Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade

In an alternate timeline Japan, the post WWII economic reconstruction produces a large underclass of citizens who do not participate in the “miracle” of the recovery. The result is growing civil disobedience and protest, which ultimately spirals into widespread violence that overwhelms the civilian police force. In response, the government establishes the Capital Police Organisation, a heavily-armed paramilitary force charged with crushing the anti-government protestors. The CPO proves successful in this task, but at the cost of turning the streets of Tokyo into a battlefield, while simultaneously driving the opposition underground where it evolves into an urban guerrilla group. One notorious aspect of the guerrilla movement is their use of teenage girls – known as Red Riding Hoods – to courier weapons and explosives through Tokyo’s vast network of subterranean storm water aqueducts. With the passing of the years, however, the economic situation gradually improves; as a result, both the CPO and the guerrillas lose their base of public support. It is at this moment that factions within the CPO and the police scheme to create a new law-enforcement organisation through a merger of both that also eliminates the unpopular paramilitary element. To do so, they plan to manufacture a scandal by framing an emotionally troubled CPO officer, ensuring he is introduced to and falls in love with a young woman who also happens to be a former terrorist operative. But there are other factions within the CPO who have no intention of allowing this to happen, and who accordingly activate plans of their own…

Written by “Ghost In The Shell” director Mamoru Oshii, and produced by anime powerhouse Production IG, “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade” was released in Japanese cinemas in 1999.  Noted for its classical, hand-drawn visual style and 1960s aesthetic, “Jin-Roh” proceeds at an almost languid pace between bursts of graphic combat violence. While unusual for a political thriller, this pacing allows not only the complexities of the story to unfold, but also the relationship between the two central characters – CPO officer Kazuki Fuse and former terrorist Kei Amemiya – to emerge and become credible. Ultimately, it is this relationship and not the threads of political conspiracy that become the film’s glue and which provide the denouement with its powerful emotional punch. In common with other anime that draw on philosophical and literary concepts, “Jin-Roh” weaves the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood into a framework within which questions of identity, loyalty, free will and consequence are examined; and the film score by Hajime Mizoguchi underscores both the emotional depth and tragic reality within which the story is played out.  Violent, poignant, and emotionally affecting, “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade” has deservedly become a classic of 1990’s anime whose influence and significance has only grown with the passing years.

Text ©Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.