Jin-Roh (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Release Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2007
What They Say
After seven years Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade finally gets an Australian release.
There are three flavours of soundtrack for this release. I watched the film with its original Japanese language in DTS and everything sounded just a little better then the normal Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, gunfire, explosions and the score were all much more pronounced and full of life. I spot checked the English dub as well as while I was not a fan the actors do a good job throughout, the leads especially. It’s a shame the video doesn’t stack up as well as the audio.
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for anamorphic widescreen the transfer here appears to be another NTSC to PAL transfer with all the usual suspects such as softness and interlacing. There is also some film grain as well as compression artefacts on fast moving scenes with explosions which is a shame. It’s not the best transfer but most people will not notice the problems I have listed and even if they did the film is still very watchable.
Jin-Roh Special edition comes with a reversible cover; each with their own distinctive looks. The standard cover is a rather muted affair that features Kazuki Fuse in his Protect-Gear sans helmet holding an MG42 while the background is a ghostly image of Kei Amemiya in a red hood on the horision looking down on Fuse. The Japanese logo with its bright read japanese characters is the stand out focus and actually macthes the OFLC logo. The back cover has a few shots from the show as well as one of the most recognisable images of the film; a solider in full Protect-Gear and glowing red spectacles infront of a full moon. The synopsis takes up most of the space and all the special features are listed clearly and concisly except for the fact that it doesn’t state the inclusion of the Japanese DTS soundtrack. The standard Madman technical grid is located at the bottom. The reverse cover is similar but is done in water colours with lots of red in the background and an image of Kei in profile while presumably Fuse (in full protect gear) in the foreground. The illustration is done by Hiroyuki Okiura one of the character designers of the film and it looks fantastic and contrasts a lot with the more muted and quiet standard cover.
The menu here is very simple. It opens with the logo coming towards the screen while some atmospheric music plays in the background it then transitions to simple text and switches to another musical piece from the film. Each sub menu has its own piece of music as well. The only problem here is really a lack of any artwork, the menus just feel bare and a little boring which is not something you see very often with Madman these days. It does its job but it is just not the best menu style that could have been used.
The extras here are similar to the previous region 1 releases with theatrical trailers, production art gallery and Director/Creator Interviews. The main extra is the interviews which go for about 40 minutes and include conversations with Mamoru Oshii (Story and Screen play) Hiroyuki Okiura (Director) Hiromasa Ogura (Art Director) and Hajime Mizoguchi (Composer) it goes through the development of the film and what choices were made as far as who should be doing what. It’s an interesting feature and fans of this film should love this. There is also a collector’s booklet included, it is about 12 pages long and contains a small essay by Carl Gustav Horn about Mamoru Oshii and the film itself and it is an interesting read.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is part of the Kerberos saga of films. The saga was created in 1986 by Mamoru Oshii and started out as a radio drama and then continued into manga and live action films. This film is a prequel to the rest of the saga and is set in an alternate 1950’s Japan and centres on Kazuki Fuse and his confrontation with a young girl that is a member of a terrorist cell.
In the film there is a lot of civil unrest within Japan. High unemployment and large slums in most cities due to aggressive economic policy cause anti government sentiment to an all time high. With high crime rates and new armed anti-government groups bent on changing the way things are by force the police soon become overwhelmed. The government then decided to form a new paramilitary force confined to the capital to skirt around the restrictions placed on using the Self Defence force and this was known as The Capital Police. Due to their success a new anti-government organisation known as the Sect came to be the only guerrilla group still at large.
The Sects main adversary is the special unit of the Capital Police, known as The Kerberos Unit with their heavy weapons and armour known as Protect-Gear they soon turned most of their skirmishes into war zones. Soon their war on each other becomes so unpopular with the public that The Public Security Division of The Capital Police wants to get rid of the Kerberos unit all together.
The film opens up with a young girl known as a “red riding hood” walking through the streets. She helps deliver bomb packs to the various Sect cells operating in the middle of another violent protest. The local police move in while Sect members provide the crowd with Molotov cocktails which cause the police to get tough, they move to another location via the sewers but soon The Kerberos unit moves in on The Sect members without the local police’s knowledge to stop the continuing violence. The young girl hears the unit coming and attempts to escape them but she is eventually caught by one lone trooper; Kazuki Fuse. He hesitates to shoot her as she appears to be terrified but with no way out she chooses to use the bomb pack she was carrying which takes her own life and almost Fuse luckily he is saved by his fellow patrol members and his Protect-Gear.
A trial is held as to why Fuse didn’t shoot and allowed a guerrilla bomb to go off causing embarrassment to The Kerberos Unit and complaints and condemnation from the local police due to them not being informed of the units’ actions beforehand. He is sent back to the academy for re-training and it is at a meeting between several high ups in The Capital Police that we first hear mention of The Wolf Brigade a secret rogue organisation within the Kerberos unit that is supposedly meant to help keep the Kerberos Unit alive but it is dismissed as rumour.
After training one day Fuse decides to go and visit the grave of the girl who killed herself and comes upon a woman who appears to be the young girls sister; Kei Amemiya. They form a friendship of sorts and end up seeing more and more of each other, the scenes they share are quiet and haunting pieces that break up the violence of the first part of the film. Soon political machinations within The Capital Police are set into place that set things up for a showdown between The Public Security Division and The Wolf Brigade with Kei and Fuse caught in the middle.
The movie does have a complex plot that may require multiple viewings to fully understand everything that is going on. With so many different factions vying for control its hard to know who will survive and who will be left by the wayside. It’s a very thought provoking film that deals with issues such as what can happen when a country changes government and it introduces dramtic changes to peoples lives. It also shows us the side of a person who begins to question everything they believe in.
The film is not an action piece at all, while there are action sequences, it is the story between Fuse and Kei and the policital manoeuvring in the background that is really at this movies’ heart.The main characters at times seen so unhappy being around each other and saying very little to each other that the film’s second act does fall apart a little bit, while you know there is something going on that is more then it seems it just takes a while to get there.
The animation is top notch with wonderfully realistic faces and actions, sometims I forgot I was watching an animated film, the sheer fluiditiy of movement is amazing and even though things have come along way since then animation wise it still stands up. The colours are almost monochrome with only a few primary colours coming through such as in the red goggles of the Protect-Gear which gives the film a realistic and somber feel. The music by Hajime Mizoguchi sets the tone throughout with some wonderfully low key pieces that show that this isn’t just a film about the police force and terrorists. This film is the film that I recommend to any one who believes that anime is nothing more then a bunch of shows with spikey haired 14 year old emo’s yelling at each other before a four episode long fight that goes nowhere.
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is a very adult film with its sombre characters and political nature. The pacing is a bit of a problem at times as the film does become stagnant in the middle but the conclusion makes up for this with an emotional ending that can not easily be forgotten. I am glad that this is finally available in Australia so everyone can get a chance to own one of the true classic anime in recent years.
English 5.1 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS Language,English Subtitles,Reversible Cover ,Theatrical Trailers,Director/Creator Interviews,Cast Interviews,Production Art Gallery,Collector's Booklet
LG 32LX2D 32” HD LCD TV, Sony DVP-NS50P Progressive scan region free DVD player, Monster component cable, Yamaha TSS-15 Home Theatre Sound System
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 4 - Australia / South America
Released By: Madman Entertainment
Running time: 102
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2