This movie is quite different from the previous two Patlabor films, which featured thick plots and excellent characterization against a backdrop of just-in-the-future Tokyo, where giant robots (known as "labors") do most of the work. In Patlabor 3, however, the giant robots are all but forgotten and the primary story is that of a police investigation which takes an extremely dark turn.
The familiar characters, the Mobile Police team, make only a quick appearance in this movie, and their Special Vehicles patrol labors don't really seem to have much to do even then. Most of the film centers around two detectives investigating why certain labors are being attacked near the shores of Tokyo. Just as their search seems to be leading nowhere, they make a dark discovery in the bowels of a building which opens everything up, and suddenly anything seems possible. I have to say, I started to watch this movie expecting something similar to the other two Patlabor movies, and I was quite surprised at the turns it took away from that angle -- surprised in a good way.
The odd thing is that, despite this, Patlabor 3 still feels like a Patlabor movie. The slow, mood-setting shots of industrial Tokyo, the strikingly beautiful animation, the skillful creation of suspense, and the soft musical score all hearken back to the other two films. There's not a lot of connection in the story, but there's still a great deal of connection in how the story is told.
And, taken on its own merits, it's an excellent movie. Lots of twists and turns lead you through a complex sequence of events to what turns out to be a very personal, even moving ending. The denouement of the film lacks the epic, world-shaking quality of the other two movies, but opts instead to leave the viewer thoughtful and sad, as the last few discoveries play against a tragic scene of destruction and death. It left me quiet and introspective as the credits rolled.
This is not the same Patlabor story that I've seen before, and it's definitely not quite what I was expecting. But it's still a fine anime movie, and well worth watching.
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Rich Stoehr (GlassIsland)
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Despite its title, this theatrical feature has little to do with themechaadventures and ensemble comedy of the popular broadcast seriesMobile Police Patlabor. Inspector Shin'ichiro Hata of the Tokyo Police is assigned to investigate an unexplained series of violent and grisly deaths. Instead of the roguemechathePatlaborteam fight, the killer is a weird, amphibious monster, the product of yet another biotech experiment gone wrong. Hata meets the beautiful scientist who created the monster--using cells from the cancer that killed her daughter. The familiar characters Noa Izumi, Isao Ota, and Captain Goto appear in brief cameos when they dispatch the mutant monster in a half-ruined stadium. Director Fumihiko Takayama tries to emulate the look and tone of Hiroyuki Okiura'sJin-Roh, but fails to generate the ominous tension that distinguishedThe Wolf Brigade. (Rated R: violence, grotesque imagery, profanity, tobacco use)--Charles Solomon