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JIN-ROH: The Wolf Brigade (a J!-Ent Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 3, 2009 by  



“The Okiura animated classic of an alternate Japan caught in chaotic turmoil with a modern twist of the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ storyline is not only enjoyable but even more visually stunning and gratifying on Blu-ray! Includes a 500+ page storyboard booklet, a 20-page booklet…  You can’t go wrong with this awesome release!”

TITLE: JIN-ROH: The Wolf Brigade

DURATION: 102 minutes + 2 minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 16:9 (1080p Hi-Def), Japanese Liner PCM 5.1ch or Linear PCM (Dolby Surround), English Dolby Digital 5.1 ch, Japanese and English Subtitles

CATALOG #: BUXH0140

COMPANY: Bandai Visual/Honneamise

RATED: Suggested 16 & Up

Directed by Hiroyuki Okiura

Originally created by Mamoru Oshii

Original Character Designs by Hiroyuki Okiura

ADR Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi

Screenplay by Mamoru Oshii

Character Design: Tetsuya Nishio

Art Director: Hiromasa Ogura

Storyboards: Hiroyuki Okiura

Music: Masayoshi Furukawa, Tsuneo Imahori, Yoko Kanno, Mario Klemens, Hajime Mizoguchi, Yoichi Okabe, Keishi Urata, Hitoshi Watanabe

Sumi Mutoh as Kei Amemiya

Yoshikatsu Fujiki as Kazuki Fuse

Hiroyuki Kinoshita as Atsuhi Henmi

Yoshisada Sakaguchi as Hachiroh Tohbe

Eri Sendai as Nanami Agawa

Kenji Nakagawa as Isao Aniya

Kousei Hirota as Bunmei Muroto

Ryuichi Horibe as Shiroh Tatsumi

Tamio Ohki as CAPO Officer

Yoshisada Sakaguchi as Narrator

Yukihiro Yoshida as Hajime Handa

Yukio Hiroda as Bunmei Muroto

A modern adaption of “Red Riding Hood” featuring stunning visuals during a wartime setting of an alternate Japan and a tragic story with a twist.

When the film came out in 2000, many viewers were just in awe of the animated film that was created with a traditional cel animation, with it’s care in detail to the backgrounds, the architectural landscapes and most of all, the brooding images of the Panzer cop.  The story is based on Oshii’s Kerberos saga manga “Ken-Roh Densetsu” written back in 1988 through 2000 but where the manga and live action films are set in an alternate Japan in 2000, “JIN-ROH: The Wolf Brigade” takes place in the 1950’s and a different timeline in which Japan is not defeated by the Americans but instead defeated by the Germans.

The backdrop of the this storyline is a time in Japan where government is corrupt and guerrilla organizations against the government is growing.  As for the government, the Metropolitan Police aka CAPO was created to fight these organizations, while the regular police aka “Self-Police” has their own division and somehow these two divisions are entwined in political corruption.

In the film, we see the Guerrilla group known as “The Sect” in operation as a protest is taking place between people against the government while the self-police stand watch with their shields.  Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police aka stands guard with their tanks and will assist the “Self-Police” if they need assistance.    “The Sect” prepare their weaponry against the self-police and a young teenage girl (known as “Red Riding Hoods”) delivering a bag to a guy.  The guy throws the bag towards the police and blast kills and injures many and thus chaos ensues as the police and the protestor’s clash.

Meanwhile underground, some of “The Sect” members armed with grenade launchers and weapons start maneuvering through the sewers but is caught by the 1st Patrol Unit of the Panzer Corp (unlike regular CAPO, these wear German-like, menacing armory with a mask and red penetrating lights as eyes) and the Panzer Corp. literally kills them all.  As for the “Red Riding Hood”, she is caught by one of the patrol units but instead of shooting her, he asks her “Why?”, while he receives orders to shoot her.  But seeing her cringing in fear and unarmed, he hesitates until the girl pulls a string and her bag and she detonates herself.

Because the one soldier, named Kazuki Fuse didn’t fire, due to the the politics surrounding the government, the CAPO and Self-Police, the CAPO embarrased that their own soldier disobeyed orders, an inquiry is done to find out why he didn’t shoot and thus he is put back in retraining.  What is puzzling to government and even members of the CAPO is why Fuse didn’t shoot the girl.  Fuse doesn’t even know why he didn’t shoot.

Fuse feeling some guilt because of her death, starts doing some research on her and to get to know her name.  Fuse tries to find out more information about the girl that detonated herself and his friend from the academy, Atsuhi Henmi (who works with the CAPO’s rival, the Public Security) meets Fuse secretly and is there to help him and give him the information he needs.

Fuse then goes to the area of where her ashes are and sees another girl that looks like her.  This grieving girl is standing and mourning and eventually the two strike a conversation and the girl claims to be the dead girl’s older sister, Kei.

Ultimately, Fuse and Kei enjoy their company together and Kei gives Fuse a book titled “”Rotkäppchen” (Little Red Riding Hood).  This story is much more darker as the young girl who has never seen her mother for several years decides to visit her.  As she goes to visit her home, she is asked by the wolf, do you take the path full of pins or the path full of needles.  The young girl takes the path of pins and thus the wolf takes the other path and kills her mother.  When Little Red Riding Hood arrives home, the wolf disguised as her mother, tells her to come in.  Little Red Riding Hood is hungry and the Wolf tells her to eat the meat in the fridge.  A cat warns her to not eat the meat because that is the flesh of her mother.  The Wolf says it’s not true and to throw a wooden shoe at the cat.  So, she eats the meat.  Red Riding Hood is thirsty and the wolf tells her to drink the wine.  A bird warns her telling her that is blood of her mother.  Red Riding Hood asks her mother (the wolf) and the Wolf tells her to drink it and throw her robe at the bird.  Thus she drinks it.  Red Riding Hood joins her mother at the bed and saying, “What big eyes you have”, “What big teeth you have” and “what big claws you have”…

Eventually, Fuse and Kei becoming closer and closer and start having feelings for each other.  But somehow, Fuse gets these dark images in his head.  Somehow the “Red Riding Hood” story has some affect on him and he has these nightmares of Kei being killed by gunfire and another which has him and pack of wolves following Kei and the wolves start to devour her.

Meanwhile, we see the government ala Public Security (the rival of the CAPO/Panzer Corp.) led by Fuse’s friend Henmi meeting with the Self-Police.  You learn that Kei lied to Fuse and that she is working with the Public Security as a trap against the CAPO.  But while they are secretly meeting, they keep asking each other about a secret counter-intelligence division called the Wolf Brigade.  A possible fact or rumor that there is a secret group that watches over these organizations but no one knows if its true.

Meanwhile, Fuse sees someone comes out of his room and intrigue of what they were doing in his room, he searches and spots and envelope containing photos of Henmi and Kei in the back of his car.  He immediately gets a call from Kei saying that men are after her but it’s all part of a trap by the Public Security and Self-Police to discredit the CAPO.  But Fuse manages to get Kei out of the building and the two are on the run.  You realized that the two have fond feelings for each other.

Without spoiling the many twists and turns of the film, you watch and learn that the “Little Red Riding Hood” story that Kei reads to Fuse, is probably closer to life.  Who among them is the wolf and who is Red Riding Hood.  Who is being betrayed?

“JIN-ROH: The Wolf Brigade” is definitely one of those films that keeps your attention as you keep up with who is telling the truth, who is lying and thus twists and turns are set along the way.  Not until the final 15-minutes do you find out the truth and you realize that this film is indeed a modern spin on the “Little Red Riding Hood” storyline.

VIDEO:

The video for this anime film is presented in 16:9 1080p Hi-Def. One must remember that this film was created in 1999, because it was in development for three years, it was created via traditional cel animation and not via digital that many people are familiar with these days.

But for anime fans, you look at what the art director and their staff had to pull of to make this story come alive.   That involves creating an alternate Japan, awesome visuals that when you see the backdrops and just the amount of detail in each painting, it’s quite stunning to look at.  Also, because this film’s setting takes place in the 1950’s, you get a little aged look and thus you don’t get eye popping colors, there is a slight haze to the film.

On Blu-ray and at 1080p, the Blu-ray manages to keep that beauty intact for a film of its age but for those not familiar with older anime films, especialy if one views the eye popping, vibrant colors of animated films today, some may have trouble with it.  This film is artistically beautiful when it comes to the details but not vibrant with sharp and bright colors coming at you.

In an interview with the director/animator Hiroyuki Okiura, Okiura says that filters were used during the photography to create a certain sense of space.  He also goes on to say that the HD version of the film is closer to the original film than the DVD ever was and even had requests for the engineers to make happen on the Blu-ray version.  Details that were hard to see during the dark in the DVD can now be seen in the Blu-ray version.

AUDIO:

I watched the film both in Japanese and English.  The Japanese is featured in Linear PCM 5.1ch and Linear PCM Dolby Surround.  The English track is in Dolby Digital 5.1ch.  During the action segments especially the machine gun rattling, your surround system really comes alive.  In fact, I kept repeating the gun shots just to hear it over and enjoy the clarity of that sound.  Both are well-acted in Japanese and English dub.

In the interview with the director Okiura (in a booklet that comes with the Blu-ray box set), Okiura talks about how they wanted to use the 5.1ch surround to showcase certain sounds like leaves rustling when one steps on them.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

As for special features on disc, you can choose from subtitled or non-subtitled trailers (four total).  So, really, there aren’t any major special features but in this box set, there is something that will be of satisfaction to “JIN-ROH” fans.

Included in this Blu-ray box set is a 524-page storyboard booklet.  This has the complete storyboards and of the many anime I do own, outside of the recent Studio 4C “Amazing Nuts” DVD special edition which came with an awesome booklet, “JIN-ROH: The Wolf Brigade” was simply a great addition for the fans of the film.

And that’s not it, you also get a 20-page booklet which includes a writeup on “JIN-ROH”, a booklet featuring a comparison of storyboards and the actual animation but also an interview with the director Hiroyuki Okiura.  In the writeup, Chikashi Saito actually makes some clarifications as many call “JIN-ROH” the final analog film.  But we learn that although the film was constructed via analog there are a few scenes that do employ some CG work and the digital editing system Avid was used for post-production work.

But the best part of the booklet is the interview with Okiura who talks about the actual colors of the film, the use of sound and also why he made some changes from Oishii’s screenplay on his animated version and more.  Overall, a pretty cool interview to read.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed watching “JIN-ROH: The Wolf Brigade” on Blu-ray.  One thing that I have noticed in animations is that with Blu-ray, things that are in the dark, you are able to see much more detail in the darkness and even the director noted that in his interview.

Also, I have to give Bandai Entertainment/Bandai Visual credit for bringing quite a number of their older films on Blu-ray and “JIN-ROH: The Wolf’s Brigade” is definitely a classic that received awesome treatement in this release.

It’s one thing to have the release (in Japanese and English) and watch it in 1080p but with “JIN-ROH”, like “ROYAL SPACE FORCE”, there is so much detail in the overall artwork that just simply looks stunning on Blu-ray.  Granted, this is not a film that spotlights vibrant colors but it’s a film that looked beautiful then and it look beautiful now.  The artistic detail in this film is spectacular and in balance with a film with a unique storyline, you can only hope that there is another animated film that takes place in Oishii’s “Kerberos Saga” and you can only think what upcoming film will be coming from director Okiura next.

I do wish there were more special features included on the Blu-ray disc but Bandai made up for that with the inclusion of the thick storyboard booklet and the addition of the 20-page booklet with an interview with Okiura.

If you enjoyed this film, are a fan of the “Kerberos Saga” manga series or fans of Okiura or Oishii’s work, this Blu-ray release of “JIN-ROH: The Wolf Brigade” would make awesome addition to your anime Blu-ray collection.






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