Patlabor: The Movie (1989) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The screwball cops of Special Vehicles Section 2 Division 2 must investigate and stop a spree of rampaging construction robots.

  • A mysterious suicide and a series of unmanned robot run-aways sparks off a Police investigation into the suspicious software on-board thousands of industrial robots around Tokyo. Step by step, the police find themselves tangled up by the web of a perfect crime which awaits the approaching Typhoon to activate thousands of virus affected robots. As time runs out, Asuma and his team must complete a task that is doomed to be a failure before the Typhoon lands Tokyo.

  • In the near-future of 1999, Japan has developed giant robot suits, dubbed "Labors", which they have employed in various contexts both military and civilian. In the midst of a massive Tokyo land redevelopment program called the Babylon Project, Labors begin moving on their own, sometimes against their pilots' inputs, and sometimes without even any pilot present. The motley crew of TMP Special Vehicles Section 2 Division 2 must investigate and stop this phenomenon threatening the project and indeed the entire country.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In the near-future, Tokyo is undergoing a huge re-development program known as the Babylon project. Old suburbs are being demolished and man-made islands are being constructed in Tokyo Bay. Dominating the scene is the Ark, a huge man-made island of steel from where the Babylon project is coordinated. The Ark is also used to manufacture and test labors, large man-operated robots that are used in most of the construction work.

    One day, as dusk approaches, a programmer by the name of Eiichi Hoba jumps off the Ark, a smirk on his lips, committing suicide.

    Some time later there are several incidents where labors that were manufactured by Shinohara Industries malfunction, start operating of their own accord and go on the rampage even after they have been turned off. These include construction and military labors alike. These labors are either on routine missions and go out of the pilot's control, or else they are unmanned, which means that they should never have started up in the first place.

    The police force itself uses labors units to deal with the unruly ones. Division 2 in particular finds itself dealing with incidents almost around-the-clock and no rational explanation can be found for the disturbances.

    Investigations made by Captain Gotoh and Sergeant Asuma Shinohara of Division 2 conclude that the rampaging labors have one thing in common: each were installed with H.O.S - Hyper Operating System, the latest software program to be installed in the labor computers. At first Asuma assumes that a bug is the cause but Gotoh believes that it was deliberately done by Eiichi Hoba, the programmer who committed suicide.

    The Hyper Operating System has been installed in all the labors in Tokyo including the Ingram 98 which is used by the police. This puts Officer Noa Izumi, a labor pilot, and the Special Division police force in a worrying state because they fear the labors might go berserk while on duty and harm the public. Shigeo Shiba, the programmer responsible for Division 2's computer systems, later returns from New York where he has been helping to set up similar labor units. He informs the team that he did not install the HOS due to his own doubts about it. Asuma, who has been working to the point of exhaustion on the investigation, is furious to learn that Gotoh knew about this and didn't tell him.

    Gotoh is a subtle manipulator: he reasoned that not telling Asuma would push the younger man into dedicating himself into finding a solution before anyone got hurt.

    Meanwhile, at Gotoh's request, Detective Matsui investigates Hoba's background and finds that his work, thinking and convictions were somewhat related to references in the Bible. For example, the Ark could be said to be named after Noah's Ark; a virus Hoba created displays the word "Babel" all over the computer screens; and he used the name Jehovah while at MIT. Why he decided to associate this with the biblical references remains a guess but Gotoh does come to the conclusion that Hoba planned this labor rampage for some time and that he committed suicide in order to make his plan irreversible.

    Asuma and Shigeo continue the investigation and discover that wind speeds can trigger the H.O.S. into making a labor to go on the rampage via resonance caused by city buildings. Using a computer simulation they are horrified to discover that a combination of typhoon-speed wind acting on the Ark could trigger all the labors in Tokyo on to a massive rampage. As if foreseen by Hoba before he died, a typhoon is reported to be on its way towards Tokyo Bay and the Ark.

    Informed on Asuma and Shige's findings, Gotoh pushes his superiors for clearance to destroy the Ark. Although the conclusions are greeted with skepticism, Gotoh surreptitiously convinces the police commissioner to OK his proposal, agreeing that whatever happens the blame will be put down to the typhoon.

    As the storm approaches, Special Vehicle Division 2 makes preparations. A top officer, Kanuka Clancy, even returns from abroad in order to aid them in their mission. The squad faces a double-race against time: one group, led by Asuma, must go to the Ark and demolish it before it causes all the labors to go berserk and destroy Tokyo. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, Shigeo must find convincing evidence of Hoba's guilt or else the demolition will not be justified and they could all end up in jail.

    Asuma's team arrives on the Ark, which has been evacuated due to the approaching typhoon. After fighting it out with some guard robots, Hiromi, Asuma and Shinshi break into the control room in order to set the sequence for the Ark's self destruction. Meanwhile Kanuka, Noa and Ohta cover their backs and battle the activated construction labors that are going on the rampage due to the typhoon.

    Kanuka uses an AVXO-zero, one of the very latest labors, and which is equipped with the faulty HOS. At first she manages to keep it under control but then it turns against her colleagues.

    As the Ark is destroyed, the final battle between Ingram and Zero comes down with the Ingram suffering heavy damage. But with quick determination and wit, Noa manages to destroy the zero's PRAM system using her shotgun. With the threat of the labors rampaging across Tokyo eliminated at the cost of the Ark, Hoba's plan has been foiled.

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