There can be little doubt as to the popularity of this series. With the original comic book running for six years and selling over 19 million copies, you’ve got to be doing something right.
That being said, this was my first introduction to the series, the movies and the phenomenon. And, in all honesty, I didn’t find it offering much more than the multiple animé offenders currently clogging shelves of DVD stores everywhere. This is not to say it isn’t good; I’m sure the fans will find it sensational, but hapless me, dropped in at the nether end of an ongoing series, couldn’t quite connect.
It’s an interesting enough story. Labors are giant humanoid machines that work as labour for humans. Patlabors are the same, but work for Special Unit 2 of the Police Department. When several of these Labors are attacked in Tokyo Bay, two investigators, Kusumi and Hata, go in to find the truth.
What they discover is a tangled network of lies and conspiracy that all connects to Hata’s current girlfriend. What they then discover is a horrifying genetic experiment in the WXIII - Wasted Thirteen .
The animation is naturally quite superb and the story does keep itself running at increasing speed throughout, but again, I am a little disconnected from the film in my limited knowledge of its history. What I saw I liked, even if I had trouble occasionally following the storyline as obviously recognisable characters are brought in. The film itself utilises some of the newer digital technologies that can convert photographs to simulated hand-drawn backgrounds that I last saw used in Voices of a Distant Star to good effect. This gives the film a very clean and recent feel that can only contribute to the overall quality, and one that fans of the series will no doubt be thankful for. (Something to be less thankful for is the crappy sales pitch on the front cover stating that this studio is also responsible for the animé recently seen in the new Tarantino film Kill Bill).
A well deserved ten outta ten here. An absolutely faultless transfer of animation to DVD. Everything bad about transfers just isn’t here and the film looks sensational. Always perfectly lit and no artefacts or aliasing at all. If there’s one fault it’s in some minor macro blocking in the end titles, but that’s hardly worth taking a point off for.
One other thing I should mention is the thankful inclusion of a widescreen format with the original 1.85:1 cinema ratio retained. Sweet.
A killer Dolby Surround 5.1 delivery here, and one that works flat out for around at least half of the film. All the action scenes and fight scenes rumble constantly with resounding clangs and bangs and the subwoofer goes nuts. Very cool, very animé and very nice.
The music attempts to set the film in the near future in much the same way Ridley Scott did in Bladerunner by having a ‘world music’ score. This is very nice and does lend that air of multiculture to the crowded streets of overpopulated Tokyo. Dialogue, too, has been well delivered in dual English and Japanese soundtracks and thankfully the Japanese one gets a deserved 5.1 rather than the more-often-than-not 2.0 stereo mix. All up an impressive package here too.
Don’t misread me here, this movie is very nice with some killer animation and some fabulous renderings. I got into the story around halfway and had figured most everything I needed to figure, but I can’t help but think I would have enjoyed the film much more had I been familiar with the story. To this end, the film will no doubt appeal to existing fans, but is still interesting enough to appeal to the inexperienced. While it covers a lot of similar ground to other animé junkets, this does have a fresh look and the use of 2D digital animation over traditional cel work certainly helps. The generous extras also tip the balance in favour of the DVD rather than against.