(Major Spoilers Ahead!)
My first exposure to Mamoru Oshii’s movies was over my shoulder. While working at Golden Age Collectibles in Seattle, WA, the staff and I would preview selections from our library of anime imports on a TV behind the register. These weren’t translated at all, just straight Japanese so we would turn the sound down in favor of the older staff’s lame CD selections, like Annie Lennox. Because I was supposed to be working and not watching TV the whole movie of Patlabor 1: Mobile Police was just like the opening credits–fading in and out of black, with murky cut scenes in between. With these short, random glances, I took Patlabor to be some military mecha bore-fest full of foreign talking heads. I was almost right, this film didn’t exactly fit into my anime-action ideal at the time, which involved teenage biker gangs with telekinetic powers (Akira, if you can’t guess).
It is perhaps premature to state that Mamoru Oshii has created his master stroke in the three films, Patlabor 1, Patlabor 2, and Ghost in the Shell. When viewed as a whole this anime trilogy are tied together by their common themes of love in the midst of war, technology based in reality, and futuristic cop-land drama. Ghost in the Shell is an introspective piece that explores real and virtual environments of the soul (ghost) in the not so near future. The most mature installment in the threesome is Patlabor 2, where Oshii really nails down his elusive concepts of the fantasy and reality of perception. Patlabor 1 marked the beginning of the series and introduced us to Oshii’s Tokyo: an out of control, recycling monster that destroys the old without the resources to deal with the new. Mamoru’s three major features present a mood and atmosphere that is decidedly adult and unique in anime, if not cinema as a whole.