Going in to Jin-Roh I really had no idea what to expect. Oddly enough, one hundred minutes later, these sentiments have hardly changed. Indeed, the movie is spectacular in many respects, but likewise it seems to have a strew of perpetual weaknesses that hinder its ability to achieve greatness.
First off, the movie's opening is superb. It starts off with a relatively simple explanation of a divided, post World War II Japan, then smoothly transitions into a tense riot situation. Thrusting you into the midst of flying molotov cocktails, a whirl of stones and rocks, and exploding canisters of tear gas, it's undeniably captivating, and serves as a great hook-line-sinker introduction. Furthermore, the scene ends brilliantly with the tragic death of a young teenage girl who, out of fear, detonates a satchel bomb and kills herself when caught by a team of riot police.
Yet, right after this event, the movie takes a sudden shift in both setting and direction. It follows the story of Fuse, the man who was closest to the girl when she detonated the bomb, and his emotional struggles in the aftermath of the event; however, this abrupt change of pace causes the movie to stumble a bit, as Fuse's complete lack of personality makes it hard to empathize with him. As such, it drifts dangerously close to borderline boredom, but somehow manages to still keep viewer interest by use of a twisted Little Red Riding Hood narrative. The somewhat macabre undertones of this story continually hint at a tense, bloody ending, and perhaps that expectation gave me the motivation to see it all the way through.
Thankfully, to compensate for the droll nature of its middle section, the movie ends with a bang as promised. Though the primary villains' motivations are never really explained with any semblance of detail, the climax provides Fuse's social shortcomings with purpose - and in quite an entertaining fashion. Just like its opening sequence, Jin-Roh revisits its angst-driven combat scenes for one last go, culminating with a bittersweet ending scene that brings the movie to a satisfactory close. While it doesn't completely make up for its pacing issues, in retrospect it makes them worth tolerating, as, ultimately, the movie left me with a positive feeling.
Though, overall, the entire movie looked splendid, the character designs irked me. Despite not being entirely bad, they were very simplistic in design, and at times their lack of detail coincided poorly with the enormously lavish backgrounds. Of these flaws, the women in particular could have used a lot of polish, as I had a hard time distinguishing them from the men for much of the movie. Even so, the Special Unit armor suits didn't suffer this flaw, so I can't say all the designs were bad. By-in-large the movie's visuals were more than acceptable, so I'm hesitant to say anything else that might denigrate your perception further; for an eight year old movie, it certainly doesn't disappoint.
Yet, while the animation might have aged well, I can't say the same about the audio score. Much of the music was rather unremarkable in quality, and for the vast majority of the time I hardly even noticed its presence. Worse yet, though, and admittedly this was likely somewhat intentional, the voice acting was utterly devoid of emotional flavor. While the actors were not bad per se, their lack of involvement contributed rather substantially to my waning interest during the scenes devoid of action. Overall, I think this probably resulted from poorly scripted dialogue, though, as much as it did from performance.
If I've ever come across a pair of lead characters who have proven just how devoid of personality a human being can be, Fuse and his no-name (or if she had one I don't remember) love interest would stake that claim. There is, quite literally, absolutely nothing to say about either character - ultimately they come across as musings of the plot and nothing more. In context they aren't bad, but neither are they either particularly good or memorable.
" Why?" The primary character in Jin-Roh asks himself not long into the feature. Having reached the end of the movie I must ask myself the same. Why did I watch that through? And what just unfolded?
The movie starts off good enough, a slow explanation of the setting, followed promptly by intense rioting, showing how military police are not supposed to be involved unless the Civilian police need assistance. A girl transporting a bomb succesfully delivers it, causing many deaths, ultimately on both sides. As she escapes in the sewers a panzer cop catches up with her and hesitates in shooting her. In a tense moment he fails to shoot and she at length, pulls the string to a concealed bomb, causing him injury, and blowing her apart.
A pretty good start, that got my interest and then some. However the same feel of the beginning is in no way recaptured, and it makes the viewer feel as if they are only half there for some reason. I'm all for slow pacing but the rest of the movie turns into a crawl. We meet an antagonist who's personality and intentions are never explored in the slightest. A love interest who is clunkily developed.
There are a few noteable twists, though they warrant more of a unflinching "ah.." response than anything moving. The story just never impresses, and eventually sadly succumbs to mediocrity, constantly referencing a more twisted little red riding hood the whole way(one which I will use from now on hehe), rather than exploring anything worthwhile that it easily could have.
Even when we reach the "pick up" it is still walking pace and quickly followed by a pretty hollow ending.
Animation and sound are adequate, though for some reason the cover/back gave me the impression the animation was of a bit sounder quality. Either way this did not detract from the experience, and there were enough details to make the enviornment seem real.
Lastly I must stress how bad the characters are. The main character is so hollow I'm surprised he held my interest enough to stay awake. He is BA when called for, but he is devoid of both personality and development. As for his romantic interest she and even moreso, their relationship develop stiff and awkwardly. No anime has probably had a more meaningless relationship or kiss scene, seriously, just turning on a movie to a kiss scene would actually pack more of a romantic pack on the merit you didn't just see two rigid characters relationship develop to that point. And the antagonist hardly feels like one, you really don't know what any of his intentions or motivations are, nor really have a grasp on his personality, which is odd as he is more of an average guy antagonist than dark brooding overlord type.
Before wrapping up I should probably give the anime props for what it does do right. The beginning is solid and could have been the intro to another, much better, story. If the main characters seeming internal battle actually culminated in anything it would have certainly been an interesting psychilogical journey. The plot technically could have been sound, if backed by main characters who weren't more boring than all the secondary ones. And lastly it puts a nice spin on little red riding hood, for whatever that is worth in your book.
In closing this anime is very mediocre and dry. Is it worth watching? If you are looking for a slow paced(again not something bad, or what is wrong with the anime) and somewhat dark tale, and are prepared for dry characters, give it a try. But it really doesn't warrant any kind of recommendation.
Ah! I had this on my list of things to watch for about a year before I bothered to finally get it done. What a mistake! I have this bad tendency to avoid watching anime that aren't made for TV. I don't know what it is, but it seems to happen...
Positives: Jin-Roh is not for everyone. After watching I read some reviews by others who had watched and I found that a lot of their concerns didn't bother me. Without spoiling anything, I'll just say that I found it all to make sense and totally believable. There are some rather deep questions to answer that the characters go through, and for me they were done well. A non-spoilery note on this would be that there is often little dialogue. Much of what is learned and experienced in Jin-Roh is done within the confines of the characters minds. You'll have ot just sit back and "watch" them to really grasp it all. Again, for me that was fantastic and I didn't feel at all cheated by the direction taken.
Jin-Roh was also stylelistically right up my alley. From the art design to the way it is all put together it was visually very inviting.
Negatives: Oddly I can't really think of anything to complain about. I actually made a new wallpaper for my desktop after watching. If you knew me, you'd know that this means I really enjoyed a show. Wanting to see that image day after day means that I was affected in some way. Oh wait, that's not really a negative, is it...hrm...
Ok, negative, negative...
The material is heavy? I dunno. Sorry, let me know what you didn't like in the comments. =)
So I'm thinking about what I wrote and now I'm wondering why I did a review. I guess the most compelling thing for me about Jin-Roh is that it's a very internal show. There were a lot of thoughts and emotions going on for me while watching, and this makes it a very solid addition to my anime experience. Unfortunately, for the review, this having been such an internal experience I'm not quite sure who to properly relate it here. Just watch it!
Jin Roh es una película que goza de muy buena reputación en la red y demás medios con bastantes fans, sin embargo siempre salen esos que se hacen los exquisitos (vamos solo por llevar la contraria al hype) con tantas opiniones en su mayoría buenas siempre están esas que dicen algo que te hacen dudar si algo es bueno, y, bueno ,que mejor opinión se puede obtener si no es la de uno mismo, me acuerdo haber visto un tráiler en mi DVD de Ninja Scroll y luego, más tarde imágenes en una revista, siempre me llamo la atención pero nunca le había dado la oportunidad, de haber sabido lo que me perdía lo hubiera hecho mucho tiempo atrás.
Jin Roh nos cuenta la historia de Kazuki Fuse un miembro de una brigada especial, el cual es sentenciado por no asesinar a una terrorista, Fuse se había paralizado ante la terrorista pues esta era una chica muy joven. Al ser esta película un Seinen, puro y duro, para algunos podría resultar y en especial su inicio, bastante aburrido, sin embargo vale la pena, la historia una vez entrada en ritmo, es emocionante, con giros dramáticos y demás. Cuenta con una animación bastante impecable un puro Hand Drawing bastante cuidado y dotando a los personas de un realismo único, su música es al igual que la animación muy buena, calmada, pausada, ayudando a impregnar ese toque nostálgico que ofrece la historia. Sus personajes tal vez sufren de mucha simpleza la historia debería contar con personajes un poco mejor realizados, tal vez sería lo único negativo que se puede encontrar en la película, me gustó mucho la analogía de la historia con el cuento de Caperucita Roja, una versión más violenta dicho sea de paso. En fin Jin Roh es una película bastante buena y seguramente puede convertirse en un clásico para muchos.
Now before reviewing this, I remember seeing this movie way back on premium movie channel Encore Action and as of today, I questioned why it was shown there considering the movie isn’t much on action but more focused through the drama and hardships of World War II, or in this case, it’s an alternate version of a post-World War II where Germany has taken over Japan, instead of the United States.
After witnessing the suicide bombing of a terrorist girl, Constable Kazuki Fuse becomes haunted by her image, and is forced to undergo retraining for his position in the Capital Police's Special Unit. However, unknown to him, he becomes a key player in a dispute between Capital and Local Police forces, as he finds himself increasingly involved with the sister of the very girl he saw die.
Now I really don’t talk politics much in my reviews mainly because I’m not really much of an expert on that but the movie does have its political references from Japan’s own situation from the 1960s and 1970s where massive student protests for the ANPO Hantai movement and the interesting fact about it is that not only Mamoru Oshii, the writer of the movie, was involved in back in their hayday but so was Studio Ghibli regulars Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) and Hayao Miyazaki.
Part of the story in Jin-Roh also parallels toward Rotkäppchen (or Little Red Riding Hood / the real Grimm fairytale version) as the girl in the red hood in the beginning as like Red running from the wolves but from what I saw from the movie and saw from other reviews (either professional or amateur), the roles of the that can be switched, making it somewhat more unexpected than the usual story. As for the main character himself, Fuse is that character who may be a constable and associated with the army, but I think some people, especially those who went through what he did, can relate to the guy and the trauma that he is suffering from. On a small note, the movie’s pace can be slow for the majority of the film, so it would be better to watch when there is nothing on and the graphic violence may not be suitable for the squeamish, although it’s shown for the brutality of make a message and not just to show violence for the sake of it.
As for the animation, it is done by the amazing Production I.G., and the animation is dark, broody with muted colors and yes, it is centered more of a realistic Japan rather than the same style that we’re used to. I’m not going to bitch about what style of whatever animation and character design most animators do and for what it’s worth, it did an outstanding job for that.
The music wasn’t that very noticeable as that wasn’t anything that captured any attention to my ears, but the score was decent. The English dub done by The Ocean Group via Bandai Entertainment was actually one of their more well-acted productions considering I didn’t have kind words for them last time (fucking Monster Rancher) but here, I can see why they get work for many anime worth watching.
FINAL VERDICT: Well, I will say that Jin-Roh is worth watching and it is, but sometimes for an hour and 40 minutes, it can feel like 3 hours at a time. The character development was handled extremely great and really dug in deep into knowing them and their emotion but after you watch it (or watch it for reviewing), it isn’t something you would watch again.
And so, Jin-Roh the Wolf Brigade gets an honest grade of Planet Tyro Rating: SOLID B - 8/10