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

Review Date: -

What They Say

The Review!
Jin-Roh is a film that has garnered quite a bit of buzz - and for good reason. It's basically the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, metaphorically twisted and overlaid upon political intrigue. The film was worked on by some well-known folks. For starters, the screenplay was written by the industry veteran Mamoru Oshii (Blood the Last Vampire, Urusei Yatsura, Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, Angel's Egg, Twilight Q, etc). It's directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (Ghost in the Shell, Memories, Patlabor, Akira, etc). The staff also includes Hajime Mizoguchi (music), Tetsuya Nishio (key animation supervisor), and Kenji Kamiyama (animation director). The film has already made its tour of the art house circles by means of various film festivals held in New York, Montreal, Berlin, Portugal, Belgium, and others over the past year or so. It was about time they finally put it on DVD for the rest of us to enjoy, and indeed they did - a fantastic job at that, too. The French region-2 release precedes this Japanese release by a few months, but I understand that the French disc does not have much in the way of extras (of which this box contains in spades).
The package comes in a keepcase-height cardboard box (similar to Giant Robo box) that contains mainly four items.

The first item is the film itself, housed in its own keepcase with a blue-ish spine and excellent cover art (both front and back). The disc is dual-layered, with a blood-red background and the 2 kanji characters "jin" and "roh". It contains both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Surround audio tracks (both Japanese). It does not have subtitles (English or otherwise). The wide-screen video looked flawless (VGA projection screen). The film contains a lot of dark scenes, and the color scheme has a very subdued tone, but every scene came through beautifully. On the audio side, I can only vouch for the Dolby Surround track (since my setup is not yet DTS-capable), but it was as great as the video itself. The Bandai homepage mentions that the film contains over 80,000 frames of animation, and very few were ever passed through computer processing. This may very well be the last time we'll see such an "analog" animation work. The character designs are drawn to be realistic-looking, and facial expressions are presented exquisitely. The backgrounds and scene atmosphere can best be described as "meticulous" - truly a unique animation work in a class of its own.

The second item in the package is a supplemental disc, also housed in its own keepcase with a white spine and humorous cover art (very funny for those who've seen the characters in the movie). It's a single-layered disc that comprises of an interview piece called "Speculate About Jin-Roh", trailers, and TONS of fantastic material gallery. The interview touches upon topics like "how they got Okiura to direct the movie", "how the atmosphere was created", and "how the music selections were composed". There are several trailers, used for overseas and Japanese promotions. The gallery, in particular, is an excellent showcase of DVD extra capability. It's not simply a series of static art images; it also contains selections from the screenboard, their key frames as they would be animated, and the final animation scene with audio. It's a great way to see how the animation comes together.

The third item is a color booklet titled "Jin-Roh: Kerberos Genealogy." It contains short articles on layout arrangements and character profiles and the like. Interesting read, if only I were more Kanji literate.

And finally there is the screenbook, a wonderful collectable item in itself. It features, from start to finish, every key cut used in the movie as viewed through the eyes of the director and staff. Each page contains about 5 scene illustrations with hand-written comments about how to construct them in the resulting animation. On the front cover is an illustration of a Panzer soldier done by the director himself. On the back cover is a humorous SD (super-deformed) comic shot of a girl being chased by a wolf (done by the key-animation supervisor).

What about the film content itself? I don't want to give away anything about the plot, so that's all I'll say about it in this review. There are a few plot reviews found on the 'net (done by other critics), but some of them contain spoilers. In my opinion, this film should truly be experienced without preconception for full impact. And some of the subtlety may not reveal themselves until a second viewing. This reviewer did enjoy it very *very* much, as did other earlier works that involved Oshii-san or Okiura-san. In short, I can't remember the last time I was so satisfied with the purchase of a DVD (or any other medium) as I am with this Jin-Roh set. This is premium-quality package, from the film itself to its presentation to the numerous extras. It's a hefty price tag (about US$170 after shipping and handling through CD Japan), but it really makes me feel like I'm owning a piece of animation history in this box.

Japanese Language (DTS 5.1-channel & Dolby Surround),Kerberos Genealogy (16-page booklet),Screenboard Book (522-page paperback)

Review Equipment
Hollywood Plus (DVD decoder card), Telex front-projector (VGA hook-up), Pioneer VSX-D602S receiver, JBL fronts and Sony subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 12800
Running time: 99
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Jin-Roh