Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

(Jin-Rô, Hiroyuki Okiura, Japan, 1998)


Jin-Roh is an ambitious and impressive, if lugubrious, anime from Japan. Its story is meditative and deliberately low on action. But, in its determination to tell a meaningful, resonant tale, it certainly offers a welcome antidote to vacuous Hollywood horror fare like Ghost Ship (2002).

It takes place in an alternative future, a post-war Tokyo that is under German domination. A terrorist group called The Sect wages battles on streets and in vast, underground sewers with the police force and their dreaded Special Unit operatives, dehumanised killing machines known as The Wolf Brigade.

The film begins with the spectacular suicide of young Nanani, before whom the man-wolf Fuse pauses in his murderous mission. A tormented Fuse seeks out Nanani's sister, Kei, and a tentative, tender relationship begins in secret, as various arms of the State hover in surveillance.

Directed by Hiroyuki Okiura and written by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, 1995), Jin-Roh is a relentlessly melancholic piece. City streets and underground caverns have never looked sadder. The animation style here meticulously (and sometimes redundantly) mimics the angles and gestures that would be caught in a naturalistic, live-action drama.

The film fairly wallows in its tragic mood, and hammers home its symbolism via constant references to the original, unsanitised version of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. But Jin-Roh is an absorbing anime, with a devastating ending.

MORE anime: Wicked City

© Adrian Martin December 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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