Patlabor 2 is widely considered to be one of the best anime films ever made. For all those involved, it was an incredibly ambitious and important production, far more than the first movie which had come out 4 years prior. Director Mamoru Oshii himself stated, somewhat provocatively, that, “as far as I’m concerned, the only Patlabor I’ve made is Patlabor 2. It’s the only thing that I can proudly call my own work”. As controversial as that statement may be, it is true that Patlabor 2 is a step-up in nearly every aspect compared to its predecessor, from its budget to production pipeline to Oshii-isms. Beyond this, Patlabor 2 is generally held to be one of the most important and influential works in Japanese animation and one of the defining movies of the 1990s - not so much for its extremely coherent aesthetic and deeply thought-out writing, but rather for the unique elements it introduced in the Japanese animation pipeline: a renovated layout system, new ways of using CGI and a still-unmatched ability to challenge live-action cinema techniques. Starting from the movie’s staff and production methods, this article will try to retrace how all of these elements coalesced to produce such a cohesive whole.
As people who follow me on Twitter might know, I had the opportunity to attend the 2021 Annecy festival - the most important festival dedicated to animation in the world. I had initially planned to release a few articles on the movies and works I’ve seen, but finally decided against it: the pieces I had started to make were simple (and, in my view, rather uninteresting) reviews, and their content didn’t really fit what I wanted for this blog. However, there is one movie that I feel the need to talk about, because watching it made me think a lot and realize many things on animation as a whole, my position towards it, why I like certain things and dislike others. That movie is The Crossing (La Traversée), a European film by Florence Miailhe which won the Jury Mention. What makes it stand out is not so much its beautiful and rather well-led plot, but its technique: it is entirely made by paint-on-glass.
The concept of realism in animation is a tricky one. Indeed, animation is thought to be the perfect medium to transcend reality and give shape to one’s wildest dreams - it has become a cliché to say that the animator’s imagination is the only limit. However, paradoxically, some of the most important artists and works in the medium have seemingly relinquished this aspect, believed to be essential.