Directed by: Hiroyuki OkiuraWriting credits:
Written (in Japanese; dubbed into English)
by Mamoru Oshii
Also SF, the superbly crafted Jin-Roh takes place in an alternate history where Japan lost World War II to the Germans (rather than the Americans), a detailed background that gets explained in a beautifully delivered narration over a series of handsome black and white stills. The story proper, set in a vaguely 1950s Tokyo, emerges from the opening with a sensationally animated nocturnal street riot in which the "Capital Police's" counter-terrorist arm, the Special Unit, fights civil unrest by masses of demonstrators and the fanatical underground of urban guerrillas who call themselves 'The Sect'. With grimmer than Grimm irony, Jin-Roh posits a mythology in which innocent-seeming uniformed schoolgirls dubbed "red riding hoods", serve in the capacity of couriers for the guerrilla army. One such riding hood gets pursued by a member of the Special Unit's rogue element, the so-called Wolf Brigade (with its own secret agenda). Wearing full body armor and infrared goggles, these gun-heavy officers take on the appearance of sinister cyborgs.
Kazuki Fuse (Michael Dobson), one of these elite cops, corners his
prey in the Tokyo sewers where the ambiguities of guerrilla warfare
literally blow up in his face when he confronts her and hesitates to
shoot a schoolgirl. She detonates a powerful bomb in her book bag. Her
body utterly destroyed, Kazuki survives, shell-shocked, with his fitness
to serve in doubt. He returns to the Police Academy for retraining.
Obsessed by thoughts of the self-immolating, martyred girl, Kazuki
tracks down her grave where, he meets the deceased's older sister,
teen-aged Kei Amemiya
Conceptualized by Mamoru Oshii, director of the gorgeously atmospheric Ghost in the Shell, and directed by his assistant on that film, Hiroyuki Okiura, Jin-Roh features an even more downbeat narrative in an intensely dystopian urban setting. The subtle, eerie, painterly animation effectively conveys this bleakness and gloom accentuated by Jin-Roh's action taking place mostly at night. Despite a mostly full moon, the never less than somber palette makes gray, sooty, postwar Tokyo resemble a brick-walled concentration camp. The filmmakers, lavishing great attention on detailed building facades, by comparison, intentionally render the characters in a flatter style to make the people seem like shadows flitting through an overwhelming environment. Hajime Mizoguchi's dramatic score with jazz and pop stylizations, also helps to complement the movie's moodiness.
Jin-Roh, haunted equally by post WW II Japanese social history largely unfamiliar to most Westerners and by the fairy-tale images of wolves twisted into a grisly variation of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, may be the most dazzlingly noir anime ever made, if such melancholia can be considered dazzling. The film takes its dual themes of loss and despair very seriously, using the advantages of line-drawn animation to create a milieu that would cost hundreds of millions to produce as live-action. Jin-Roh, striving for a grown-up, gut-wrenching emotional depth that most Hollywood films reject, succeeds in proving that cartoons can not be considered just kid-stuff, that the art form has finally come of age.