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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, March 05, 2002

What They Say
From the creators of Ghost in the Shell and Akira...

Set in an alternate history of Japan, Constable Fuse is part of an elite Special Forces unit known as the Capital Police whose mission is to maintain peace during a time of civil unrest. Entangled within a web of intrigue and politics between the Capital Police, the government intelligence bureau, and a secret society known as Jin-Roh " the Wolf Brigade...Fuse's decisions will determine the ultimate fate of the Capital Police and those around him...

The Review!
Jin-Roh was a movie that was made and designed where the goal wasn't to produce a blockbuster, but to produce something that was simply a labor of love. And at its core, Jin-Roh is a story about love.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. And bless their hearts, I was able to listen to it in Japanese DTS no less. This was a much more pleasing experience than the Hong Kong (legit) version we had seen last year which suffered from dropouts and breakups in the audio track. The DTS track here is just fantastic. The most noticeable differences for us was just how much warmer the music felt when checking between tracks. And with as much work as Mizoguchi put into the score, it's definitely worth it to us. This is a sonically gorgeous disc on many layers.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen, this is a top notch transfer. The film elements themselves help plenty and having the added resolution only helps, but in the end, this just looks beautiful. The only time I had even noticed anything slightly off was in the black and white opening sequence where in the ruins of the city, you notice just a tiny bit of shimmering. Other than that, this was a gorgeous transfer throughout. The art director was going for a distinct look, such as newsreels, but ended up opting for a specific paint style, that the show feels very drab and heavy. There's a lot of layering of dark colors on top of each other and it all looks stunning.

The menus for both discs are very similar, with the main menu being the same. The image of course is of the armored soldier in his helmet, but mixed with a red dusty cloud around him and his red eyes looking even more menacing. There's some nice animation playing along with it moving the clouds around and moving him when you change to a submenu as well as some of the softer moments of music playing from the film. Access times in moving around is nice and fast and the layout in general is nice if subtle.


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.

This film easily joins 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.

Japanese Language: Dolby Digital 5.1,Japanese Language: DTS 5.1,English Language : Dolby Digital 5.1,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+
Video Rating: A+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 102
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Jin-Roh