Patlabor 2: The Movie - In Being Dissatisfied With Truth

by Aaron H. Bynum

The dualistic relationship of leadership and fellowship involve individuals whose principles are oft well aligned with one another. It is to our disadvantage--in being human--that we humans are at times more transfixed upon acquiring social fame than on finding domestic peace, and at times more busy with the options for the success of our choices rather than with the effects of our choices aimed at such success. One of the best character dialogues within an anime that tackles the aforesaid struggle is Oshii's Patlabor 2: The Movie, a feature film dedicated to revealing the importance of an earnest soul amongst a culture that harbors tyranny.

As well as summing up the difficulties that accompany the management of multiple military forces and their constituents better than most any other anime film, Patlabor 2: The Movie also carries one of the most truth-emphasized conversations regarding social unrest and political ethics that I have ever heard. The movie itself deals with a struggle for authority between local and national military forces; however, the conversation in question is between Defense Force officer Shigeki Arakawa and police captain Kiichi Goto. This does not deal exclusively with the film's greater plot schema, but with the corruption of a system of beliefs, the na´vetÚ of citizenry, the pressure of idealism and the subsequent culmination of each.

The intellectual atmosphere of this conversation begins and ends with a sense of an "ethical imbalance", a feeling of either being misplaced or of dealing with a situation or circumstance that one simply should not deal with. This ambience is directly connected to the rhetorical question at hand: "Does peace always come at the expense of others?" Just as two nations at war battle one another as proof of power, so do the policing force and the Self Defense bureau within Patlabor 2: The Movie. In addition, just as two warring nations must give way to a victor and a loser, so must the tension between these two governmental military factions. Arakawa is quick to point out that it is almost invariably true that for one side to endure "peace", another must concede to suffering. This occurs not only due to the initial struggle between the two opposing forces, but also because society has in fact evolved to a point where the victory for one side means the annihilation of its opposite. Arakawa aptly notes, "All over the world there are bullet wars, civil wars, suffering, misery, death. We are a rich country, and what is our wealth built on?" He continues, saying, "bloody corpses... that is the foundation of our peace."

Is such an assertion applicable outside of the realm of national and international politics? Perhaps. Should a husband and a wife come to a relational precipice awaiting that final push? Should any man cease to comply with a supervisory command that his occupation demands? Should any quarreling siblings thrive on their displeasure for one another because of blood being thicker than water? Should any student with aptitude refute his knowledgeable mentor? Perchance one discerns a societal imbalance, and seeks to justly correct it, on one's own terms... We are now left to wonder that if such a thing were to occur, just how might it occur?

The catalyst for social change is a confrontation of ethics. "We are told there is peace", Arakawa notes, "but we look around us and even if we cannot give it words, our eyes tell us we cannot believe what we are being told." His statement refers to the idea that a lack of war does not entail a lack of conflict. This dovetails into Arakawa's concern for what the Japanese community believes is true, as opposed to what the community should know to be true. Patlabor 2: The Movie displays the escalating conflict between the police force and the Self Defense Force as a progressive battle for control. Dissatisfied with truth, conflicting sides resultantly focus on the refutation of their opponent's beliefs rather than on the affirmation and clarification of their own beliefs. Consequently, the citizenry knows not what to do or how to begin to understand the conflict. This is not only because they are uninformed of the conflict's details, but also because each citizen clings to the illusion that the presence of conflict only exists in the presence of war, as evidenced by the populous' dependency on technology, the media, and any other form of second-hand knowledge.

Patlabor 2 image.

Where does the common man stand within this treacherous argument of authority between extortionate leaders? The conversation between Goto and Arakawa implies that this role which involves those not in a position of absolute socio-political influence is relatively eclipsed. In reality, the common man has little or no control of the social system; the over-bearing pressure to meet with the systematic standards that an authoritarian has set forth exudes no relief, nor easiness for the life of the common man. Nevertheless, even though his control may be diminutive, his role is still very apparent. It involves making the correct decisions to restore well being to the distressed, seeking to publicly compare mere supposition to knowledge, and of course, attempting at all costs to ascertain whether or not his leader is corrupt.

An understandably inevitable factor of a society unchanged in terms of public identity and of a culture inherently idyllic is in fact the growing presence of those who lead, direct, and officially manage the pressures of idealism. The pressure to uphold a set of values as deemed proper by politics can become overwhelming in a very short span of time. Patlabor 2: The Movie sees national leaders refusing to acknowledge incompetence, military generals toying with social impulses while knowing full well the consequences, and international allies that are all too eager to lend a few bullets to the cause. Arakawa speaks of this ill-tempered diligence as proof of the illusion that one must have total control in order to avert failure. Such civil leaders operate, as Arakawa states, "in a universe not bigger than their own minds..." while being "impotent outside the confines of their heads". It would appear that the conflict within Patlabor 2: The Movie is based on authoritarians that are unwilling to back down from an irrelevant struggle, individuals with a continually waning shield of domestic easiness, and a society that cultivates a mindset pressurized by organized supposition.

The conversation between Captain Goto and Agent Arakawa is important because the dialogue traverses through some unsettling waters. It attempts to answer the questions about peace that no one asks, to draw parallel between seemingly unrelated figures, and to inspire its audience to realize the dangers of falsely identifying opportunities to renovate the comfort of domestic tranquility.

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