plot that's straight out of a Tom Clancy novel. The film is gorgeously designed and animated, using a moody color scheme and stylish direction techniques that really bring the wintry, near-future city of Tokyo to life. There are is also some wonderfully restrained drama between Chiefs Goto and Nagumo as they close in on the man behind the crisis.

Parent's Guide Rating:

yellow (parental guidance advised)

The subtitled version of the film contains relatively mild language. The only thing that I remember specifically is when a man refers to a robot as a "Martian b*****d" near the end. At the beginning of the movie, you see a soldier bleeding from a mild head injury, but that's as gory as the movie ever gets. There is no nudity or sex whatsoever-- the closest thing there is to that is a spoken reference to a disastrous affair Goto's female colleague had had with a married man years before.

Taking into account the absence of obscenity, sex, nudity, and gore, I'm mainly recommending this as a "view with caution" film because small children will probably be bored out of their minds by it. The twists and turns of the plot took me several viewings to fully understand, as would probably be the case with most adults who don't already have some understanding of international politics vis-a-vis Japan. But that's fine by me, since the beautiful artwork and stunning designs practically beg repeat viewings.

I should mention that this movie marks the conclusion (at least until some rich Japanese people say otherwise) of a quite lengthy series. Mobile Police Patlabor began as a series of short home videos, spun off a movie, and was followed by a 50-episode television series and more home videos. In other words, this was a minor pop-culture phenomenon in Japan, and you're already expected to know who's who. There will be a couple of scenes that seem rather randomly inserted (such as Noa and Asuma's too-brief conversation in the car near the end). From what I've read elsewhere, these are actually tying off loose ends from the TV show. As yet, only the two movies are available in English (through legal channels, at least). For that reason, I would recommend watching the first movie first, so you'll know who's who going into the second one (I'd also recommend watching it because it's a terrific film too).

Patlabor 2 was directed by Mamoru Oshii (Urusei Yatsura 2, Patlabor 1, Ghost in the Shell), and has a screenplay by his usual collaborator Kazunori Ito (Patlabor 1, Ghost in the Shell). The immensely talented Hiromasa Ogura (Wings of Honneamise) was in charge of art direction.

If you are a parent visiting this web site, congratulations: here's a movie for you, the parent.

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