Jin-Roh (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, September 30, 2001
Release Date: Sunday, September 30, 2001



What They Say
Based on the story and screenplay by Mamoru Oshii (''Patlabor '' films, ''Ghost In The Shell''), and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura who previously worked on both ''Akira'' and ''Ghost In The Shell'' as character designer and animation supervisor, this award-winning action packed film features a tragic tale of a romance between a soldier with a special unit who's suspended from duty and a girl who is losing touch with reality.

The Review!
Dyanmic Video's release of Jin-Roh in the Chinese market really came as a surprise to many people, enough so that some contacted Bandai Japan to get the final word on its legality (yes Virginia, it's a legal version). This title brings the number of licensed anime in the Chinese market up to 3 or 4, and other than a few little problems with this disc, gives hope for some really interesting shows in the future.

Audio:
For our primary review session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. And in the Japanese DTS track to be even more specific. For about 95% of this track, I was in love. While it's not an action heavy show, those sequences came out rocking hard here and sounded fantastic. The quiet dialogue scenes were well delivered and the entire soundstage was perfectly used for the source material. The problem? Towards the end of the DTS track there's at least several seconds to upward of a minute of plain static. And it's been reported on other discs, so it's not a fluke. It's completely surprising and takes out of the moment completely. From that point on we switched to the Dolby 5.1 track and had no issues. Otherwise, this is a fantastic sounding disc.

Video:
Ah, anamorphic anime. It's one of those things that I just drool over these days. With this show being animated in a very life-like style and going for the serious dramatic edge, the material simple looked stunning on our display for again, about 95% of it. There are so many dark shades of brown, gray and blue here as well as a lot of black that it's very atmospheric. The style of the show is really strong here in this transfer. Where we found faults was mostly in some of the facial close-ups later in the movie where there was some obvious breakup and scattered blockiness. After such clear picture for so much of the show, it was quite distracting. Much like other big budget anime dramatic action movies, you can see the budget on the screen here. And it looks great. The only other downsides is that the ability to scan in reverse or chapter backwards is completely disabled. You can scan forward, but it's just weird that it's locked. And the show is essentially just one chapter, so skipping around doesn't do much good. Owners of the Forrest Gump laserdisc might have strange flashbacks.

Packaging:
For part of the cover, we get something close to the Japanese release, with the outline of the Wolf Brigade soldier against the moon, the crimson eyes staring out with the logo below it. The differences with this version is the cast shots on the right of the Chinese actors and the addition of some artwork along the bottom. It's nice, but it's distracting from an overall layout and looks a bit crowded. There are a few headshots on the back as well, but I understand that the actors are being used as a draw to get more people to check the disc out. The back also has a nice breakdown of what's included though it seems to be off a bit in the audio department. There is no insert included with this release.

Menus:
They don't get simpler than this. The main menu is the cover artwork with a "play" or "select audio/subtitles" selection. That's it. At least these menus were easier to figure out than the numerous layers/levels to Japanese discs.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Where to even begin. This is very much a "what if" tale, from where Japan changed its course after World War II and created a group of soldiers/cops to deal with the amount of increasing domestic terrorism. The opening prologue goes into detail the creation of this group, this Wolf Brigade that exists in a place where they're not under the same authority as other cops or the military.

And this is one of the main plots of the movie. The relationship between the Wolf Brigade and the other public forces that help control things in this volatile country. We're introduced after the prologue to the latest episode of street violence, where we witness protesters hurling rocks and bottles at the police barricade. There are hundreds of onlookers milling about behind and around the protesters, essentially forming a mob.

Within these protesters, the more violent ones, part of a larger cult/group, are making their plans. We follow this through the eyes of a high school age girl who picks up a package from a predetermined spot and delivers it inside the group of protesters to the one who will use it. The sequence that leads up to this point, following her around the dark and dank alleys and watching the movements of the protesters is fascinating, and very lifelike. As the scene comes to its climax, with the group member hurling the bag of explosives across at the police, everything just blazes with intensity. When the police then crack down on the protesters and the others milling around, it pulls no punches in its brutality.

The Wolf Brigade also begins to move in at this point, so things don't become even more incensed. Their sole goal for the past few years has been this cult, and this demonstration has given them a new opportunity to try and nail them. Watching these armored soldiers move deep into the undercity is a fascinating experience, as they spread out and begin to track down the cult members. The look and feel of it is very earthy, very heavy and very tense. Watching as the girl from earlier now has another bag for delivery, and is doing her best to not get caught by the Brigade.

As would happen, she is of course confronted by one lone soldier. She starts to tug on the cord, but he doesn't move. She falters lightly, and he simply asks "Why?". She has no response when confronted by the power of this man, but she realizes her own power as well with the explosives she has. But she quickly finds herself in an even worse position when a dozen more Brigade members show up, panics, and sets off the explosive.

And that's really just the first fifteen minutes of this nearly two hour movie. The action pieces really end up serving as bookends to this movie, as the second long act deals with the soldier with the girl, who finds himself questioning everything that he's done. Fuse finds himself unsure of the path he's taken as well as the path of the world, and a lot of is related through the Little Red Riding Hood tale, but this version of the tale is definitely not the one heard in most American fairytale books.

This is told while the other plot of the agencies is being told, with the government being reworked into something better, where we try to see whether the Wolves will come out on top or not. There's a lot of political power plays going on here, though it's muted by the fact that it's hard to know exactly where certain people stand, as alliances shift based on offscreen things. The segues between the two plotlines works quite well, and mixes in various training exercises of the Brigade as well.

When this finally arrives in the US, it's going to easily join the ranks of high profile thoughtful movies such as Wings of Honneamise, Ghost in the Shell and the Patlabor films. Jin-Roh really is just that, a film, something that prods and tries to understand something deep in its character study of Fuse. It also tackles the history of Japan in an interesting light, but in a familiar one as well. Many of the things detailed in the beginning prologue reminded me of the era that the Rurouni Kenshin TV series plays out in, with a new government taking over the citizenry having their entire direction changed, while others fight and rebel against it.

Jin-Roh is a movie that will definitely improve upon each viewing as the little nuances of the story, pacing and set design all become more apparent. It's typical Oshii material, which in my mind, it's typical greatness. Very highly recommended.

Features
Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Cantonese DD 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A/F
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 3 - Southeast Asia
Released By: Dynamic Video Multi-Media Ltd
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 101
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Jin-Roh