Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade

Dir. Hiroyuki Okiura
1998
“From the makers of Ghost in the Shell!” says the DVD box,
but, they don’t mention, not from the mind of Masamune Shirow (the manga creator). What looked to be a tech, sci-fi thing, turns out to be a psychological drama between a sort of Special Ops soldier in a fascist future Japan, the memory of the teenage girl terrorist who blows herself up in front of him, and the living sister who looks like her (a la Vertigo) who may or may not be linked to the underground movement. Apart from the alterna-history design to the film (it’s set in a Tokyo that stopped evolving its architecture and automobiles around the 1950s, and spent all its money on the police force, what with the Nazis pulling out and the country battling terrorists) there wasn’t too much reason for it to be an anime. (My friend Jon says that it’s purely the economics of the Japanese film industry).
It’s a nicely reserved film, and builds to a satisfactory twist ending that only amplifies the despair throughout. Maybe anime is the medium from which to deal with political issues (my fuzzy memory of Patlabor 2 reminds me of how intelligent that film’s politics were, able to deal with sociological issues behind the mask of sci-fi action) and my above statement on shooting in anime is wrong. One thing that lets the film down is its reliance on rotoscoping, which let off the malodorous air of Ralph Bakshi. Tracing the real doesn’t make things look real.

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