Review of Mamoru Oshii’s Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

By BILL FOREMAN

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade comes from the mind of Mamoru Oshii, one of the most famous film directors in Japan. His directorial credits include Angel’s Egg, the Patlabor movies, and the original two Ghost in the Shell films. Jin-Roh is based off Oshii’s own ‘Kerberos Saga’, a universe comprised of various novels, manga, radio plays, and live action films. Jin-Roh is set in this saga, but not connected to its continuity, similar to how the Ghost in the Shell TV series’ are not connected to the movies.    

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Jin-Roh is two stories weaved together; on one side is our lead character Kazuki Fuse, a solider trying to find his identity after a traumatic incident. Is he still a soldier willing to do what is ordered, or does he want to be something else? The other side of the story is a political drama where Fuse is being used as a pawn by multiple factions to change who holds power in a dystopian Japan.

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Mamoru Oshii

What I like about Jin-Roh is that it has multiple layers in its narrative, similar to Oshii’s Ghost in Shell, tackling themes of espionage, war, identity, and loyalty. Throughout the movie, Fuse goes through moments of Post Dramatic Stress Disorder as he reflects on his identity as a solider and what he want to be. The film’s point of view of morality is very gray; there is no good or bad side in this conflict. Each character chooses a faction to side with, whether it be the military, police, or the rebel group called the Sect. We don’t see any faction’s morals or ideals, only their struggle for power.

This morally gray viewpoint and uncertainty of Fuse is shown in the aesthetic look of Jin-Roh as well. There is a gray overcast or mist throughout the majority of the film, setting a visual mood and tone. The animation is fanatic, especially at night where majority of the action scenes take place. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the legendary Production I.G who also animated Ghost in the Shell.

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Jin-Roh is a slow movie, taking its time to set up the characters and their actions, and the slow placing may be a turn off to some viewers. The subject matter of the movie may also be a turn off for those looking for more escapism in their anime viewing preferences.

However, if you’re looking for a thriller anime and enjoy the narrative layers of Ghost in the Shell, I would highly recommend Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade.

Jin-Roh is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll and on Bluray/DVD from Discotek.           

[Originally published on borderlinepanels.wordpress.com, October 12, 2017]

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