Mamoru Oshii has built up a magnificent library of anime
films over time. He has had his hands in the Ghost in the
Shell movies, Patlabor and Blood:
The Last Vampire. In Jin-Roh, Mamoru Oshii writes
a story of alternate history that begins straightforward but
unravels into a large conspiracy of betrayals by the time
the film is over. From a history standpoint, the movie takes
the idea that Japan became a totalitarian state after World
War II. To this end, the government has created a Special
Unit of the Capitol Police Organization (CAPO) to deal with
the Sect, an underground resistance to the military power.
The story begins with a riot that finds a squad of the Special
Unit tracking down Sect members in the sewers. When what seems
to be an average soldier by the name of Fuse falters in the
line of duty, he is nearly killed by a young girl who blows
herself up. Because of his faltering in battle, Fuse is sent
back to training. He shows obvious signs of "shell shock"
and can't seem to shake the face of the girl who killed herself.
When he goes to visit her grave, he runs into her older sister,
Kei, and from that point, they develop a relationship.
As the story rolls along, viewers will discover that the
relationship is drawn about by a conspiracy to remove the
Special Unit in a massive power struggle that sees everything
that's built up to throughout the story dashed away at the
end. By the time the end of the story plays out, everything
you assumed about Fuse and the rest of the cast will be changed.
The story makes great efforts to link itself to the Red Riding
Hood fairy tale, even so much as to make an alternate rendition
of the story that gets shared as Fuse and Kei as their relationship
develops. The strong characterization of The Wolf Brigade
creates a mentality that breeds a certain ferocity. This Red
Riding Hood/Wolf balance in the characters is built up to
lay out metaphysical questions that have become a trademark
of Mamoru Oshii's works.
Visually, Jin-Roh is a high quality piece, especially
without any use of CG. While not overtly lush or ornately
detailed, the film has a grim reality to it that grounds the
story and characters in a realistic world. The moments of
psychological fancy also feel well established, as if the
artists have had their own delusions to draw from. If anything,
Jin-Roh goes down in history for making the iconic red-eyed
soldier that has been used in videogames as of late (Killzone,
I can go on about the quality inherent in Jin-Roh,
but I won't beat around the bush: the story pacing really
hampers the film. It starts off with an excellent action piece
that helps establish the movie's world, but then slows down
to a crawl. The two main characters are pretty dry and a bit
boring. Because of this, the time spent focusing on them feels
like it takes forever and when the film does finally get to
it's resolution, it feels like it draws from the same power
that the opening did.
As a source of dramatic cinema, I think Jin-Roh works.
It sufficiently tells a well-written story and introduces
a few ideas for the viewer to think about. If the middle portion
of the story had been paced a bit better, I think this film
would have grabbed me better. Even with that said, I think
most fans of Mamoru Oshii would do themselves a favor and
check this out. It's still far better story-wise than most
of the crap that gets green-lighted on this side of the world.