Jin-Roh Review

Title: Jin-Roh / Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
Length: 1 x 102 minute movie
Genre: Drama, police, thriller
Year of release: 2000

Jin-Roh, compared to normal anime, has only about 5 episodes of runtime to work with, and has to dedicate a lot of that to table-setting its alternative history world. In Jin-Roh, a police-state is at war with freedom-fighting terrorists, and due to the changing times, both the more fascistic police-force and the organised anarchists are working underground. This stuff is explained in an opening exposition sequence before an extremely poignant and gorgeously filmed night of a protest, where the two factions battle in a sewer. This culminates in our acting protagonist, Fuse, having a moment of humanity, failing to shoot a child terrorist before his comrades influence her to self-detonate. As Fuse deals with the shell-shock of this event, he meets the sister of the terrorist, the story unfurls as a political thriller of burgeoning parties trying to handle the policing of terrorists in an evolving dystopia with a little bit of star crossed lover-ism on the side.

It’s all a bit bloated, frankly. Even looking at this synopsis, it’s easy to see how a time-limited property like this movie might struggle to deal with all its various elements. The otherworldly scenes, of a gate that Fuse cannot pass and of literal wolves atop a snowy mountain, are an effective way of portraying Fuse’s PTSD, but neither him nor Kei (the sister of the suicide bomber) get effective characterisation – and the bonding between them is often extremely stiff. I’ve seen other places go insofar as calling Jin-Roh a ‘romance’, but these soppy leads aren’t given a wide enough emotional palette to call their relationship ‘romantic’. The lack of time spent developing these two is put into moody montages of them hanging out, or trying to setup politics (and related twists), and their dialogue rarely rises above the surface-level discussion on metaphors or symbolism. 

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There’s some grand plotting, but due to the lack of associated faces to the names and organisations, the movie doesn’t really have much political intrigue. The way that this entire plot-line is developed via fairly vague ‘oh so you know’-style exposition dumps, trading places between not-too-differently designed middle-aged men of the grit variety, is something that doesn’t help its case either. I’m willing to forgive some of this since Jin-Roh is technically related to a live-action movie franchise that I’m unfamiliar with (is the outsourcing?), but as a stand-alone it’s a bit of a mess. 

But what the movie does have is some effective twists that shake the story to its core. Well, there’s still the aspect that the backlines are undeveloped that it doesn’t have much punch, but it’s still reassuring that the film can still flip its vague conflict on its head in such a big way – several times! The movie bookends its weak middle with viscerality, and it’s extremely effective to hook you in and out of the bland middle. If you’re into violent mind blowers with some avant-garde montages, Jin-Roh is probably a good hour and a half… but otherwise, this dystopian thriller falls short.

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8 thoughts on “Jin-Roh Review

  1. I watched this movie a while ago and don’t recall it too clearly, though your review brought some of it back. I remember I didn’t like it because it played the wolf metaphor waayyy too hard and continued the trope of always making the wolf “the badguy.” Part of my dislike was also that I didn’t really understand the two main characters. I’m glad to know it wasn’t just me, but also poor characterization, that contributed to that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did worry a bit posting this since the movie’s something of a classic (my blog is becoming home to hot takes!). I didn’t so much mind the blunt metaphors because the visual symbolism was cool – but it’s true they WERE really blunt, right? I do see your point that the movie could have played with the wolf metaphor a bit more. But yeah, the characterisation was almost purposefully poor to let the big twists work better, but that also meant they weren’t very endearing or interesting – and anything coming after the twist was a grey area since it was too undeveloped.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with all that, yeah. And I think people shouldn’t be afraid to be share their opinions about anime classics (and classic fiction in general) even if it means being critical. As long as it’s within civil bounds and all. So, good job covering this movie.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I popped a bit of a hot take here 😉 It’s generally well regarded, and I think it’s because of that well done atmosphere and interesting themes. I just think that the movie has to do a little more than be a conversation starter, you know? My personal rating was actually a little higher, but as I wrote the review I realised it was hard to be too positive…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t feel bad. I have similar thoughts with the movies and anime I review on one of my blogs. Some of my posts have been controversial with my opinions like not liking something that was well-regarded, so I understand where you’re coming from.

        Liked by 1 person

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