Jin-Roh - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: C-
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: Bandai Visual
  • MSRP: ¥10,290
  • Running time: 99
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Jin-Roh

Jin-Roh

By Chris Beveridge     October 11, 2007
Release Date: September 25, 2007


Jin-Roh
© Bandai Visual


What They Say
Based on Oshii Mamoru's manga, 1999 animated feature Jin-Roh is set in an alternate world 1950s Japan that is beset by riots and terrorism and ruled over by a fascist government. Jin-Roh is preceded by two Oshii-directed live-action feature films set in the same world, The Red Spectacles and Stray Dog, though timeline-wise it is a prequel to the other two films. Unable to finish off the trilogy himself (as he was working on Ghost in the Shell at the time), Oshii tapped for the job first-time director Okiura Hiroyuki, an animator who had worked on Ghost in the Shell and Patlabor 2. Packed with political, historical, and literary allusions and metaphysical musings, Jin-Roh is a brilliantly animated, emotionally jarring allegorical tale that both entertains and challenges.

Fuse Kazuki is a member of Japan's heavily armed anti-terror police unit, Kerberos Panzer Cops. They are trained to defend and attack like ravenous, blindly loyal dogs - like Kerberos, the hellhound that guarded the gate to Hades. During a mission, however, Kazuki hesitates to shoot a young girl from a terrorist guerrilla group, leading to her suicide bombing. A troubled Kazuki is sent back to academy, during which time he gets pulled into a secretive Kerberos unit called Jin-Roh, or Wolf Brigade. He meets Kei, the older sister of the suicide bomber girl, and as the two grow closer, Kazuki realizes that they are both pawns in a greater rivalry between Kerberos and the Metro Police.

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.

Audio:
While there the Dolby folks didn't get Bandai Visual to utilize TrueHD for this release, the release does have a couple of very solid tracks on it that offers a sizeable upgrade. For starters, the English language track done for the 2002 US release is present here and it's a good 5.1 mix that maxes out at 640 kbps. The original Japanese theatrical mix is included here in a stereo PCM mix that maxes out at 1.5 mbps and captures what was seen during that run. Where everything really shines however is with the 5.1 PCM mix that tops out at 4.6 mbps. This track is similar to other Bandai Visual releases in that it feels like a revelation in comparison to the other mixes. Everything takes on a more intense feel as the bass level is deeper and the directionality is more defined. The clarity of the track is just fantastic as everything plays out. The crowd scenes early on are night and day in comparison to everything else as it envelops you in a way you've not heard before. While it may not change the feel of the movie as dramatically as some other mixes, it is a huge part of the charm of this new release..

Video:
Originally in theaters back in 2000, this film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is encoded using AVC. Using a dual layered 50gb Blu-ray disc, the bitrate for the show typically runs into the mid to high thirties with some dips into the high twenties. The visual design of the film is one that won't make this a real standout piece unless you're watching it on a large display. The original DVD release of it in the US was quite good and worked well on the systems we had back then but it doesn't hold up quite so well with newer displays and upconversion. The film has a great deal of soft scenes, particularly during the beginning when they're in the sewers, and the focus that's used gives things a grainy feel. This generally appears to be quite intentional for those scenes as when it shifts to a daytime outdoors scene it looks much sharper and cleaner. There is still visible grain in all of it but the overall look of it is one that is much more solid looking on our display than the DVD version from 2003 is. Colors have a bit more richness to them when appropriate and the background non-grain noise is far reduced.

Packaging:
Bucking the trend of every other Blu-ray release out there, this box set release of the BD and DVD are done in standard thickness keepcases. The heavy chipboard box has a great image not used on the US release with the soldier in the foreground while Kei is in the background with the red fabric swirling around her. The lack of the traditional imagery used is quite appealing. The background wraps around to the back of the box which also has a listing of some of the shows creative staff. There's a single back illustration on the red background of one of the soldiers while below it is the text of "it's so romantic". All of the packages technical details are kept on the obi around the box as it has two technical grids to cover both the BD and DVD details. The Blu-ray keepcase has a new piece of artwork I hadn't seen before with the theatrical poster from its Japanese release that has Fuse with his helmet off and a different shot of Kei in her red hood. The DVD case keeps to the traditional artwork of the soldier standing against the moon.. A booklet is included with numerous shots from the film and several pages worth of discussions and interviews that are likely to be translated for the US release.

Menu:
With this being a dual language worldwide release, albeit staggered, the disc is designed to work both in the US and Japan. Upon load, a static screen comes up asking you to select your language of choice. If you select English, you get the FBI warnings before it starts into the movie proper. If you select Japanese, you get those warnings. The top level menu is rather basic with the artwork from the DVD keepcase cover that has no music or animation tied to it. The bottom has the standard navigation selections with a very simple design to it that doesn't really evoke anything from the film itself. The submenus load quickly but you do have to select them, you can't push up and have them pop-up above the main menu as they get swapped out instead. The pop-up menu works in the same way during the film with the exception of an extra button to close out the pop-up menu.

Extras:
The extras are pretty weak as it presents us with only the four theatrical trailers in both subtitled and non-subtitled form. The US DVD release had several cast interviews with it and several artwork galleries so this is pretty pared down. At least it's not a case of the Japanese getting it and the US release not as the Japanese fans are getting stiffed as well..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The release of Jin-roh back in 2003 through a joint venture between Viz Media and Bandai Entertainment was something that proved to be fascinating to see. Mamoru Oshii's films have always been fascinating but I was intrigued to see how a work that he had come up with would be handled by director Hiroyuki Okiura. The result was a film that left a definite impression with its style and storytelling but was also one that was not easy to sit through multiple times. In the four years since I last saw it, the imagery and ideas are still strong but I haven't had it in me to sit down and watch it again until this high definition presentation.

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 under city 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 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 are 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 off-screen 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.

In Summary:
Coming back to Jin-Roh after so many years has turned out to be quite the welcome event. I had really enjoyed it the first time I saw it but it wasn't a film that I felt I could just drop in, sit down and watch. Going back to it in this new format with some very noticeable upgrades to the picture and audio quality gave it a new life. It intensified the action sequences while also strengthening the visual beauty of the work done by Production I.G. for it. Bandai Visual has made a solid release that will appeal internationally here though they have skimped out on the extras which is a real disappointment. In the end though, what appeals to me right now is whether the film is presented well and on that front it scores strongly on both the audio and video fronts. Fans of this film will likely find the closest they can get to a theatrical presentation with this release, particularly when it comes to the new PCM 5.1 mix. At its heart however is an intriguing romance story that is well played and engaging throughout. I loved this film years ago and seeing it again has reminded me exactly why I did fall in love with it.

Features
Japanese 5.1 LPCM Language,Japanese 2.0 LPCM Language,English Dolby Digital 5.1 Language,Japanese Subtitles,English subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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