Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

3.5/5 Stars

Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
Studio: Pioneer Entertainmen
Theatrical Release Date: January 1, 1998
DVD Release Date: March 5, 2002
Run Time: 142 minutes
Production Company: Pioneer/Bandai

I had been looking forward to Jin-Roh for some time. The detailed and realistic animation, combined with the alternate-history setting (one of my favorite genres) had my mouth watering. Unfortunately, Jin-roh was unable to deliver on it's promise. The interesting setting, and and topnotch realistic animation could not save the movie, which was bogged down by an overly obtuse and slow paced story.

The background takes place in what appears to be an alternate version of the 1960s, where Japan was occupied by Germany after W.W.II. Needless to say, Japan's recovery was not as smooth as it was under the American aegis. The altered history is mainly there to allow for two things: violent antigovernment terrorists, and the stormtrooper looking Capitol Police. A lot of attention was put into designing the armor worn by the capitol police, and the few combat scenes involving is are spectacular. Unfortunately, there are only really maybe four combat scenes in the movie, and one doesn't have the armor in it.

The main character in Jin-Roh is a relatively green member of the Capitol Police, Kazuki Fuse (pronounced FU-SAY). As part of a Capitol Police squad ambushing a terrorist cell during a riot, Fuse corners a young bomb-runner, referred to as "Red Riding Hoods". When ordered to shoot her, Fuse hesitates, and can't bring himself to do it. During his hesitation, she detonates the bomb she's carrying. Fuse's armor protects him, but the explosion kills the girl and disrupts power over much of the city. In the ensuing scandal, Fuse is sent back to training, but his reoccurring flashbacks and nightmares leave him incapable of performing his duties. Haunted by the dead girl, he visits her grave, where he meets her older sister, who bares an uncanny resemblance to the dead girl. A strange, low-key romance blossoms between the two, which takes up much of middle part of the movie. There are many allusions to the original version of the Little Red Ridding Hood tale, "Rotkappchen", a more brutal and darker tale. Unfortunately, the Rotkappchen metaphor comes across as forced and overdone in much of the tale, which is a shame since it's so central to the theme and characters. There are more subtle ways to use it than to have characters continuously comparing themselves to wolves or saying that stories with beasts and humans never turn out well. In the end, neither Fuse, the girl, or the Capitol Police turn out to be what they seem, with tragic results.

The art, animation, and sound are magnificent. The animation is excellent, with realism the main focus rather than the stylization found in most other anime. The soundtrack is very good, each piece seems to fit the mood perfectly. The sound effects, too, are perfect. Each gun has a distinctive sound, and the erie footsteps of the armored Capitol Police is perfect. My dissatisfaction with the movie stems entirely from the plot. I found it plodding and slow paced. The dialog was often cliched, though well delivered by the voiceacters. The repetitive hammering in of the Rotkappchen theme was completely unnecessary, and insulting to any viewer of moderate intelligence. Additionally, the plot twists and character changes at the end were almost completely unexplained, with little build up in the rest of the movie. One minute X seems to be happening, the next, for no reason Y is taking place. Jin-Roh is a classic example of bad writing ruining an otherwise perfect work. Still, Jin-Roh is worth seeing for the animation if nothing else, and it's far from the worst anime out there. If you don't mind slow paced and convoluted story, then Jin-Roh should be an enjoyable way to pass the time.

Jin-Roh The Wolf Brigade - Special Edition (DVD)

Jin-roh - The Wolf Brigade (Soundtrack)

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