Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: B+
- 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
By Steve Power
March 24, 2002
Release Date: March 05, 2002
In a very different Tokyo from the one we know today, the totalitarian government rules with an iron fist. But a group called "The Sect" is staging demonstrations and challenging the government's martial law. Constable Fuse of the Capital Police's Special Unit is on a mission to stop a Sect demonstration when he encounters a girl in the sewers under Tokyo. When he fails to shoot as ordered, he is put on trial, questioned, and "re-conditioned" as a soldier. But the dead girl haunts him, both in his dreams and in the face of her sister, whom Fuse has befriended. But Fuse has made himself a target for some very powerful men. And as his world comes crashing down around him, Fuse is continually challenged to decide what is real and what is right. Scripted by the legendary anime director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor) and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (Ghost in the Shell), JIN-ROH is a film that asks the question: can man ever truly rise above the level of a mere beast?
Having read the American version of Oshii's manga (called Hellhounds: Panzer Corps) a number of years back, Jin-Roh came as a complete shock to my system. How such an incredible Anime, inspired by some of my favorite manga could have stayed under my radar for so long I'll never know.
Jin-Roh is presented in both English and Japanese Dolby Digital, as well as in Japanese DTS. Being more the fan of a good Dub than subtitles on my first go-around with my anime, I quickly absorbed the English track, and was thoroughly impressed. Not enough mention is given to dubs these days, and I must say Jin-Roh has one of the best English dubs I have ever heard, and being my principle format for a good fifteen years I've seen quite a few dubbed films. English actors keep the dialogue flowing, with inflection and tone very similar to the Japanese track, and the screenplay is near dead-on, with the occasional omission here and there to keep the dialogue flowing. Skip to the final chapter and switch audio tracks while Kei gives her final dramatic speech to see how close the tracks actually are to one another. To me a good dub is an art-form in and of itself (emphasis on GOOD dub!).
Directional effects are very strong at the outset of the film, with most of the sound panning in the front speakers. Dialogue is generally focused to front center, but moves around just enough to convince you that this is a 5.1 mix. Action scenes are fantastic, with the report of those big MG-42's the Kerebos units carry echoing front and rear, with some great bass resonance throughout the film. The haunting score is also well mixed at just the right level so as not to drown out dialogue, set the tone for some incredible atmospheric shots of the city, and not fade away when the action gets loud. Overall one of the best audio tracks I've heard on an Anime disc.
Jin-Roh is a dark film, presented in a thickly hand painted style, the grays, blacks, dark greens and tans are presented remarkably well. The film's style lies somewhere in between other Production IG material, with fluid animation focusing on intimate character detail and lushly painted backdrops. The Animation quality is something that has to be seen to be appreciated. The art style is very no-frills, almost basic, and yet it oozes realism. Jin-Roh is the missing link between Ghost in the Shell and Blood: The last Vampire.
As far as the DVD is concerned, while not the best transfer I have seen on an anime title, it's pretty darn good. Visually the film uses a lot of soft light and haze, but not a compression artifact to be found. The picture does contain a fair amount of film grain, no dust or scratches were anywhere to be seen however. Also some of the black levels were a little more contrasted than I would have liked, with some occasional distortion, particularly when played on the Xbox, but detail was immensely sharp, and the contrast of colors was well handled with no edge enhancement, rainbows or moiré patterns to be found.
Simple yet elegant, well conceived menus feature stylized animation from the feature with a red haze flowing over the picture. Text is easily visible, the menus navigate smoothly with little lag. Class act!
Nothing in the way of content relating to the film, only four trailers, two Bandai features (Escaflowne: The Movie, Gundam-W: Endless Waltz) and two Viz features (Dead or Alive, the other one escapes me at the moment)
This film is a masterwork. Being a big fan of Oshii's work I was expecting something special and I definitely wasn't disappointed. As mentioned, my first encounter with Oshii was his manga Kerberos, called "Hellhounds: Panzer Corps" when adapted by Dark Horse Comics and Studio Proteus back in the early nineties. Jin-Roh seems to follow the first issue of Hellhounds fairly closely, with some dialogue practically word for word from the translated manga, however the storyline evolves in a completely different direction from the manga, and is far superior.
The tale is set in an alternate history (my favorite Sci-Fi device) wherein Japan lost WW2 not to the States, but to Germany, with German occupation influencing every fabric of Japan's culture. The streets of Tokyo almost resemble what one might think would be Berlin or another European city, very mid 20th century industrial, very postwar. The Capital Police are established to restore order to the rioting masses, all revolting against the "New World Order" brought about by the occupation Regime. Among the frustrated populace, revolutionary groups are formed. Protesters wage war on the streets against the Metro Police, and the government's Capital Police, represented best by their feared Kerberos special unit, crack soldiers decked out in Protect Gear, battle armor complete with German influenced Panzer helmets, night vision goggles, and the always imposing MG-42, Germany's staple heavy machine gun during World War II.
At the outset, Metro Police are fighting a mob of protestors with Capital Police members looking on, while the Kerberos secretly prowl under the street looking for members of "The Sect", a particularly dangerous group in possession of weapons far surpassing that of the average rioters, more of a militia than anything else. One of the Special Unit, Fuse (fooh - seh) comes across a young girl carrying a satchel charge, and hesitates, asking only, "Why?" The young girl panics when other soldiers arrive, and detonates the bomb, injuring several of the special unit. Fuse is tried and forced into re-training by the officials, looking for a scapegoat, someone to blame for their covert actions in the sewers.
Fuse struggles with training, the emotional damage done to him by the young girl, known as a "Red - Riding Hood" by the Sect, is affecting his performance. While tracking down information on the girl, he comes across her older sister, Kei, and a romance develops. She gives Fuse a gift, the original telling of the story of Little Red-Riding hood, very different from what we're used to, and much darker in tone. The book serves as a metaphor, with Kei as the Riding - hood, and Fuse the wolf, a metaphor which works extremely well. Especially with Kei's voice reading over scenes throughout the film.
As Fuse's relationship and emotional problems persist, we are introduced to the inner workings of the Government, and several of the different factions, including the near mythic "Wolf Brigade", a counter-intelligence unit which may or may not even exist.
The threads all lead to one incredible conclusion, one I will not spoil here, suffice it to say that I've really only scratched the surface of this multi-layered storyline. The most incredible thing about Jin-Roh is that everything in this film just WORKS. Everything individually would make for intriguing fiction. The metaphor of the wolf for a soldier, or the bomb delivering Red - Riding hoods, couriers of the Sect, the manipulation, the twists, it all just goes together so well. Never have I seen metaphor used so successfully as it has been here. This film is Mamoru Oshii's masterwork, his writing is delivered with passion by director Hiroyuki Okiura, and his concepts so fully delivered. This film requires no head-scratching, no pondering, no mind bending reality, it is merely the sum of its parts, it asks a question: "Can a wolf dress as a man become a man, or is he merely a wolf?" And Fuse tries extremely hard to be a man, or does he? The film lays it all out, no cryptic ending or bizarre imagery; it merely tells the story and asks its question. Quick to start, a little slower paced in the middle (but never boring) and an incredible last half hour makes Jin-Roh the best anime I've seen in a long time, and a definite contender for number one in my books. Any fan of serious animation cannot miss this film!
27" Toshiba television / Playstation 2 - Xbox - Shinsonic DVD-100 player/ Teac home theater setup.