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.
This Anime Movie was really good though I am not surprised at it's low scores. My son's father could not sit through it either. If you are the type of person who likes to only 1/2 pay attention to an anime while fiddling with your cell phone or doing other things this movie is not for you. It is one you need to pay attention if you want to really understand it's value. It would be easy to lose track of what is going on otherwise and you wouldn't get how great the story really is.
For me this anime was extremely well done in almost every way. I thought the world it was based in was really well thought out and interesting. I would have really liked to see what Fuse and his comrades end up doing in the future. Though since this anime is pretty old I doubt we will be getting more since nothing new has been released. Though I guess sometimes it's better to just end things before they go downhill. I am trying my best not to spoil anything in any reviews I write so I apologize for being vauge. However, the movie did wrap up loose ends so it doesn't leave you hanging like in a lot of anime these days. Any continuation of the story would have to start with a new incident.
For me this show rated very high but if you are looking for something brainless to watch in between making out with your girlfriend/boyfriend and checking your cell phone then this is the wrong one.
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. After hearing excellent reviews practically everywhere of Jin Roh I had to check it out myself. After watching this movie I have to say those reviews were right, this is a gem. Jin Roh is a dark tale about deception in post war ridden Tokyo who is trying to desperately reconstruct its rusty remnants to stay afloat. In the process of this slow reconstruction civil unrest runs rampant forcing the government to deploy their special unit from the Capitol Police to quell these violent cries. This is where our main character Fuse Kazuki comes in who stumbles upon a terrorist bomber who by surprise, is a young girl. Not being able to pull the trigger fast enough this bomber blows herself up leaving Fuse to question his sudden mercy. We follow along our lead throughout the story of him and his romantic interactions with the bomber’s sister and his involvement within the conflict between the Local Police and Capitol Police. Jin Roh uses Little Red Riding hood as a striking thematic element to allegorically present the beasts that secretly and sinisterly live among humans. I loved the use of Little Riding hood as an allusion because it fit really well as being one of the main components for the beautiful symbolism, thought provoking themes, and marvelous visual metaphors. Though the symbolism and discussion involving Little Red Riding Hood is sort of packed on us repeatedly I don’t think I ever got bothered by it. It was absolutely necessary to heighten the topic that this movie was trying to tell us and was demonstrated flawlessly. The animation for Jin Roh is stunning for 1999. It's impressively fluid and pays attention to tiny details. Whether it is a bullet bouncing off of armor, a piece of clothing moving in the wind, or the splash of water Jin Roh does it all in a remarkable meticulousness. One that is almost like a gritty version of Kyoto Studios. The Special Unit soldiers' suits make me think they used cgi, that’s how amazing they made it look. One bone I would have to pick would be the art style for the characters. It is realistic and sort of plain though I think it still manages on its own because of the mature mood in this anime as well as it being based in the real world. So a super anime-ish character design would be in bad taste. There are still good detailed closeups as well as great animation and individuality in faces to push forward the art style. Jin Roh’s pacing is quite slow but don't let this stop you from watching it. This slow pace pays off tremendously in it's ending, it covertly readies the audience for the heartbreaking yet thematically genius sucker punch that happens during the last few minutes. What makes the ending so brillaint and shocking is the use of this anime's skillfully vague foreshadowing. Jin Roh doesn't throw these hints in your face or makes them painfully predictable. Looking back at the subtle and clever foreshadowing that was strewn in between the first hour or so of the movie leaves me astonished. The attention to the detail, plot line, themes, and slow build up to the plot twist is absolutely brilliant. Making this shocking plot twist more impactful and full of thought then ever. Only when you get to it will you realize how many clever and important tell tale signs you have missed or how those talks filled with Little Red Riding Hood quotes craftily gave it's audience great symbolism while building up it's characters and situations. (If you are the type of person to not sit down and really watch a show and deal with the buildup of events then I don't think you will like this anime because of the gradual start up) Speaking about characters if you're here looking for development or a fast paced story then just leave. The characters have zero to no development but that doesn't make them any less complex or compelling on their own. They are written with a sense of extreme authenticity in character and realness. They felt so human in their expression of emotion and the presentation of themes behind it just made it all the more hard hitting. The characters, especially Fuse and Kei, are all extremely well written never lacking in complexity or depth. They all have specially cruated backgrounds and variation in personality and intelligence. This makes for even more plot twists and newfounded dimension in character. The supporting cast were amazing as well, all fitting perfectly within the story and ultimately serving their purposes and resolving their issues. The characters elegantly deliver the painful intricacies of moral ambiguity that is found in real life. Since that is such a major theme in Jin Ron the characters flip flop back and forth in the dynamic of the hunter and the hunted. All of this was extremely thrilling as well as brutally genius. You couldn't take your eyes off of the harsh reality our two leads live in. I cannot stress this enough that Jin Roh is accurate in it's presentation of reality. From that you can tell this isn’t the type of show to be cheerful or have a good ending, it's jarring, realistic, and at times harsh. Depiciting reality in such a tragically beautiful way Jin Roh deserves every bit of praise it gets. Following the not so happy ending of Little Red Riding Hood this show shoves the painfully accurate unforgiving reality in the audience's face. There are no such things as happy endings. Only nuances can separate the roles of the wolf and the little red riding hood. Because of all of this, the astounding show I sat down to watch felt almost gone within minutes despite its run time being an hour and forty minutes. Me being the greedy coinsurer of anime I am, I wish there was more for me to grasp hold of like Fuse’s background and how he continues on in the future. Not saying that the ending of the anime or the anime itself wasn't satisfying in its conclusion because damn it was but I was left craving more because of how great it was. Altogether I extremely recommend Jin Roh, it leaves an impression on you. One that is bound to make you watch it again. With intellectually stimulating themes and a beautifully realistic adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood it is amazing. (I understand many low or mid reviews on this site because of people used to "exciting" and more "action" and "quest" driven anime but don't let them stop you from experiencing this show.) This anime is next to Akira in classics. It's more human and story oriented which isn't for everyone but it conveys a beautifully dark story that represents the subtle greys between who is the villain and who is the hero. I loved it.
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