The Wolf Brigade"
Reviewed July, 2001 by Mark Vallen,
Jeannine Thorpe, and John Lentini
Screen shots generously provided by John Lentini.
by Mark Vallen)
From the first breathtaking scenes of a popular revolt in the
streets where thousands of people are engaged in violent street
fighting with the army and police... to the very last bitter
sweet frames of this 101 minute political thriller, Jin-Roh
(The Wolf Brigade) is a masterpiece of modern animation. While
American studios continue to crank out silly animated feature
films meant for 5 year olds... Japan offers the world this mind
bending work of great philosophical, political, and artistic
on the story and screenplay by Mamoru Oshii (whose Ghost
in the Shell anime is legendary), and directed
by Hiroyuki Okiura, Jin-Roh plays very much like
a live action drama.
Produced by Production I.G. Animation Studios (who also
created the anime Patlabor), this spectacular movie was
three years in the making, and for sheer realism and hard hitting
story telling it's difficult to beat.
story is set in an alternative past, where martial law grips
a Tokyo devastated by war and military occupation. The masses
are in open revolt against the authorities and guerilla war
is breaking out. The government uses the Capitol Police Organization
(CAPO) as an instrument of repression, especially
relying on it's heavily armed Wolf Brigade to
annihilate the freedom
Kazuki Fuse, a member of the brigade (and lead protagonist
in the movie), is traumatized when a young girl associated with
the people's movement kills herself in front of him in order
to prevent herself from being captured by the state.
of this sets the stage for the complex intrigue and multiple
plot twists that are to follow. Jin-Roh is a highly intellectual
and provocative animation that has more in common with the live
action classic political films of Costa-Gavras like State
of Siege, or Missing, than it does with other animated
features. However, this animation's serious political content
is tempered by being presented as science fiction.
director of the film decided not to use CGI except for some
minimal camera work, so the great majority of the movie's production
relied upon the traditional method of hand painting cels.
high degree of realism achieved in this anime is truly startling.
By "realism" I don't mean the cold, technically perfect
images created by computers (as in the Final Fantasy
movie), I mean a naturalism so convincing that at times you
forget you are watching an animation. Repeatedly throughout
the movie I found myself thinking, "How did they do that?"
The use of light, shadows, and reflections in this animation
is unlike anything I've ever seen. Purely in terms of aesthetics
and artistry, Jin-Roh is an animator's animation.
by Jeannine Thorpe) Many
North Americans first began to pay serious attention to anime
when Ghost in the Shell had its limited theatrical release,
and hopefully the limited theatrical release of Jin-Roh
will also introduce the joy of animation as art to a new crop
of movie-goers. You'll find no pink haired girls, cute mascots,
or giant monsters in this film, and that makes it a wonderful
ambassador to the general American public who should learn that
anime is not just for children. Jin-Roh
is just as deserving of attention as any live action Hollywood
film... perhaps more so.
of the things that I've always loved about anime is the fact
that so many stories are completely off the map for what most
non-Japanese would consider "cartoon" material, and
that in Japan animation is made for people of all ages, not
just for children. Now, with the rapid improvements in animation
because of digital technology, we have truly reached a point
where some anime have both the look and feel of live action...
and Jin-Roh shines among the anime in this category.
Although others have tried, the
character designs of Jin-Roh are the first I've seen
to really achieve a look of true portraiture and individualism,
and not just repeated copies of a generic "anime-style"
can easily trace the history of anime films providing breathtaking
realism (Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, Blood), and
sci-fi anime being used to express psychological angst and emotional
introspection of its characters (Wings of Honneamise, Memories,
Neon Genesis Evangelion)... Jin-Roh brings both threads
together, and it does so masterfully. Kazuki's tough emotional
armor is shattered by the young girl's heroism, and suddenly
his entire perception of himself, the world, and his position
in it, is called into question. Wonderful camera angles and
visual symbolism help the viewer down this path of self-exploration.
overall feeling you get is that trying to create the illusion
of realism is much more work and takes much more visual acuity
than actually filming a scene in live action.
by John Lentini)
with the darker side of anime, with our last review being Blood:
The Last Vampire, we now come at you with another live action
type anime feature equally as good as any theatrical release
you may see. It's hard to believe that Jin-Roh was on
the shelf for almost two years. However, I have to ask anime
fans to open their minds again, this isn't your normal run of
the mill anime series. Oshii Mamoru, who you may remember
as the director of Ghost in the Shell, did an excellent
job while writing Jin-Roh. The symbolism in this feature
really blew me off my feet, second perhaps only
to the Utena movie. Oshii-san not only wrote a well flowing
story, but also made you feel for his two main characters, trooper
Kazuki Fuse and the story's female lead, Kei
to be over looked while enjoying this chapter in anime history
is the subtle, yet powerful soundtrack by Mizoguchi Hajime.
also has on his list of credits the sountrack for Please
Save My Earth. If that doesn't impress you enough, than
also know that he worked with the great Kanno Yoko on
Macross Plus and Vision of Escaflowne... and those
are some of the most memorable anime oundtracks around!
It may not be long before we'll be mentioning Mizoguchi Hajime
and Kanno Yoko in the same breath, but until that time,
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