By:Steve Fritz
Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2001

One of the highlight of last years New York Anime Film Fest, JIN-ROH is set in the 1960s; only it assumes that the Axis powers won World War II instead of the Allies. It's implied that after the war, the Nazis then turned around and took over Japan, as all the technology and the soldiers bear a very Germanic flavor.

That doesn't mean the Japanese public like their current rulers. In fact, the film rapidly establishes the anti-establishment forces are as extreme as their overlords. Among the liberation forces are a series of young girls called Red Riding Hoods, who will blow themselves upwith explosives in their pursesrather than be captured.

Enter one elite soldier of a paramilitary organization called the Wolf Corp. While a riot is going on above them, the Wolf Corp. is patrolling Tokyo's sewer system, slaughtering all resistance fighters they come upon. Our hero comes across a Red Riding Hood, who tries to take both of them out the only way she knows how. While physically he's unscathed, the sight of a pre-teen blowing herself up in front of him causes deeper scars than he can imagine.

The incident is leaked to the press. The regular Tokyo police were not in on this sewer sweep, and are bringing all manner of political hell on earth on the soldier. Complicating matters even further, the Riding Hood's sister makes herself known to the soldier and they fall in love with each other.

JIN-ROH (literally 'Man-Oaf' or 'Man-Wolf') probably would have made an incredible live action film. As it stands, it's thick with political intrigue, double and triple-crosses, a pervasive noir atmosphere normally reserved for detective films, and an ending so explosive in its own way that this film would be an Oscar contender if made domestically in live action.

It's still a kick in the gut no matter what format it's in. Personally, I found it to be one of the best offerings this Fest had.

[JIN-ROH will play at New York's Cinema Village Theatre, opening June 22.]