Ah, the second Patlabor Movie. After seeing the first one, I just had to watch the second one at some point. There’s a lot that stayed the same, it still features a realistic setting and plot, aimed at adults, creative uses for mechas and down-to-earth characters. There are also some major differences, though: the storyline features way and way more political influences, there is less time for quirky characters (although they do get three or four scenes), the main character has switched to Captain Goto and the female lead became Shinobu and most importantly: the storyline has become significantly more complex.
This just isn’t a movie you can watch when bored or sleepy; you just have to keep paying attention if you want to follow what’s going on. You see, the plan of the villain is to throw an entire country off-balance, and you need a lot of development to pull that one off right. Somehow, Patlabor II manages to do this, but it has to thunder through all of the developments to get all of them within the two-hour limit of the movie. I’d almost think that another half an hour of screen-time would have been useful to give each single development a bit more time, and make the entire movie a bit easier to understand.
Still, despite this, Patlabor II remains the anime movie with the most complex story I’ve seen up till now, and it actually pulls this off quite nicely. If you manage to pay attention, it’ll reward you with a great story and a thought-provoking villain, even though he does lack the charm of the villain of the first movie, and I’m still not sure why Shinobu was acquainted with the guy. Goto also proves to be quite an interesting main character with his intelligent, down-to-earth, stoic and yet caring attitude.
And yes, the second movie also suffers from the same flaw as the first one. The characters are there, they’re fun to watch, but they lack most sorts of background and fleshing out. For that, you’re going to have to watch the OVAs or the series first, but especially the series with its fifty episodes isn’t something you just watch in an afternoon, and it takes commitment. I’m not sure whether I’m going to try them out, it depends on how easy they are to find.
Still, if you like politics and a realistic setting for mechas, Patlabor is a very good recommendation. It’s a pity that most movies nowadays don’t have such an ambitious plot as this one, but perhaps the upcoming Votoms-OVA will fix this. Overall, I liked this movie better than the first instalment, despite the slightly-too-fast storytelling.