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Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

Jin-Roh, a movie written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor, Avalon) and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (animation supervisor on Ghost in the Shell), is a subtle and beautiful film. I don't want to spoil the plot of this movie, so I will keep it brief. It is set in an alternate post-WWII Japan, just after a Nazi occupation. The alternate world presented is subtle, but noticeable in the European streetcars and Nazi-like armor worn by the Wolf Brigade (above).

The movie follows a man named Fuse, a member of an elite anti-terrorist unit, as he deals with his painful past and attempts to reconcile his humanity with the necessarily violent nature of his job. Part love story, part political drama, part fairy tale (the movie draws heavily on the original Little Red Riding Hood story), Jin-Roh succeeds on many levels. It is a very intelligent film for mature, thinking audiences. I saw Jin-Roh in the theater and noticed at least a half dozen people leave during "talking" scenes. Perhaps this is because there was no sex or explosions every five minutes. In any case, this just reinforced my belief that most American moviegoers are shallow and narrow-minded, and cannot appreciate a work of art if it smacks them in the face.

A little on the technical end. Visually, Jin-Roh contains the most accomplished traditional cel animation I have ever seen, and it is probably the last of its kind, as more and more CG is used in the production of anime these days. It also contains some truly haunting orchestral music composed by Hajime Mizuguchi, who worked on the Escaflowne soundtrack with Yoko Kanno (who, incidentally, plays piano for Jin-Roh's soundtrack).

A final note of interest: there are two live-action movies (directed by Mamoru Oshii) set in the Jin-Roh universe: Jigoku no Banken: Kerubersu (Stray Dogs) and Jigoku no Banken: Akai Megane (The Scarlet Spectacles). There is also a six-part manga, Kenrou Densetsu (Kerberos Panzer Cop); it is published in English under the name Hellhounds: Panzer Cops by Dark Horse Comics.

Verdict

If you like a well-written story and you like to think, or if you're a fan of Ghost in the Shell or Patlabor, this film is for you.

Jin-Roh links