Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1998) – DVD Review

jin-roh dvd cover

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Mamoru Oshii
Directed by: Hiroyuki Okiura

Features:

  • Japanese and English language tracks
  • English subtitles
  • Dolby 5.1 and DTS audio
  • Production art gallery
  • Director/creator interviews
  • Cast interviews
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Complete soundtrack audio CD
  • 12-page booklet and slipcased 3-disc set

Doc’s Anime Warnings:

  • Graphic violence
  • Self-detonation of a minor
  • Colorful language
  • Blood everywhere

Released by: Bandai
Region: 1
Rating: 16+
Anamorphic: Yep

My Advice: Own it.

Jin-Roh tells the story of an alternate post-WWII Japan, one in which the various sanctions imposed on Japan, coupled with the Japanese government’s decision to build an empire through commerce, leads to massive poverty, unemployment, and the rise of massive ghettos in all of the country’s major urban centers. With these dark circumstances comes radically increased crime, and civil unrest has pushed Japan to the brink of martial law. To counter the threat of radical reform groups and terrorists, the Japanese government commissions the creation of an elite para-military response team, the Capitol Police Special Unit, that is tasked with keeping the peace against these more dangerous foes.

When one of these übercops, Constable Fuse, freezes on the trigger instead of shooting a teenaged suicide bomber, he’s busted back down to basic training as punishment while a board of inquiry decides what really happened. The Special Unit is in danger of being disbanded, which some members of the political landscape view as a tremendously good thing. The situation gets even more complicated when Constable Fuse meets the sister of the bomber, and begins to fall in love with her. Deep within the ranks of the Special Unit, there exists a secretive group of men who are trying to protect the Special Unit–the Wolf Brigade. And as all these individuals converge on the moment of crisis, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems, and nobody can be trusted.

jin-roh capitol police special unit

The story of Jin-Roh is brilliantly told, if tragic, and full of so many double-crosses and betrayed confidences as to be pretty dizzying the first time through. Paralleled throughout the movie with the German fairy tale Rötkappchen (Little Red Riding Hood), the characters of all have their roles to play, though some play it more reluctantly than others. Fortunately for gaijin anime fans, the English dub and subtitles both stick very tightly to the original Japanese, so nothing seems to get lost in translation.

The film also looks fantastic, with absolutely top-notch animation and an earthy color palette that serves to enhance the shadowy themes of treachery and the interaction of predator and prey throughout the film. It also makes the action sequences all the more vivid, as muted grays and browns are injected with streaks of white-hot lead, the spray of blood, or the glare of fiery explosions. The soundtrack likewise is very subdued, allowing the dialogue and effects to do most of the audio work.

The DVD presentation is excellent. Disc one of Bandai’s three-disc set contains the feature itself, with all the various audio and language options. Disc two contains tons of production art, interviews with several different members of the cast and crew (including the director and creator), as well as some promotional materials (art and trailers). Disc three, in an unusual move, is actually an audio CD of the film’s soundtrack, an idea I’d like to see used more often with big anime titles, because the music is almost invariably good, and likewise invariably impossible to find in this country.

jin-roh little red riding hood

Jin-Roh is destined to be a new classic in the anime world, with a sophisticated story, true attention to craft in its artistic presentation, and a unique setting likely to spawn a host of copy-cat “alternate history” anime titles over the next few years. And Bandai delivers a solid DVD set worthy of the film itself, making it a necessary addition to anybody’s DVD collection.

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By | 2017-09-25T00:01:18+00:00 December 7th, 2003|Anime, Reviews|0 Comments

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