The “job” is to prepare for the improbable, but the worst-case scenario in the greater scheme of things, meant (civil) war (and perhaps the unwelcome intervention of the United States military in Japanese domestic affairs). But even in the fundamental activities of rendering service (in this case, the police force), the trainees work to deal with scenarios where things go wrong.
Let us take Oota’s diatribe aimed at the “kids these days” breed of Labor Pilot Trainees in the firing range.
Trainee: Question, Sir!
T: Um, why are you making us do this using only manual controls? I understand there’s a 98% hit ratio using the Fire Control System.
O: And what if your FCS is malfunctioning?
T: Sir? Police Labor activities are normally done in pairs.
O: And what if your partner’s Labor is disabled?
T: But the odds against that are a million to one…
O: Training to prepare for that one in a million is our jobs as cops you moron!
I’m tempted to relate the idea of this with Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s theory of The Black Swan, wherein the highly improbable causes the most impact. In the case of the FCS malfunctioning, the risk isn’t the probability of it happening, but rather the cost of the consequences: failed mission, loss of fighting capacity, and ultimately loss of human life.
In the greater scheme of things, Tsuge Yukihito’s irrational acts of terrorism is something the totality of the Japanese government isn’t prepared for. They were acting with the assumption of a coup d’état but Tsuge isn’t even quite interested in redistributing power. In some ways, he is closer in the spectrum of antagonists to the Batman franchise’s The Joker, who, as Alfred explains to Bruce Wayne in The Dark Night film, is “someone who just wants to watch the world burn.”
The probability that someone with supreme military capability and organizational skill to not want what other intelligent and powerful people want (more power), is beyond the imagination of the government. Thus their countermeasures, organization, and plans all fail. It took the Police Section 2, who as Oota demonstrates, is an organization that is devoted in preparing to deal with worst-case scenarios.
A particular telling scene is when Tsuge’s operation included an attack on Section 2’s Labor hangar, destroying all their current generation equipment. I was shocked and impressed with how this film did this, considering how it makes more sense to have these new models play the leading part of saving the day.
Instead, the obsolete Labors from the first film get to take the field. They were maintained and kept in fighting shape under the auspices of research and development, but Gohto apparently always kept them in mind as an auxiliary mechanized combat unit.
Patlabor The Movie 2 is more than a meditation on preparedness. I just thought it would be interesting to account for this idea that would be easy enough to overlook among the many things to appreciate here in this Oshii Mamoru film.
To take this step further I’ve invited Kaioshin to further explore this idea and bring real world parallels to the discussion:
Even with the relative preparedness of Special Division 2 Oshii presents another challenge to us. What if it still wasn’t enough? Patlabor 2 ends on a note no less pensive and uncertain as when it began. Nagumo has succeeded in apprehending Tsuge but the city is still under martial law and Tsuge says almost teasingly to Nagumo and by proxy the viewer that he wants to see the cities future. Cut to black and roll credits. SD-2 has done their job and ended the source of the crisis, but the rest of the work which is arguably even harder lies in the hands of the politicians and military officials who Goto dismissed in disgust before he and Nagumo decided to take matters into their own hands. In the end they hold the key to the future of the city, not SD-2. How do you go back from a state of martial law in a Western democracy in what is supposed to be a peace time? Patlabor 2 doesn’t seek to answer this question. Nonetheless the fear of reprisal by Tsuge’s cell who could very well still be hidden amongst sectors of the military or copycat tactics by other terrorists looking to take advantage of the confusion surely hangs in the air as it did in our own world following the September 11th 2001 attacks on the United States.
The United States escaped martial law, but changes still happened that have yet to be repealed such as tougher border laws and internal spying programs that straddle the border between lawful and unconstitutional. Perhaps Canada comes closer to answering the question of how to go back that Patlabor 2 escapes with it’s credit role. In 1970 Prime Minister Trudeau took it one step further than President Bush during the October crisis when the War Measures Act was put into force and effect in Quebec in order to deal with the kidnapping of government officials and mail box bombings attributed to a group with separatist goals calling themselves the Front de libération du Québec. Tanks could be seen in the streets and near government buildings much like what was depicted in Patlabor 2; albeit acting in supporting role to police who were given broad and seemingly limitless powers to arrest suspected FLQ members and cells and to put an end to the crisis as quickly and swiftly as possible. When the crisis was over civil liberties, curfews and rights of the accused were restored and the military withdrew, but in reality there was never a true state of martial law so it can’t be argued that it was ever lifted.
In Patlabor 2 however the entire situation was different. The police were taken off the case entirely and power was invested in the military to resolve the crisis, ultimately proving to be ineffective but nonetheless in charge of all affairs within the city. Now that the line is crossed what is to stop the fictional Japanese government from crossing it again or even returning to the status quo in the first place? Unfortunately much like Oshii I can offer no answer that question.