Film Reviews:

Patlabor: Mobile Police

aka Patlabor 1: The Movie

(Mamoru Oshii, Japan, 1989)

[Patlabor: Mobile Police R2 UK DVD sleeve]Within months of releasing the impressive The Wings Of Honneamise, Manga hit the jackpot again in the UK with this fantastic tale of industrial sabotage. In the heavy industries manufacturing sector devoted to making labors - driver controlled robots used primarily in construction - Shirahara Heavy Industries is the market leader. They have supplied their robots far and wide across the world, even the New York Police Department use them for law enforcement in the U.S. However, technicians working for Shirahara have discovered bugs in the new labor Hyper Operating System. Problem is, new units off the production line have already shipped with the new operating system.

[Patlabor: Mobile Police R2 UK DVD sleeve]The question arises whether to recall these units which, after all, may only appear to have the fault in particular situations, or 'smooth over' the issue because of huge government and industry investment in the research. An executive decision is made to ignore the bugs issue but for one em-ployee, Noah, this is not good enough. He teams up with a police officer and friends to look into the faulty machines. It isn't long before he discovers that something far more dangerous is in effect. An ex-employee who committed suicide has sown the seeds for worldwide disaster by secreting a virus within all labor operating systems that when triggered will cause labors the world over to malfunction, resulting in millions of industrial 'accident' deaths.

Anyone who uses computers or is involved in the computer industry will immediately see a warning parable within the plot for Patlabor. It takes to a dramatic extreme the currently accepted standard that commercially available computer software and hardware has bugs in its coding affecting its operation, sometimes leading to malfunctions. Techno speak aside, I'd recommend this to anybody. Director Mamoru Oshii concentrates on the strong plot, characterisation and script to tell an absolutely gripping story rather than fall back on action to get him through. As a result, Patlabor is up there with Akira in its intelligent approach, one that pays off in spades. Just how the virus is triggered in the labors is in itself more inventive than the entire contents of some animated features. The director is aided by solid animation and high levels of visual detail combined with a distinctly mellow music score that has more in keeping with traditional Japanese compositions than anything modern or western. It only really weakens when it switches to the occasional moment of comedy for light relief - something that the film doesn't require. Nevertheless, applause must go to the Headgear team as writers of a title that has gone on to become something of a national phenomenon in Japan, and rightly so. Patlabor 2 here we gladly come. 8/10

Rob Dyer

See also:

Patlabor 2

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