Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Nightcap 1/20/13 Patlabor in a post 9/11 world (From May 18 2002)

Over the next few months I'm going to be reposting the DVD reviews I did for the long gone Animaton on DVD website back in 2001 or 2002.  In looking for the pieces I ran across a rev other reviews which are going to be reposted here.

What follows here is a piece on the animated Patlabor films which I watched in 2002 in the wake of the 911 attacks.  I'm posting it because I found it intriguing to see just how much the events of 8 months earlier colored what I was seeing. (A review of the first Patlabor film done for Animation on DVD will be posted down the line)

Patlabor in the Post 9/11 World
I just finished watching the second Patlabor movie and my world has been rocked.

Patlabor is an anime TV and OVA series of a light nature that spawned two films that are infinitely darker in tone. Patlabor is short for Patrol Labor , which are police armored mechas, the police version of giant robots that are used in a world where the robots are used for heavy labor tasks. The series and movies tells the stories of the police division that use the labors, but despite what you may think, the robots are not the focus the people are.

The movies are in theory stand alone, but I know had I not seen the first five shows of the TV series I would have been a little lost since the movies just sort of go with very little explanation as to who is who.

In the first movie, someone is causing labors to run amok in and around a plant to expand the land in Tokyo by reclaiming portions of the harbor.The indications are that its the handiwork of a designer who committed suicide months earlier who left as his final act may have built in virus in the new labor operating system. But did he really die ?What is his motive?

The film is a meditation on should we be wiping out the past to build the future, with the ever looming question of how much technology is too much?

It is a dark film as the police attempt to track down what is going on before its too late. It ends with a race against time battle during a hurricane on a platform in the middle of Tokyo harbor. It is a tense well made thriller that doesn't skimp anywhere. Best of all while watching it you forget that its an animated film and assume that this could be a movie that Hollywood would make had it's act together and made good action thrillers with real characters.

The films idea at the mercy of an unknown terrorist echoed slightly of some of what was felt in the weeks after 9/11. However it was only echos and I simply chalked it up to 20/20 hindsight.

The next night I put into watch the second Patlabor movie.

This is the tale of political terrorism by a faction within the Japanese government. Is there a coup in the offing?It all begins with the bombing of a bridge in Tokyo bay and moves on from there.

Most of the normal Patlbor characters take a backseat to the two captains of the squad as they race to prevent a civil war from erupting and leaving the country in ruins and once again in the hands of the American government.

The film was sold as a meditation on Japan's place in the world and in its own eyes. The film is undoubtedly that, but in light of 9/11 it is also an unnerving look at how things move when political terror is used in a modern city like Tokyo or New York.

Yes, the film is on the face of it about a possible coup, but its about more.It is about uncertainty in a world where you are completely on your own.As things proceed you can not be certain what is going on or why, who is or is not involved and what is going to happen next.

The makers of the film seemed to be very prophetic in what life during wartime is like in a huge city. Granted you have had terror attacks in cities all over the world, but the scale of what happened in the movie is matched by what happened in New York.

I was so rattled by the movie that I stopped the film 35 minutes in and didn't pick it up again for two weeks.

This is black little film about life and death and terror. Its ideas hit home after 9/11 in ways I'm certain that they were never meant to. I don't know if the film is good or bad on its own merits, but as someone who watched the towers fall I know that I can not see echos of the real world in it.

I love the dialog of the encounters between the government spook and the labor captain, there is more to chew on than one would expect from a thriller.

Is a bad peace worse than a just war?

Why are we involved in places we are never meant to be?

And should we ever be certain about anything? Which in light of 9/11 has a frightening answer.

The film is a masterpiece not of animation but of film, simply because it provokes a reaction.The film makes you think...It makes you feel, whether you want to or not.

I don't know what else to say....

I'm not certain I've processed it all yet...certainly I know the ideas will stay with me for a long time afterward.

I'm going to have to think about this for awhile.

I suggest that should you want to see some thought inducing films get your hands on the Patlabor films and give them a try...they will rock your world.

Two other quick notes that I think should be included, but I'm not certain how or where to do so...

Patlabor 2 was by some accounts difficult for American audiences to understand politically. In light of the bombing I think things are much clearer now. (though for different reason)

Secondly, for those who care the second film is 98% character driven, with the labors only really being used very close to the end. This is NOT a mecha movie in any real sense.

Lastly there is talk of remaking, possibly as American live action Patlabor2. Why? It works as is.
(and the English dub is pretty good too. )


This weeks films are just some random titles

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