Film Commentary [8-16-01]
Treachery Behind the Blue Line - - Jin-Roh (The Wolf Brigade)
Genre: Thriller/Action
Grade = B+
Dubbed and distributed by Viz Communications

The Wolf Brigade
Jin-Roh is set in an alternative present day Japan where it was occupied not by democratic Americans at the end of World War II, but by Nazi Germany. The nation is plagued with massive social unrest and terrorism on the streets. The story begins with a riot in the streets. A rabble of protesters are throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the police lines.

Meanwhile, in the crowd and behind the front lines we see a group of sophisticated terrorists called the Sect are distributing bombs to the protesters to throw. In a complex interchange, they wordlessly hand off the bombs to members of their group who mixed with the crowd and hurl them at the police. They use a young girl as a courier for a large satchel charge. When the police charge the line, they go underground to travel through the sewer system. However, they are tracked and gunned down by an elite anti-terrorist unit called CAPO (Capital Police Organization) a special military unit designed to help the police and restore order.

The CAPO, called the Wolf Brigade, are sheathed in body armor with a respirator and infrared goggles. This has the effect of rendering the vision of faceless and remorseless robots with glowing red eyes setting out to exterminate the enemy. Each are armed with a massively powerful belt-fed M-60 machine gun. Running through the sewers CAPO Constable KozukiFuse tracks down and confronts the teenage girl with the satchel charge. As she starts to pull the lanyard to the bomb he freezes, even when his officer screams at him to shoot. The girl detonates the bomb killing herself and taking out most of the wall behind her. Fuse is saved from death by his comrade tackling him and his body armor.

Fuse is set before a disciplinary hearing and reprimanded for his inaction and forced to go through retraining. The girl's name was Nanami Agawa and Fuse is haunted by her and why she chose to commit suicide. He goes the mausoleum to visit her tomb and meets her look-alike sister Kei Amemiya. He begins to see her. Meanwhile, there is a complex and sinister conspiracy is brewing deep in the labyrinth of the police system that is designed to destroy the Wolf Brigade with Fuse as the patsy.

This is the first film directed by Hiroyuki Okiura (Ghost in the Shell, Patlabor 2 and written by Mamoru Oshii (Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell) and based on his manga, this film contains many of the same element that can be found in their previous films, such as an elite and secretive government organization within other government organization that has a hidden agenda, internal struggles for power within the government and backstabbing and combating terrorists.

The films also share a unique and highly visually provocative use of water and glass to promote the visual narrative. The movement of the characters is lifelike without appearing rotoscoped as they are in many American animated films (I hate rotoscoping). The attention to detail is exciting. The production does not include computer animation and instead is comprised of 80,000 cells that took three years to create. The overall storyline is dark and foreboding with significant elements drawn from Little Red Riding Hood. In fact the fable is one of the central themes of film. This is also shown in the backgrounds to the scenes which take place at night or where the weather is for the most overcast and even raining. The German occupation is shown in the background with a preponderance of VW Beetles and Mercedes on the road.

This is a serious film that relies more on the characterization and intrigue to move the storyline forward. While containing very bloody violence and gore, the violence is ancillary to the story rather than the sole purpose of the film as in Hollywood movies. The soundtrack was effective in projecting the mode of the scenes and was performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. For once, the American dubbing did not distract from the film as is the case in most other dub jobs of foreign films. Here the voice actors actually managed to convey some emotion and depth. Just as if they were real actors.

By far one of the best things is its non-Hollywood ending - vague and not happy, much like that of the classic film The Spy That Came In From the Cold. Not happy at all.

Menace in the dark sewer
Nanami flees through the sewer. (Note effective use of water in the animation)
Rioter attacks police line

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