Yay! More anime on blu-ray! Taking the story of Little Red Riding Hood as the basis for this production, Jin-Roh manages to incorporates romance, violence, tragedy and loss, to weave an intricate tale about the loss of innocence. Normally I prefer anime films that are chock full of action, but there is something personal about Jin-Roh that I find appealing, and the film has held up well in repeat viewings over the years. Let it be known, however, that Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is not a kids’ cartoon. The lengthy narration that starts ”Jin-Roh” has a lot to explain, because its alternative universe is quite detailed. While American studios continue to crank out silly animated feature films meant for 5 year olds… Japan offers the world this mind bending work of great philosophical, political, and artistic sophistication.
The story is set in an alternative past, where martial law grips a Tokyo devastated by war and military occupation. The masses are in open revolt against the authorities and guerilla war is breaking out. The government uses the Capitol Police Organization as an instrument of repression, especially relying on it’s heavily armed Wolf Brigade to annihilate the freedom fighters. Kazuki Fuse, a member of the brigade, is traumatized when a young girl associated with the people’s movement kills herself in front of him in order to prevent herself from being captured by the state.
Mamoru Oshii is a hell of a director. His movies are always very well-written; heck, the guy has an absolutely terrific sense of dialogue, rivalled by only a handful of people. It’s a shame that none of his movies so far came out perfectly flawless, though. He often gets too enthusiastic with his dialogue, which makes many of his works memorable, but missing that edge to truly become a great movie. Cheap triangular plastic flags snap in the wind in a run down amusement park; Fuse’s breath shows on a cold day, and is caught by the wind to stream past his blowing hair; bandoliers of bullets clack and ripple into a gun, with chilling authenticity. Someone has gone to enormous trouble to get the ambient sounds just precisely right in this film.
I can’t say this enough times, but a movie has a limited amount of time to work with. If it wants to be something memorable, it needs to know how to build up properly. Mamoru Oshii does know this, but he often gets ahead of himself. Thankfully, this isn’t the case for Jin Roh. Jin Roh is a definite recommendation if you’re looking for a slow and serious movie. This movie was reviewed on blu-ray and Jin-Roh was the second blu-ray anime release from the Bandai studio. Presented in 1080p, and encoded with the AVC codec, this is a huge step-up over the prior DVD version. All in all, Jin-Roh is a great anime movie that strains toward a grown-up emotional depth that most films starring grown-ups reject.