Patlabor 2

Japan 1993, 114 mins
Director: Mamoru Oshii

It’s 2002, three years after the events of the original film, and national stability is threatened when Tokyo is placed under martial law amid tensions between the Japanese armed forces and police. Riffing on real domestic and international issues in Japan’s recent history, Patlabor 2 is a thrilling, critically applauded piece that builds on the original’s inspiring mecha-sensibility with even more enthralling visuals.

‘These days anyone can be a god … But God is impotent,’ warns a Deep Throat figure railing against the postmodem world that frames much of the highly politicised Patlabor 2. The Patlabor franchise is a true multimedia package, spanning a comic, video series and television show. Set largely in a near-future Tokyo, its story involves giant robots placed in realistic situations where funding cuts are a greater danger than invading aliens. Director Mamoru Oshii later made Ghost in the Shell and the live-action Avalon. But Patlabor was itself a team effort – the creators collectively called themselves Headgear – a fact perhaps reflected in the ensemble of wide-eyed youngsters, reserved superiors and eccentrics who people it.

Though still underpinned by Oshii’s icy intellectualism, the Patlabor movies have more humour and humanity than Ghost in the Shell. The first, which features a dead man’s plan to bring down modem Tokyo’s techno-sphere, contains much reminiscing on the city’s past and the revelation that its high-rise skyline has become a weapon. The story is clear but the abrupt shifts between police procedural, high-tech action, character business and Oshii’s philosophising make it feel like a blend of different television episodes.

The superior Patlabor 2 is more thematically ambitious, with Tokyo’s police and army thrown into chaos by terrorist attacks. Again it’s suggested that the enemy may have the moral high ground: one sequence, told through melancholy images of bruise-coloured clouds and Tokyo’s bleakly functional infrastructure, openly condemns Japan’s reliance on US realpolitik, and the film later suggests that America is waiting to return Japan to its post-1945 Occupation days. As in Ghost in the Shell, much of the rhetoric is spoken over still pictures or barely animated faces, but these are balanced by startlingly beautiful images such as the armed soldiers reflected in a Tokyo fashion-store window, or the blue-toned, snow-speckled night where the heroine meets enemies – or is that champions? – of the state.
Andrew Osmond, Sight & Sound, August 2003

Director: Mamoru Oshii
Executive Producers: Tetsu Uemura, Makoto Yamashina
Producers: Rod Boaz, Tsuyoshi Hamawatari, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa, Shin Unozawa
Screenplay: Kazunori Itô
Character Designers: Akemi Takada, Masami Yûki
Mechanical Designer: Shôji Kawamori
Set Decorator: Satoshi Kon
Composer: Kenji Kawai

Voice Cast
Mîna Tominaga (Noa Izumi)
Toshio Furukawa (Asuma Shinohara)
Ryûnosuke Ôbayashi (Captain Kiichi Gotoh)
Yoshiko Sakakibara (Deputy Section Chief Shinobu Nagumo)
Michihiro Ikemizu (Isao Oota)
Issei Futamata (Mikiyasu Shinshi)
Daisuke Gôri (Hiromi Yamazaki)
Shigeru Chiba (Shigeo ‘Shige’ Shiba)

Japan 1993
114 mins

Early Days of Anime Shorts Programme 1917-1946 + intro
Tue 29 Mar 18:00; Mon 11 Apr 20:40
Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei)
Wed 30 Mar 21:00; Wed 13 Apr 18:30
Exploring Anime: Panel Discussion
Thu 31 Mar 18:15
Fri 1 Apr 18:15; Sun 17 Apr 12:10
Kimba the White Lion (Jangaru Taitei)
Fri 1 Apr 20:45; Sat 9 Apr 12:40
Belladonna of Sadness (Kanashimi no Belladonna)
Mon 4 Apr 20:30 (+ intro by Helen McCarthy); Mon 18 Apr 15:30

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)
Mon 28 Mar 20:35; Fri 29 Apr 18:00
When Marnie Was There (Omoide No Mani)
Tue 29 Mar 20:40
My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)
Tue 5 Apr 18:20; Fri 8 Apr 20:50

Steamboy (Suchîmubôi)
Sat 9 Apr 20:20; Fri 15 Apr 20:30; Wed 20 Apr 18:10
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (Ōritsu Uchūgun: Oneamisu no Tsubasa)
Tue 12 Apr 18:00; Sat 23 Apr 20:40
Patlabor: The Movie (Kidô keisatsu patorebâ: Gekijô-ban)
Wed 13 Apr 20:40; Sun 17 Apr 18:20; Thu 28 Apr 18:15
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Cowboy Bebop: Tengoku no tobira)
Thu 14 Apr 20:45; Sat 16 Apr 20:30; Fri 22 Apr 20:40
Patlabor 2: The Movie (Kidô keisatsu patorebâ: The Movie 2)
Fri 15 Apr 18:15; Thu 21 Apr 20:30; Thu 28 Apr 20:45
The Case of Hana & Alice (Hana to Arisu Satsujin Jiken)
Sat 16 Apr 18:35; Tue 26 Apr 20:55

This season was co-programmed by writer and academic Hanako Miyata

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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