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Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999)

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-Mamoru Oshii


In a different post-World War II Tokyo from the one today, a totalitarian government rules. There are many protests, demonstrations, and, most notably, anti-government terrorism. The capital police is a special national police force created to help take care of these threats to the government, although it must respect jurisdiction of local forces. During a demonstration, the force chases a group of terrorists into the sewers. When Constable Fuse sees a little girl that is involved in the terrorism, he hesitates to shoot and she blows up a bomb she is carrying. He's is downgraded and retrained for his lack of action, but the thought of that girl still haunts him. He soon meets up with her sister and starts to form a bond with her. Meanwhile, a number of the different government organizations are embroiled in political battle.


I'll be 100% honest with you. I'm not nearly as versed in anime as I am in Hong Kong films. It is actually only fairly recently that my interest in Asian films has be expanded to include the world of anime. I've seen a decent number of shows and movies since then, but I'm still light years behind more well versed fans of the genre. Nonetheless, there are some things that trancend medium and genre. Characters, storytelling, symbolism.... all these things are universal. Mamoru Oshii is well known for his ability to tell a compelling story and Jin-Roh couldn't be a better example. Melding political drama with personal inner struggle and adding some subtle romance and a little bit of action, Jin-Roh is what storytelling should be.

It's hard to really classify Jin-Roh. That is part of its appeal. It has many different elements to its story that are intriguing, and all meld together perfectly to create this alternate world. The volatile socio-political situation in such an alternate post-war Japan makes for a perfect setting. At the heart of the movie, though, is not the socio-political aspect, but the inner struggle that Fuse faces. It is from this perspective that we then see the socio-political aspect and how he fits into it all.

In the end, everything comes together and we see a critical turning point for our main character. I was unsure exactly what personality was his and he is faced with choosing a path at the end, which left me on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, further elaboration risks spoilers. Nonetheless, I felt that this point really gives the movie its final, lasting impact as we have our own hopes and expectations of this character we have spent the film with.

The fim uses lots of references to the old Red Riding Hood tale, also. Much of the story actuall heavily parallels that story and the way this is mixed in to push the story along is quite interesting. And, this is the real Red Riding Hood tale, not the nice, sanitized version that many of us grew up with.

Jin-Roh really is an example of what great storytelling can be. It brings so many different aspects together and weaves them perfectly to create a whole world and the characters in it. It is one that really appeals to psychological and emotional analysis and will keep you thinking for a long time after its done.


-Hiroyuki Okiura


-Original Japanese language.