Weekend Review: Mobile Police Patlabor – The Movie

This weekend’s review is the film spinoff of the Patlabor OVA that was my last weekend review. Mobile Police Patlabor – The Movie. It’s not Oshii’s first film for theaters (that would be the first Urusei Yatsura film), but it does pre-date Ghost In The Shell. So, how does early Oshii work for films, and is his cinematic comedy actually funny?

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Miina Tominaga as Noa Izumi
Daisuke Gouri as Hiromi Yamazaki
Issei Futamata as Mikiyasu Shinshi
Kouji Tsujitani as Kataoka
Michihiro Ikemizu as Isao Ohta
Osamu Saka as Seitaro Sakaki
Ryunosuke Ohbayashi as Kiichi Goto
Shigeru Chiba as Shiba Shigeo
Tomomichi Nishimura as Detective Matsui
Toshio Furukawa as Asuma Shinohara
Yoshiko Sakakibara as Shinobu Nagumo
You Inoue as Kanuka Clancy

Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Written by Kazunori Ito
Animated by Production IG, Studio DEEN, Studio Madhouse, Nakamura Production, and a bunch of others


In the past month, Division 2 of Special Vehicles Section 2 has encountered a lot of incidents of Labors going berserk and operating on their own. What’s setting them off, what relation to does Shinohara Heavy Industries new operating system have to do with it, and how do they stop it?

High Point

If this film reminds you a lot of “Ghost In The Shell, it should. Oshii and Ito would later work together on that movie as well.

The difference though, between this and Ghost In The Shell, aside from the violence and so forth, is that Patlabor keeps its sense of humor. While the tone is different, it fits in nicely with the OVA. Probably the best example of this is the triumphant return of Shige, which is played mostly for laughs (which makes sense, Shige is one of the show’s comic characters).

Low Point

The film has some of the same pacing problems as Ghost In The Shell, only not quite as bad.

Nudity and Violence

There is a sum total of one death in this (the first death of the franchise), and it’s bloodless, but it is a suicide (the person jumps off a high structure to their death). It comes really early on though. There is no nudity at all. Probably, this is a good “first Mamoru Oshii” movie for anyone, be they an adult or a kid (particularly if they’ve previously seen the Patlabor OVA).

The Scores

Originality: It’s a sequel, but one that treads new ground. 4 out of 6

Animation: The animation is gorgeous, and I’d say that it’s superior Ghost In The Shell. We get a few shots that use “special camera lenses” which are actually effects done in the animation, that are gorgeous notably an argument between two characters that uses a “fish eye lens” to comic effect. 6 out of 6

Story: The story is fairly well done, though the segments with Detective Matsui drag and the villain’s motivation isn’t very clear. 4 out of 6

Voice Acting: The voice acting in this is excellent. All of the cast brings their A-Game, and we get some great performances out of the bargain. 5 out of 6

Emotional Response: We get some tension at the very end of the movie, however, coming into this movie I knew that there were two more films in continuity with this one to come, so that lessened the tension somewhat. 4 out of 6

Production: Aside from the animation quality, the film is good, the sound design is very well done (and with a 5.1 mix on the DVD release, if they’d mess up it’d be noticeable), and the limited CGI (used for computer displays) is pretty good too, for the time. 4 out of 6

Overall: This is an excellent film. This is one of the best anime I’ve seen, either in terms of films or OVAs or TV series. 6 out of 6

In total, Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie receives a 33 out of 42.

Note on Availability + A Bit Of A Rant: The Patlabor film is currently licensed by Bandai and released under their Honneamise label – which they use for basically insanely gorgeous films. However, I did some research and found that US Manga Corps/Central Park Media has the license for the OVA series and TV series, as well as their licenses for Grave of the Fireflies, and the Project A-Ko franchise are still current. As I mentioned on the Lodoss review, CPM hasn’t put out any manga or DVDs for over 5 years. I attempted to contact them to find out some additional information on the state of the license, the conditions of the license, and whether they had previously gone into talks to set up a distribution deal with another company – only to not have my E-Mails returned (or even read), and with the phones constantly being busy, to the point that I suspect that the staffers at CPM simply had taken them off the hook. I got in touch with some people in the Anime Media, who let me know that CPM staff are on nigh impossible to get ahold, except at New York Area conventions.

It is my hope that someone from Funimation, Viz, Bandai Entertainment or even ADV can kick down the door to their offices and get a distribution deal signed for their back catalog. Either that, or the companies who hold the Japanese rights for these anime can take them back. I am very angry, and disappointed by CPM’s public relations (or lack thereof) in this matter, and that the circumstances are leading to many great anime being left OOP.

4 replies on “Weekend Review: Mobile Police Patlabor – The Movie”

  1. Unfortunately this movie put me to sleep when I tried watching it the first time about 10 years ago. You’re being very generous on the comment about the pacing!

    The marketing for the movie in the US was a bit deceiving as well. I was expecting an action packed mecha anime and instead got a very slow, drawn out, detective movie and a very confusing conspiracy plot. Also giant robots with six shooters? Cmon…

    Taste differs of course, but I’m very surprised you’re marking this as “one of the best anime you’ve ever seen.” Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell were much better films in this genre, in my humble opinion.

    • I watched the Patlabor franchise basically in the order of release (I watched some of Patlabor TV before I watched Patlabor the movie). Consequently I came to know the characters a lot, and came to like the characters. When the Patlabor OVA came out in Japan, there was a bit of craze around it, enough that IIRC it was one of the first OVA’s to be broadcast on Japanese television. Anyway, because of that they could semi-reasonably assume that you could come into the film with a basic familiarity with the characters and setting – they don’t have to spend too much time re-explaining the premise for you, and it’s fairly reasonable to assume you know certain things about the characters – Ota’s trigger happy, Shinshi’s a family man, Noa’s very heavily attached to her Labor (and she and Asuma are the Will-they-or-won’t-they couple), Hiromi is a very large but very gentle and caring man with a green thumb, Goto is seemingly a little bumbly and ditzy, but actually he’s really devious – and Shinobu and her team are probably the only “normal” people in the place. Oh, and everyone eavesdrops on everyone because they’re out in the middle of nowhere and 90% of the time there’s nothing to do.

      As far as the pacing goes – I kind of like Oshii’s pacing – it reminds me a lot of Blade Runner. When I recapped the franchise on the forum’s for another site I’m on, RPG.net (I did what’s called a Where I Watch thread on the site), I referred to the slow shots where we’re seeing the city, and the enviroment, and just people moving through the environment (so we’re also getting to see what the environment and city looks like in the future) as the “Oshii shot.” It’s really a part of Oshii’s directorial style, and it works for me.

      (Anyway, for the record, Oshii really needs to do more comedy).

    • I’ve seen all of Patlabor and have reviews waiting in the wings on all of Patlabor, and I pretty much agree with you on the third movie – but I’ll get to that when I put the review for the third movie up.

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