Patlabor 1: Mobile Police The year is 1999 and Tokyo's Mobile Police have a new weapon in the war on crime - advanced robots called Labors are used to combat the criminals who would use the new technology for illegal means. The suicide of a mysterious man on the massive Babylon Project construction site sets off a cascade of events that may signal the destruction of Tokyo. What is the connection between the suicide, the new Mobile Police AV-XO Zero Labor, and a berserk prototype tank? When Patlabor cops Noah Izumi and Azuma Shinohara investigate an unexplained wave of rogue Labors' rampaging across the city, they uncover a sinister revenge plot to infect Tokyo's eight thousand Labor population with the deadly BABEL virus. With the future of the city hanging in the balance and a typhoon poised to trigger the devastation, Noah, Azuma and their teammates must destroy the source of the virus, the giant Babylon Project tower in Tokyo Bay.
Patlabor 2: The Movie In the near future, advanced robots called ‘Labors’ are used worldwide for civil and military operations. In order to combat criminals who might misuse this new technology, the Tokyo Police Department’s Special Vehicle Division (SVD) is equipped with Patrol Labors or Patlabors, to fight urban crime. The date is 2002, three years after the events of Patlabor 1. The destruction of a United Nations Labor team in south-east Asia signals the beginning of a deadly terrorist plan that threatens to send shockwaves throughout Japan’s military and government power structures. The countdown to armed revolution and panic on the streets of Tokyo begins now!
Reflections on Old and New...with robots.
- Patlabor 1 and 2 review by MN
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In anime-circles, Mamoru Oshii is sort of a God. Perhaps not an infallible deity, but certainly one of the few directors in the business who've spent their career creating consistently excellent projects. His 1995 film, Ghost in the Shell still resonates at the height of Science-Fiction and his earlier works, like this one, Patlabor, are still of high interest to those looking for the very best works of the medium. In Patlabor 1, Oshii takes his oft-used notion of technology and power, turning it into a Biblically-inspired detective story and finding a happy-medium between enjoyable action and serious reflection.
On the surface, it's a mecha-anime but underneath it's very much a story about the ill-use of power by technocrats. The technocrat in question is Hoba, a genius-recluse who, in addition to creating software that the entire world relies on, has designed a new project that will turn Tokyo into a 'Cosmopolis'. Shortly before the project's completion though, a band of labour units (robot mechas known as 'Patlabors') run amok, functioning autonomously without their intended human-input. This puts the onus on Division II to search for clues about the episode, leading them to a discovery about the horrific truth behind Hoba's planned suicide and technological ambitions.
Similar to the principal antagonist in Paul Auster's, City of Glass, Hoba's obsession with wrath plays towards his misuse of power. He sees his new vision of the world as an homage to the Tower of Babel -- as a a way of invoking a Godly wrath through his own software. His creation of the Ark projects his desire to remove vice from the world, but why? We're never given an insight into his character but through symbolism and imagery, Patlabor segments a blend of old and new Japan, pitching a reflective take on the notion of progress and change in an anime that, essentially, ends with a massive fight between two mecha units.