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.
Even so, overall Jin-Roh is a decent movie. While not too terribly memorable, for its run time it's entertaining irrespective of its minor boredom quirks. It carries an overall mature air that grants it a sense of respectability, and for that I think it merits consideration - especially for an older audience.
Constable Fuse is part of an elite Special Forces unit known as the Capital Police whose mission is to maintain peace during a time of civil unrest. Fuse becomes entangled within a web of intrigue and politics between the Capital Police, the government intelligence bureau, and a secret society known as Jin-Roh – the Wolf Brigade.
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Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!