Stephen reviews: WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 (2002)

wxiii_patlabor_the_movie_threeWXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 [WX3 機動警察パトレイバー Wasted 13: Kidō Keisatsu Patlabor] (2002)
AKA Patlabor WXIII, Wasted 13: Patlabor the Movie 3

Starring Hiroaki Hirata, Katsuhiko Watabiki, Miina Tominaga

Directed by Fumihiko Takayama


Though Mamoru Oshii has left the scene, the third Patlabor film definitely inherited his influence. And although I wish I could say that it inherited his stylish visuals, oddball sense of humor, or knack for finding unique thematic content, I’m afraid that all this film inherited was his sluggish pacing. It’s clearly trying to imitate Oshii’s distinct flavor, but it learned all of the wrong lessons from him and none of the right ones. It uses a lot of Oshii’s techniques from the earlier Patlabor films, but where Oshii used them for a reason, WXIII only uses them to disguise itself as a Mamoru Oshii film.

The story centers on two police detectives (I’ve already forgotten their names) trying to figure out who or what has been wrecking all the labors, the giant robots of this particular series. One of the guys is young and inexperienced while the other guy is old and grizzled. It turns out that there is a giant monster swimming around out in the bay, and soon the creature graduates from wrecking vehicles to eating people. The investigation turns into a quest to find out where it came from and how to stop it. It has elements of a police procedural, horror film, psychological thriller, buddy cop flick, and just a dash of giant monster action. All this doesn’t mesh so much as it turns into a pile of mush. In its attempts to accommodate all of those things it winds up sabotaging all of them.

Continue reading Stephen reviews: WXIII: Patlabor the Movie 3 (2002) →

Stephen reviews: Birth (1984)

birth_1Birth [バース] (1984)
AKA World of the Talisman; Planet Busters

Starring Miina Tominaga, Kazuki Yao, Ichirō Nagai, Kaneto Shiozawa, Keiko Toda, Noriko Tsukase, Fuyumi Shiraishi

Directed by Shinya Sadamitsu


Sometimes I wonder why I dig through the bottom of the anime barrel, dredging up forgotten pieces of garbage that maybe should have stayed forgotten. But then I stumble upon one of those hidden gems that I never would have seen otherwise. Birth is one of those films that despite its low production quality is just so damn entertaining that all of its flaws are moot. Its rambunctious humor and action-driven narrative kept me in a perpetual state of giddy excitement.

There’s really not much of a plot here. It’s more of a string of intertwined chase scenes without much purpose aside from having a thrilling chase scene full of random sci-fi gadgets and vehicles. It starts with a small alien blob being chased by a slightly more anatomically defined alien critter, then moves on to a spaceship chasing a flying, glowing sword across the solar system, then shows off a cute blonde girl on a hover bike (which was clearly designed for maximum sexy posing and butt shots) getting chased by an asshole biker gang intercut with a guy on foot getting chased by a big robot with swords and guns. This is pretty much the first half-hour of the film, and there hasn’t been any kind of story going on other than “Run for your freaking life!”

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Stephen reviews: Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993)

DUU2tPatlabor 2: The Movie [機動警察パトレイバー2 Kidō Keisatsu Patlabor 2 The Movie] (1993)
AKA Mobile Police Patlabor 2: The Movie

Starring Ryunosuke Ohbayashi, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Daisuke Gouri, Issei Futamata, Jinpachi Nezu, Michihiro Ikemizu, Miina Tominaga, Tomomichi Nishimura

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


This film feels very similar in a lot of ways to the first Patlabor, and to Oshii’s other films as well. A lot of my feelings are the same as I had for the first film. But Patlabor 2 falls short of the first one. It’s a little drier and less ahead of its time, which made me less interested in it.

Its primary flaw is the same as the first film, and something that plagues a lot of the Mamoru Oshii films I have seen. It’s just too slow-moving, and its methodical pacing left me zoning out. I handled the first film well enough because its plot was more intriguing with its focus on computer technology well beyond what I had expected from the time period. Here, however, it just didn’t have a premise that made me sit up and pay attention, and it was a bit predictable as well.

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Stephen reviews: Patlabor: the Movie (1988)

patlabor1Patlabor: the Movie [機動警察パトレイバー 劇場版] (1988)
AKA Patlabor 1

Starring Miina Tominaga, Daisuke Gouri, Issei Futamata, Kouji Tsujitani, Michihiro Ikemizu,  Osamu Saka, Ryunosuke Ohbayashi, Shigeru Chiba

Directed by Mamoru Oshii


This film takes place back in 1999 when the police used giant robots called labors, hence the abbreviation of “patrol labor” into patlabor. What, you don’t remember getting pulled over by a giant robot? Man, if you were that drunk, then you really did deserve that ticket.

The film is a sequel to the TV series of the same name, but it stands on its own very well. I could tell that the characters and their roles had already been established, but I never felt too far out of the loop to understand the plot. The story itself is the primary focus of the film, and while the characters definitely have their personalities, it never focuses on any one person for very long. Instead it focuses on an investigation that the entire team is working on, with all the characters performing different duties.

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