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Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a recent anime created and written by Mamoru Oshii, director of Ghost in the Shell. Hiroyuki Okiura, whose previous works include the TV anime Armored Trooper Votoms, is the director.

Like Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh moves slowly and ponderously, with brief moments of action at long intervals. The style of animation is more traditional, less slick than most of the newer anime movies. The protagonist is a government special-forces operative, and the setting is a dark, alternate near-past Tokyo.

It seemed to me that the movie was going for style and atmosphere, but didn't pull it off as well as GitS did, because the setting was basically just present day with some weird Nazi-esque, heavily-armored cops thrown in.

Jin-Roh was recently released in theatres across the U.S., and though the English adaptation was actually done under the supervision of the director, Hiroyuki Okiura, and it was better than most dubs are, I still would have vastly preferred subtitles.

www.jin-roh.net

Japanese Anime by Mamoru Oshii, dealing with a favorite subject of his: The alternate history post-WW II Japan, where Germany, not the USA invaded and subjugated Japan. Leading to a few interesting changes in "modern" japanese culture.

This is a topic Oshii has frequently taken up, for example in his manga Hellhounds: Panzer Cops or his live action movies Kurenai Megane and Kerberos. The stories always focus on members of the elite police force, the Panzer Cops or Wolf Brigade, a dark and heavily armed task force with uniforms based on german military uniforms. The stories are usually adaptations of the fairytale Red Riding Hood in it's original form, where the wolf eats the girl, and usually, the movies follow analogue lines.

This movie is the latest in the series, although the story is not related to the other movies and manga, other than that it uses the same background. The anime manages to capture the dark nature of the scenario and atmosphere of the background very well, and I would recommend that you go see it while it's still in theatres, or go buy the DVD that is due to be out soon.

In this movie, Fuse, member of the Wolf Brigade, fails to shoot a young girl who is carrying a bomb during a riot control mission in a local sewer. The girl then kills herself with a satchel charge, endangering the squad. Because of his failure, his loyalty is questioned and he is sent back to the academy for training and psychological evaluation. Meanwhile, other forces in the government, who want to see the Kerberos Corps destroyed, plot to use him as an unwitting pawn to that effort. And then he meets a girl that looks just like the girl from the sewers, and who claims to be her sister...

This thing is like a wolf
This thing is a wolf
Thus, it is a thing to be banished

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is an anime film written by Mamoru Oshii (acclaimed director of Ghost in the Shell, among other projects), directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (who has done major animation work on Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and other films non- or casual anime fans probably won't recognise the names of), and with art direction by Hiromasa Ogura. Set in a near-past Tokyo with an alternate history after World War II, Jin-Roh focuses on Kazuki Fuse (pronounced foo-say not like the English word fuse / voiced in Japanese by Yoshikatsu Fujiki and in English by Michael Dobson), a member of an elite paramilitary group known as the Capital Police --a heavily armed force that isn't officially part of the military and therefore allowed to be used to keep the peace in the capital-- who fails to prevent (by killing) a little girl working for anti-government forces from blowing herself up (and knocking out power in the city, which is how attention becomes drawn to the incident).

Fuse is assigned to retraining at the Capital Police's academy and, while visiting the site of the girl's ashes, meets Kei (voiced in Japanese by Sumi Mutoh and in English by Moneca Stori), the deceased girl's sister. She doesn't hold him responsible for her sister's death as both were only doing their jobs and the two, sharing feelings of sadness and longing, begin seeing more and more of each other. Meanwhile, within the Capital Forces, rumours circulate of a counterintelligence agency operating within the nation's security forces known as Jin-Roh or the Wolf Brigade and a conspiracy develops to involve Fuse in a scandel to bring further bad publicity to the Capital Police (who aren't liked by certain members of the government). All is not as it seems though and the film does a very convincing job of keeping things secret until the climax.

The animation is great without needing any flashy effects and, unlike many anime films, doesn't feature the exaggerated eyes and other unrealistic features on the characters' bodies. The people look normal and this accentuates the feel of the movie. Despite taking place in an alternate world, the Tokyo of Jin-Roh feels real. The haunting ambient score by Hajime Mizoguchi also adds to the feel of the film. Jin-Roh is rather slow-paced (similar to Ghost in the Shell, which is no surprise considering how many of the same people worked on the films), which doesn't take much from the film, but rather emphasizes the sadness in the characters and the city as a whole. Unlike a lot of anime, Jin-Roh isn't violent for the most part. When violent scenes do come up, however, they are incredibly violent (e.g. the standard-issue Capital Police weapon is apparently a minigun and the standard method for taking down aggressors is to wait until they fire, which doesn't help them considering the Capital Police's advanced body armor, then just unload on the poor bastards, resulting in much overkill).

Jin-Roh is heavy on symbolism, especially with using the wolf as a symbol for Fuse (and others with less important roles). At various points in the movie, the voices of the two main characters read parts of Little Red Riding Hood (not a version with a happy ending) that mirror some of the events in the film. A graphic dream sequence particularly illustrates this symbolism and forebodes not only the consequences of what might happen if Fuse and Kei were to run off together but other events in the film.

The film is enjoyable for both anime fans and other movie watchers as it works as a movie and not, in particular, an anime. Jin-Roh just happens to be animated but definitely feels as real as a live action feature. Some viewers may not like the slow-pacing. If you're looking for something action-packed, look elsewhere. If you're looking for an emotional story or something to think about, Jin-Roh would very likely be to your liking.

Runtime: 98 minutes.
Year released: 1998.
Official website: http://www.jin-roh.net/
Available on DVD with options for English dubbing or subtitles (from what I've heard, the translation for the dubbing is done very well).
A special edition DVD package is available with a second disc of bonus features and the soundtrack on CD.

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