Jin-Roh Special Edition: Anime Legends Edition (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2005



What They Say
In his first directorial debut, Hiroyuki Okiura (Ghost in the Shell) brings to life Mamoru Oshii's (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) haunting tale of innocence caught in a web of politics and intrigue. Set in an alternate history of Japan, Constable Fuse becomes entangled in 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

The Review!
Please note: This review refers to the original release of the disc which is identical to this one other than the new Anime Legends banner.

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.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
For the most part, I really like the way this is packaged. I've enjoyed previous digipack releases, so it's nothing new there. The only downside is the first piece, which is the clear plastic slipcover. The slipcover is the type that you slide down from the top (or bottom) of the package instead of like a novel into a slipcase. The style used here is the kind that will give you more white nicks along the top than the other. But once you get past that, things look great here. The front of the slipcover gives the writer & director's names while the bottom has the big Special Edition phrase. Looking through it you can see the wolf on the back side looking through. The actual digipack itself has the classic picture of one of the soldiers against the moon with the logo in Japanese and in English with the subtitle of "The Wolf Brigade". No big plastering of Special Edition here, but rather just nice clean design. The pack opens to a nice dark image with some text about the wolf and then it opens once more to reveal the booklet section and the three discs. The discs are all nicely silkscreened with the soldiers helmeted face while the packaging keeps the dark grimy feel of the movie. The booklet included provides some of the usual fare, such as chapter stops for the movie, the soundtrack list and what to expect on the extras disc as well a hierarchy segment showing how the world of Japan is setup in regards to the Capital Police. But what really makes this booklet an engaging read and one that will impart a lot of knowledge is the multipage piece by Carl Gustav Horn about the movies influences and what its creators had influenced in the past and how animation is looked at. It's definitely a piece worth taking the time to sit down and focus on.

Menus:
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.

Extras:
There's some sweet extras included here. The first and foremost is the inclusion of the soundtrack. Mizoguchi's work for this movie is just perfect and fits with what Oshii and Okiura have created. The soundtrack is definitely getting some serious playback on our equipment while we do things around the house. The disc of extras that's included provides some good stuff as well. We get a look at the four Japanese theatrical trailers as well as the English theatrical trailer. There's over 100 pieces of conceptual artwork which has some of the most detailed pieces I've seen. The main extra is a 45 minute video that talks with Oshii, Okiura, Mizoguchi and the art director. They talk about the movies origins and what it took to get the project off the ground with Okiura as director. Particularly amusing is how Oshii, one he saw the finished project, wished he had directed it, but knew it would come out the same way. Okiura and Oshii are definitely similar in styles, but I do wonder what a fully directed version would have been like as opposed to the script and screenplay only.

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.


Features
Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese/English Theatrical Trailers, Director/Creator Interviews, Cast Interviews, Production Art Gallery,Original Motion Picture Soundtrack,Special Edition Slipcase,12 Page Collector's Booklet

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: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 19.95
Running time: 142
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Jin-Roh