published in Empire No.71, Sydney
Jin-Roh – The Wolf Brigade opens with an image of the atomic bomb ‘mushroom cloud’, then pans across photos of a devastated Hiroshima. A reserved voice-over describes not what is documented in history, but an alternative history. The new Capital city covertly develops an armed brigade – the Capital Police – who over a decade abuse their power and transform the Capital into a proto-fascist domain. Rebel uprisings by The Sect counter their control. As both parties create havoc typical of civil wars, the public and the government become tired of the conflict and hope for resolution.
Jin Roh’s metaphors are generally clear, though arranged in perplexing fashion. It appears set in a 60s Japan where post-war rubble persists, marring its cityscape with a dilapidated 40s veneer. High-tech future anime this is not. The Capital Police soldiers look like modernist revisions of Nazi troopers, while the clashes between them and the Sect resemble Japan’s own 60s student riots. This all adds to the verticality of the story’s themes and issues. In case the symbolic thrust of this otherwise highly-realist rotoscope-style anime is lost on the viewer, a major sub-theme is the re-telling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale as versioned from a German perspective.
Here Jin-Roh reveals itself to be a complex psychological investigation of Fuse – a Capitol Police soldier who fails to shoot a young girl terrorist as she detonates a bomb in her hands. Her commitment to her cause unsettles Fuse, leading him to be reprimanded by repeating his military training. By chance he encounters Rei, who claims to be the other girl’s sister. The Red Hiding Hood tale is then retold through the miasma of their developing relationship – one primed by mystery and leading down endless darkened corridors. A subtle sophisticated anime whose slow pacing illicits a contemplative viewing state.