JIN-ROH: THE WOLF BRIGADE (1999)

 

Format: 101-minute feature

 

Rating: R (GV)

 

American Production: Bandai Entertainment/Viz

 

Japanese Production: Bandai Visual/Production I.G.

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

A-

Writing:

A-

Character Design:

B

Animation:

A

Artistic Merits:

A

English Dub:

B

Musical Score:

A-

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

B

Drama Content:

A-

 

 

DVD Presentation:

A-

DVD Extras (regular/Special):

D/A-

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

      In the world of Jin-Roh, the aggressive economic expansion of Japan in the 1950s led to massive public unrest and the advent of violent anti-government movements. To offset a threat that local police could not handle, the Japanese government formed the Capitol Police, a heavily-armed elite paramilitary force intended to protect the public peace and put down the “terrorists.” In response, the anti-government groups united into The Sect and waged bloody street battles against the Capitol Police. Both groups have become increasingly marginalized as the populace looks ahead to the wealth the future promises, but The Sect remains a serious threat. Some have also come to regard the Capitol Police as just as great a threat since they operate outside of the normal local chain of command. Rumors of a secret counter-intelligence unit within the Capitol Police, called the Wolf Brigade, also abound, but no one can or will say anything definite about its existence or purpose.

      Constable Fuse, one of the most promising young members of the Capitol Police, finds himself caught in the middle of this situation. While on a mission to clear out Sect members in the sewers, he corners a Red Riding Hood, the name given to girls who transport satchels containing bombs and/or Molotov cocktails for The Sect (since they are less conspicuous than adults). Instead of shooting as ordered, he finds himself only able to ask “why?” and watch as the terrified girl detonates the bomb she had been carrying right in front of him. The emotional consequences devastate him, so much so that he finds himself seeking out more information about the girl, which ultimately leads him to the girl’s older sister. He forms a complex relationship with the girl, who seems to be seeking someone to connect with herself, but all around him forces are conspiring to manipulate him to their own ends. Ultimately the true nature of The Wolf is revealed, and few are those who escape the consequences.

 

Quotes

      “Only in the tales that humans tell do the hunters kills the wolves in the end.”

 

The Long View

      The alliterations to Little Red Riding Hood suggested above are not coincidence. The story, written by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost in the Shell fame, is directly derived from the very dark original version of the classic Brothers Grimm folk tale, which itself is a key part of the story. If one keeps that in mind, then it is easier to see how the seemingly pointless early parts of the story are actually slowly but inexorably building towards its conclusion. Even if you find the story boring at first, you’ll eventually be drawn in by the building crescendo of dramatic events as the story progresses into its final stages. Ultimately everything comes down to a single metaphorical question: can a wolf pretending to be a human actually become a human, or will the nature of the beast always dominate? The end result is devastating. The action climax is solid in its own right, but the dramatic climax that follows it is one of the most powerful you’ll find anywhere in animation.

      The technical merits to Jin-Roh are outstanding; it easily ranks among the best in both artistry and animation, and the musical score is more than adequate. The dark and somewhat subdued color scheme might not appeal to some, and the oddly flat-faced way the characters themselves are rendered tends to limit their expressiveness and individual distinctiveness. Neither factor detracts significantly from this being a very well-made film, however. The combat suits used by the Capitol Police (think of the Space Marines from Aliens but with red-eyed face masks added) are both intimidating and effective at evoking the spirit of a wolf. You would not want to run into one of them in sewers! The heavy machine guns the Capitol Police use will more than satisfy fans of big guns.

      The writing of Jin-Roh is excellent as it takes the basic Red Riding Hood outline and works through it the convoluted politics behind the situation surrounding Constable Fuse. One cannot fail to appreciate how truly troubled Fuse is by what has happened, and I would be surprised if anyone could, by the end of the movie, regard the situation of the girl he meets with anything less than strongly mixed emotions. The narration of the Red Riding Hood story by various characters amongst the foreground events is a clever and effective touch.

      The rating I have assigned Jin-Roh is solely because of three or four very graphically violent scenes; there’s no nudity, sexual content, drugs or language, and even those particularly violent scenes only compose a small part of the movie. The scenes in question are quite intense, however, enough so that this movie is not appropriate for younger audiences. It is clearly intended for mature teens and adults, who should find it to be a quite satisfying view.

 

DVD Extras

      The regular edition only has trailers and an insert which outlines the political and military structures in the story and which characters are associated with the Wolf Brigade. (Interestingly, the insert also has the principle credits on the back.) There is a Special Edition which has extensive additional extras, including the CD soundtrack and a 12-page booklet. It typically costs nearly twice as much as the regular edition.

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Kazuki Fuse

Michael Dobson

Kei Amamiya

Moneca Stori

Atsushi Henmi

Colin Murdoch

Bunmei Muroto

Dale Wilson

Hajime Handa

Michael Kopsa

Shiro Tatsumi

Ron Halder

Nanami Agawa

Maggie Blue O’Hara

Isao Aniya

French Tickner

Hachiro Tohbe, Narrator

Doug Abrahams

 

 

 

Home   |   Anime Reviews   |   Manga Reviews   |   References   |   Links   |   Bibliography