The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (2001)
Director: Hiroyuki Okiura

review by Amy Harlib

The cult movie phenomenon that can give Disney a run for its money, Japanese anime features, produces consistently groundbreaking examples of animated storytelling with depth and themes of adult intricacy and sensibility. Another such exemplar, brought to us by the folks who made the 'instant' classics of the SF variations of this genre, Akira and Ghost In The Shell, was shown at the 2002 Big Apple Anime Festival, appeared in 'art house' distribution and is now available on video and DVD. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade deserves to be another success for its daring to stretch the boundaries of the form with its bleak, grim, contextually appropriately violent, complex and realistic treatment of themes of life under fascistic oppression.

Also SF, the superbly crafted Jin-Roh takes place in an alternate history where Japan lost World War II to the Germans (rather than the Americans), in a detailed scenario that gets explained in a beautifully delivered narration over a series of handsome black and white stills. The story proper, set in a vaguely 1950s Tokyo, emerges from the opening with a sensationally animated nocturnal street riot in which the Capital Police's counter-terrorist arm, the Special Unit, fights civil unrest by masses of demonstrators and the fanatical underground of urban guerrillas who call themselves 'The Sect'. With grimmer than Grimm irony, Jin-Roh posits a mythology in which innocent-seeming uniformed schoolgirls dubbed 'red riding hoods', serve in the capacity of couriers for the guerrilla army, and one such riding-hood gets pursued by a member of the Special Unit's rogue element - the so-called Wolf Brigade (with its own secret agenda). Wearing full body armour and infrared goggles, these gun-heavy officers take on the appearance of sinister cyborgs.
characters' from Jin-Roh
Kazuki Fuse (Michael Dobson), one of these elite cops, corners his prey in the Tokyo sewers where the ambiguities of guerrilla warfare literally blow up in his face when he confronts her and hesitates to shoot a schoolgirl. She detonates a powerful bomb in her book bag. Her body utterly destroyed, Kazuki survives, shell-shocked, with his fitness to serve in doubt. He returns to the Police Academy for retraining. Obsessed by thoughts of the self-immolating, martyred girl, Kazuki tracks down her grave where, he meets the deceased's older sister, teen-aged Kei Arnemiya (Monica Stori), who uncannily resembles her sibling. Given this unsettling development, the morose couple soon keep company in the emptied-out, if not quite haunted, Tokyo. The plot, growing convolutedly paranoid amid hints of conspiracy and internecine conflict within the security police, eventually finds the pair hiding out in the Shinjuku district. Both pawns in some complicated intrigue, the protagonists return to the underworld sewers, ultimate landscape of trauma, only to be pursued to a desolate spot in an outlying area to confront a tragic destiny.

Conceptualised by Mamoru Oshii, director of the gorgeously atmospheric Ghost In The Shell, and directed by his assistant on that film, Hiroyuki Okiura, Jin-Roh features an even more downbeat narrative in an intensely dystopian urban setting. The subtle, eerie, painterly animation effectively conveys this bleakness and gloom accentuated by Jin-Roh's action taking place mostly at night. Despite a mostly full moon, the never-less-than sombre palette makes grey, sooty, postwar Tokyo resemble a brick-walled concentration camp. The filmmakers, lavishing great attention on detailed building façades, by comparison, intentionally render the characters in a flatter style to make the people seem like shadows flitting through an overwhelming environment. Hajime Mizoguchi's dramatic score with jazz and pop stylisations also helps to complement the movie's moodiness.
street action in Jin-Roh
Jin-Roh, haunted equally by post WWII Japanese social history largely unfamiliar to most westerners and by the fairy-tale images of wolves twisted into a grisly variation of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, may be the most dazzlingly noir anime ever made, if such melancholia can be considered dazzling. The film takes its dual themes of loss and despair very seriously, using the advantages of line-drawn animation to create a milieu that would cost hundreds of millions to produce as live-action. Jin-Roh, striving for a grown-up, gut-wrenching emotional depth that most Hollywood films reject, succeeds in proving that cartoons cannot be considered just kids' stuff, that the art form has finally come of age.
Jin-Roh poster

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it
W.H. Smith

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2005 Pigasus Press