a.k.a. The Wolf Brigade
In an alternate world that is nevertheless eerily similar to ours, Japan has lost the Second World War… not to the Americans, but to Nazi Germany. The country has ever since fallen into a state of poverty and dereliction. The populace has become restless and the police have become a fascist political force. The latest threat to the stranglehold the government has on the country is a domestic terrorist group called “The Sect”. To combat these terrorists, the creation of a special division of armored units is made so. One of their very own, Fuse Kazuki, is put in a situation of killing a young woman or be killed himself. The decision he makes will affect every aspect of his life from that point on…
summary by Kain
Highs: Proves superiority of hand-painted cels; dark story filled with twists; moving music
Lows: Rides the Red Riding Hood motif to death
Movies like this one come around just once in a blue moon; they excel in so many areas that at the end even someone who has been in the anime game for as many years as I have can only sit there in awe and astonishment. Jin-Roh has taken all my expectations coming in, ran them through the shredder and said, “I can do better.” Finally, a dog with a bite to back up its bark.
To be perfectly frank, I have been burned by Oshii Mamoru before (Ghost in the Shell, Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie) and for years had this pre-conceived notion that he was a misguided artist; handed the tools to make a masterpiece but lacked the conviction to use those tools to their full potential. What a difference just a few years can make! From the hand-crafted cels (computers were mainly used for camera work) to the haunting, emotion-driven soundtrack, one walks away with the impression that every detail was painstakingly accounted for. Choreography is without equal, and so is the attention to realism. Often times I had to make myself aware that this was animation and not real life staring me in the face.
Perhaps the two aspects that really caught my attention, however, were the plot (complete with surprising turns around every corner) and the characters. Rarely do I come across, especially in this genre, characters that express their emotions with such gusto; the aforementioned realism element has much to do with this. In particular, the last scene between Kei and Fuse moved me nearly to tears. Powerful, powerful stuff.
Jin-Roh proves that Oshii has learned and greatly improved on his technique since his earlier works, but don’t try to compare this movie with Ghost in the Shell. Rather, Jin-Roh feels like everything Akira was and everything it should have been. Just about the only thing that grated on my nerves was the Little Red Riding Hood symbolism was pounded into me so often, I wanted to scream, “I get it already!” Still, the excellence with which this anime is crafted nullifies any complaints.
Highs: Disturbingly believable; graphically stunning
Lows: Way too much of the Red Riding Hood connection
What a shockingly disturbing… but excellent… movie. There are many quality anime movies, yet few take such a realistic and downright gritty approach. The intrigue and betrayal that filled the world of Jin-Roh takes an unfortunate page right out of the real world. “Trust no one” was never as true as it is here.
The story’s focus is clearly split between an intense character study of Fuse and indeed the nature of all men; the twisting plot is rife with action, introspection and sadness. The movie holds you right where it wants you and exploits all the right emotions, downright depressing you at points and then offering a glimmer of hope to keep things going until the gut-wrenching finish.
The serious and believable subject matter wouldn’t have come off nearly as well if not for the hauntingly beautiful, realistic artwork and animation. A completely animated world only slightly removed from our own is laid out before the audience; it totally envelops and emerges the viewer in its fabric.
The only downside would be the somewhat annoying and oft-repeated Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. I find it strange that in such a plausible world everyone and their mother is constantly and unendingly repeating the same story, though I realize this was done to emphasize one of the driving points of the show. Though it becomes a minor nuisance eventually, it is nothing that would come close to ruining the enjoyment of the movie though.
This movie one ranks up there with the Ghibli masterpieces, set apart by its realism. It is a close match to something like Grave of the Fireflies and is worth every second of your time.
Highs: Gripping story; well-paced plot; enduring atmosphere
Lows: Overextended metaphor; initial predictability
Few anime can combine moody mellowness and intense violence effectively, but Jin-Roh manages to do just that. Bleak and melancholy, this anime deftly explores the effects of guilt, duty and love on a man with the heart of a wolf.
The story is simple and even a bit predictable at first. It takes its time, giving each scene a chance to unfold without unnecessary lingering. The pace picks up dramatically towards the end, executing several well-planned plot twists, and gives itself plenty of time to wrap up the ending. Buttressed with well-composed music, Jin-Roh mixes long, dream-like interludes with scenes of unflinching violence. Though stark and graphic, the violent scenes do not break the mood of the anime. Instead, they integrate into the heavy, gloomy atmosphere and become an important part of the story. The only glaring flaw in this otherwise finely crafted anime is the overextended Red Riding Hood metaphor. None too subtly, this anime takes every opportunity to drag out its Big Bad Wolf flag and wave it in our faces. What could have been an effective storytelling tool is instead annoyingly blatant and distracting.
Luckily there is no shortage of finesse when it comes to the art of Jin-Roh. Using a palette of muted tones and soft, simplified realism, the somber mood of this anime is evident throughout. With graceful fluidity, the animation compliments the clean lines of the art and remains consistently smooth, even during action scenes and gunfire bursts. The quality of the voice acting also matches the character art in realism, the seiyuu creating just the right amount of tension and emotion in each scene without going over the top. Adeptly mixing each of these elements, Jin-Roh exudes the quiet confidence of a fine anime.
Dark, depressing, graphically violent and emotionally draining, this anime is not for everyone. For those that can handle the foray into gloom and heartache, Jin-Roh is an engaging anime that should not be missed.
Jin-Roh can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.