Review

by Mike Crandol, Apr 2nd 2003

Patlabor the Movie 3: Wasted XIII

Ultimate Edition DVD

Synopsis:
Patlabor: WXIII Ultimate Edition DVD
Someone or something is viciously mutilating labor pilots at work on Tokyo's Babylon Project. Set prior to the events of Patlabor 2, WXIII tells the story of two police detectives trying to solve a series of gruesome murders. As the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, Kusumi and Hata realize the terrifying truth, that there is a genetically engineered monster running loose in Tokyo Bay, and that Hata's new girlfriend Saeko is somehow connected. Kusumi contacts an old acquaintance, Captain Goto of the Mobile Police. The Patlabors of Special Vehicles Section 2 are assigned to take the creature down, but for Hata and Saeko the destruction of the beast will come at a terrible price.

Also included in the WXIII: Ultimate Edition are three MiniPato short cartoons, in which Goto and friends illuminate some of the hilarious secrets behind the inner workings of SV2. You'll never look at Patlabor the same way again!
Review:
Goto, Noa, and the rest of Special Vehicles Section 2 are barely in it, but what serious Patlabor fan could pass up this three-disc “Ultimate Edition” of the newest movie in the series, “WXIII” (Full title: Patlabor: The Movie 3: Wasted 13)? Though a “Patlabor” film in little more than name only, it does tout the most impressive Ingram animation you'll likely ever see. The Supplemental Features disc explores the history of the film and its place in the Patlabor universe, which necessitates a lengthy look back at the manga, video, television, and movie series that are loved so well. And required viewing for any fan are the MiniPato short films, starring some old pals and written by the man himself, Mamoru Oshii.

The main attraction, WXIII, is ironically the least enticing part of the package. Many fans of the series will be let down by the marginal use of the regular cast, yet the film utilizes too much of the established Patlabor universe to be accessible to uninitiated viewers. Taking center stage are two new characters, detectives assigned to solve several fatal attacks on labor pilots near the Tokyo waterfront. Elderly Kusumi and his young protégé Hata are vaguely defined personalities that stand in sharp contrast to Goto and his team, who are among the most fully-realized anime characters in history. Stoic Kusumi and Hata never express enough emotion to make either of them very interesting, and Hata's relationship with the equally emotionless Saeko is likewise devoid of any real feeling. However, when Goto makes one of his all-too-brief appearances, things immediately spring to life. The conspiracy surrounding the Wasted 13 and the shocking truth behind its creation do make for an effective mix of mystery and horror, but a previous knowledge of the Patlabor world is required to fully appreciate what is going on, and if you've seen any other Patlabor anime then you know this is not the series at its best.

WXIII is not a terrible film; it's just that the shortcomings are much more noticeable because of its distinguished ancestry. One can hardly blame it for not being able to live up to the first two movies, and the filmmakers don't try to compete, rightly conceiving the picture as a side-story to the main series. Still, Mamoru Oshii's ingenious, complex storytelling is sorely missed. WXIII is basically a sophisticated Godzilla movie, and a pretty straightforward one at that. Instead of the first movie's suspenseful race against time or the second film's brilliant anticlimax, WXXIII ends with a predictable battle between the monster and SVU2's Ingrams.

But it's a battle that will make Patlabor and animation fans in general drool. Animation Studio MADHOUSE brings their renowned technical skill to the Patlabor franchise, and the result is the finest-looking installment of the entire series. Comparing the limited animation of the original OVA series to the incredibly lifelike showdown between the Wasted 13, Noa and Ota gives an idea of just how far this series has come. The character animation is likewise beautiful, and designer Hiroki Takagi updates Akemi Takada's classic characters while retaining much of their original look. The gorgeous art and animation coupled with the simple yet competent story make WXIII a worthy appendix to the Patlabor series, if not a worthy successor.

If WXIII is not a good as the other films, why then would a hardcore Patlabor fan want to shell out the extra dough for this box set? One-and-a-half words: MiniPato. Only available as part of the Ultimate Edition, these three theatrical short cartoons bring the real Patlabor stars back one last time, albeit in quite a different manner. Goto, Nagumo, and the rest have become super-deformed CGI puppets, and each of the shorts is a self-referential “instructional video” that gleefully shreds apart the Patlabor mythos. Goto talks at length about just how stupid the concept of a “Revolver Cannon” really is, Shige speculates on ways to sell more “Patlabor” merchandise by making the Ingrams transform, and Nagumo reveals the ludicrous truth behind Special Vehicles' mysterious source of income. MiniPato is one big in-joke, but folks in the know will find it hilarious, and it represents the first time Mamoru Oshii has written comedy since the Patlabor TV series ended over a decade ago. The final MiniPato short is strongly reminiscent of his classic TV script “The Destruction of Special Vehicles Section 2”, and is a reminder of just how funny the serious-minded Oshii can be.

MiniPato was brought to life using a unique new form of animation conceived by Oshii, christened “3D CG Flip-Flop Animation.” Paper cutout puppets were filmed against a black background, then scanned into a computer where they were digitally painted, composited, and animated. The finished product is pretty surreal but looks great, and one hopes that Production I.G will produce more “Flip Flop” animation in the future. The whole process is documented in a half-hour documentary included on the MiniPato disc that is just as long as the shorts themselves, and includes a fun look at the faces behind some familiar voices.

The old Patlabor cast is clearly glad to be performing their old characters again, and ten years later they are still as energetic as ever. The difference in tone between MiniPato and WXIII is immense, but Ryunosuke Ohbayashi as the lackadaisical Goto is consistently and brilliantly nonchalant in both. Pioneer's English dub marks the third set of American actors to fill the shoes of the Patlabor characters, following Manga's dub of the first two movies and CPM's current release of the television series. Though they have precious few lines, Pioneer's cast comes the closest to matching the spirit of the originals. Appearing only at the climax of WXIII, the uncredited American voice of Noa Izumi perfectly captures the essence of the overall series' main star.


As Kusumi and Hata, Patlabor newcomers Katsuhiko Watabiki and Hiroaki Hirata fit in nicely with the understated tone that characterizes all of the Patlabor films. Though they have little emotional material to work with both actors give convincing performances, as does Atsuko Tanaka as the unbalanced Saeko. Their English counterparts are just as good if not better, and Alfred Thor gives a great performance as the grizzled Kusumi.

Kenji Kawai has scored every Patlabor animation since the original video series, and WXIII and MiniPato are no exceptions. MiniPato's bouncy, lighthearted music harks back to Kawai's early days working on such animated comedies as the Patlabor TV series and Ranma ½, while WXIII's eerie, minimalist score is in the vein of his more recent work on political thrillers like Ghost in the Shell. Kawai talks about creating the music for two such drastically different films in the supplemental features included on disc three. He even performs much of it himself, proving he is one of the most versatile musicians currently working in the anime industry.

Kawai, Oshii, director Fumihiko Takayama and many others are all interviewed in the multiple documentaries included on the third disc in the set. The “All About Patlabor” program focuses on WXIII, but covers the entire franchise and is a fascinating history lesson for anyone with an interest in the series. “Behind WXIII” delves into the making of the new film, with an emphasis on adapting the story from Masami Yuuki's original Patlabor manga. “Meet the Cast” is just that, but also takes a cool peek at some of the recording sessions for the movie. Potentially the coolest extra is the layout gallery, which features virtually every layout drawing from the movie and runs at a breezy 54 minutes. Accompanying the gallery is a broadcast of the “Say Young 21” radio show, guest starring the original Patlabor vocal cast. But there are no subtitles available for the program, and us gaijin can only guess at what Noa, Asuma, and friends are talking about. Why include this feature if you're not going to translate it?

Rounding out Pioneer's fully-loaded offering is a collectible booklet that covers both WXIII and MiniPato. Much of the information is just a rehash of stuff found in the documentaries, but it's a handy quick reference for Patlabor trivia. And it says “collectible” on it!

WXIII: The Ultimate Edition is an essential addition to any Patlabor video library, but not for the movie's sake. While entertaining in its own way, by itself it does not demand the deluxe treatment. The real gems here are MiniPato and the Patlabor documentaries. Consider WXIII, with its flashy animation but pedestrian storytelling, the added bonus.
Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : C+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B+

+ finely animated mystery/horror, extra features Patlabor fans will go nutty for
the movie itself is an average piece of work, not up to snuff with previous Patlabor films.

Director:Fumihiko Takayama
Screenplay:Miki Tori
Storyboard:Fumihiko Takayama
Story:Masami Yuuki
Music:Kenji Kawai
Original Character Design:Akemi Takada
Character Design:Hiroki Takagi
Art:Kazuhisa Asai
Animation Director:Takuji Endo
Mechanical design:
Yutaka Izubuchi
Hajime Katoki
Shoji Kawamori
Art design:Takashi Watabe
Sound Director:Toshiki Kameyama
Director of Photography:Hisao Shirai
Executive producer:
Kazumi Kawashiro
Keiichi Kosaka
Shigeru Watanabe
Producer:
Masahiro Fukushima
Atsushi Sugita

Full encyclopedia details about
Patlabor WXIII (movie 3)

Release information about
Patlabor Movie 3: WXIII Special Edition (DVD)

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