Reviewby Christopher Macdonald,
Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Special Edition DVD
In an alternate Japan, some 10 years after a major war, poverty and crime stoke the flames of civil unrest. Anti-government guerillas, calling themselves the Sect, spark bloody clashes in the streets. The police respond with a crack unit of heavily-armoured cop-soldiers, the C.A.P.O., to tackle the increasingly well-armed Sect. The C.A.P.O. unit find themselves in a very high-pressure position. On the one hand, their very presence escalates the climate of violence with the Sect. On the other hand, regular cops resent and distrust them. At the center of this firestorm is a young C.A.P.O. officer named Fusé.
When Fusé hesitates to kill a young sect courrier she commits suicide with the bomb she is carrying he is blamed for his failure and demoted back to training camp. Deeply troubled by the experience, Fusé visits the girl's grave, and there meets her sister, with whom he begins a complex relationship. At the same time, a sinister conspiracy is brewing deep in the labyrith of the police system, pitting a secret group of extremists within the C.A.P.O., the Wolf Brigade (Jin-Roh) against the politically inclined bureacrats of the police force. Fusé and the girl are nothing more then pawns of pawns, but who's pawns are they?
Parts Taken From Fant-Asia'99
The most important item in the package is of course the feature disc. Any disc that delivers such a superb film and includes Japanese DTS 5.1 track, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 5.1 is a definite winner... Providing the Anime itself is any good. This disc is the same in the Special Edition box and the regular package.
While some segments of Jin-Roh are extremely violent it is not an action movie. Jin-Roh is an extremely complicated movie with 90% of its screening time devoted to developing the characters, the plot and the intrigue. Action segments were only incorporated when required by the plot, however those action segments that do exist in the movie are extremely intense, yet most of the film's intensity still comes from the plot and not the action. Although very different in topic, anyone who enjoyed Perfect Blue will probably enjoy Jin-Roh. Although not quite as complicated as Perfect Blue, Jin-Roh succeeds as only the second Anime of the psychological thriller type... that is, the second success. Further comparison between Jin-Roh and Perfect Blue is not warranted; they are extremely different stories with little in common except for their complexity.
Artistically Jin-Roh is a masterpiece, as can be expected with anything coming from Productions IG. The extreme attention to minute detail seen in Jin-Roh is very rare. Hiroyuki Okiura eschewed the recent trend of computer animation with Jin-Roh that was almost entirely done on cels (apparently it took 80 000 cels and 3 years to animate). Jin-Roh is almost entirely "filmed" in low light settings and rainy weather, further adding to the somber mood.
All three sound tracks sound great. Regardless of whether you prefer English or Japanese and whether you have a DTS or a Dolby only system, this DVD sounds stunning on any 5.1 configuration. The volume levels between the English and Japanese tracks vary in some points, with the English favoring voices over sound effect a bit more than the Japanese, but the English track remains very crisp. The Japanese DTS track is without a doubt the best, and this really stands out in some scenes, for example the riot scene in the opening seconds of the movie. However the English and Japanese Dolby tracks are still of very high quality, and full use of all 5.1 channels is made on each track. This DVD sounds awesome.
But what good is great sound if the voice acting is no good? Fortunately that isn't a question that really matters with this DVD. The English dub, recorded by Ocean Studios, is a quality job. Even when compared directly with the Japanese dub, the English dub sounds just fine. There are differences between the two dubs, the English actors did not attempt to emulate the Japanese actors, but the quality itself is no less than we could expect.
Jin-Roh's soundtrack is a very gloomy and quiet set of classical pieces. Even during the movie's several action scenes the music does not pick up its tempo in the least. If this film were an action flick the soundtrack would be horrible, but Jin-Roh is not an action movie and the quiet, gloomy soundtrack does an excellent job of separating the viewer from the immediacy of the event and forces them rather to focus on the underlying currents of the film… even if they don't realize it.
The Jin-Roh Special Edition DVD comes in a folding Cardboard case identical to the box used for the Ranma ½ OVA collection. While these boxes are quite nice, they are easily damaged; even the simple act of sliding the plastic cover off can scratch them. Being a dark color (the box is mostly black, gray and dark brown) the scratches are very apparent.
Opening the box reveals 2 DVDs, a CD and a booklet. The two DVDs are of course the feature disc and the “Extras Disc”, the CD is of course the soundtrack. The booklet includes a listing of the contents of the three discs, an organizational chart of the various government agencies involved in the story, and a nine-page article by Carl Gustav Horn.
DVD extras on the “Extras Disc” include the various Japanese and English theatrical trailers, an impressive compliment of production artwork, and a series of interviews with the creators of Jin-Roh. Interviewed are Mamoru Oshii, Hiroyuki Okiura, Hajime Mizoguchi and Hiromasa Ogura. The interviews, which last just over 38 minutes, deal with a variety of subjects including the original conception of Jin-Roh, the production process and initial reaction to the film. Some very interesting insights into the film are offered.
Jin-Roh isn't perhaps for everyone though. Without a doubt, if you are into intense psychological drama, and dark moods, Jin-Roh, with it's excellent production values, is a must see, and maybe you should watch it twice, just so that you can understand it. However, if you'd rather something lighter, funny, or just plain mindless violence that doesn't require heavy thinking (and at times we all want this stuff) then Jin-Roh definitively isn't for you. If you're not sure though, watch it! It's only 98 minutes, and you might discover a new genre that you want to see more of (I certainly do).
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Well developped characters, very intense, very nice art, great plotline.
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