is an oddity in the Patlabor
series. It is the only movie not directed by Mamoru Oshii
(he was instead the producer). Though set in the same near-future universe, between the first two movies, the main characters of the series barely appear, amounting to cameos. More importantly, the tone is completely different—while the mainPatlabor
series ranges from cheerful idealism to studied realism, Patlabor 3
takes the plunge into outright cynicism with a dark, brooding story of science gone wrong.
The plot opens with a plane crash in Tokyo Bay followed by several attacks on marine robots and their operators. Two detectives, Shinichiro Hata and his older partner Takeshi Kusumi, are put on the case. By chance, the idealistic Hata meets biologist Saeko Misaki, a sullen woman secretly working on a biological weapons project. During an investigation, Hata and Kusumi are attacked by the perpetrator, a huge amphibian monster, identified as "prototype 13", that was put aboard the downed plane with the intention of its death (hence WXIII: "Wasted 13"). Misaki's connection to the creature and her relationship with Hata drive the plot.
is a solid science-fiction film. Like the other movies, it veers away from pure action in favor of character-driven intrigue—though the action that does
happen is thrilling and expertly animated. Though new to the Patlabor
world, the characters are intriguing and feel genuine. The plot poses questions about scientific ethics and their consequences, as many good sci-fi stories have.
However, to a fan of Patlabor
like me, the dark, cynical tone feels completely at odds with the optimism that drew me to Patlabor
in the first place. While never outright saying Science Is Bad
, Patlabor 3
is much warier of technology's potential for harm, as opposed to the rest of the series, where advanced tech is simply part of life. In a way, it feels like a denouncement of the original premise. This makes the knowledge that this is likely the last Patlabor
story all the more bittersweet.
That said, while Patlabor 3
may rub long-time fans the wrong way, it is, on the whole, a good sci-fi story. I recommend it despite my qualms.
Final grade: B.