Director: Hiroyuki Okiura
Produced by: Tsutomu Sugita and Hidezaku Terekawa
Written by: Mamoru Oshii Based on Kerberos Panzer Cop by Mamoru Oshii
Music: Hajime Mizoguchi Release date: June 3, 2000 (Japan)
Running Time: 102 minutes, available on Amazon Prime
Oh, What Shiny MG42s You Have!
I’d never been a yuge fan of anime as a kid, but still appreciated shows like Robotech, Battle of the Planets aka Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (lulz, you crazy Japanese) and Star Blazers aka Space Battleship Yamato.
Flash forward a few years and I was able to watch Avatar (the Nickelodeon show, not that Shyamalan dreck), Attack On Titan and Dororo with the kids, which thankfully got me into other Japanese animation.
I had not seen Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade until recently, but like many of you I’d seen the memes and cosplay this movie has spawned.
Fortunately, after watching Ghost in the Shell on Prime, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade popped up in my suggested queue. I immediately recognized the cover and was intrigued.
So let’s start with the setting, story, and move along from there.
Setting: Japan 1955
Please note, dear readers, that these events were inspired by the May Riots of 1952.
The setting is circa 1955 Japan but in an alternate timeline.
Instead of being nuked by the US, Japan is conquered and occupied by Germany for 10 years. Japan is finally emerging from the occupation and trying to rebuild the nation and rejoin the wider world.
These efforts have lead to social unrest fueled by massive unemployment and reverse urban flight. Violent crime and disorder have given rise to anti-government forces.
Eventually, the Public Security forces, i.e. the local police, are overwhelmed and the government establishes The Capitol Police Organization under the explicit command of the National Security Committee, (something similar to a National Security Council.
Operating only in the capitol, the CPO quickly set themselves up as the guardians of law and order, dispensing both at 1200 rounds per minute.
Countering this organized government action, the scattered anti-government groups went deeper underground, re-organized and re-emerged as The Sect.
Violent clashes and between The Sect and The Special Unit of the CPO, predictably, cause both organizations to be the target of public dissatisfaction. Now the CPO/Special Unit can see their mission is coming to an end, yet the threat of the anti-government forces is still very real outside the capitol.
A big bonus is that WWII buffs — myself included — will geek out over the array of era weapons, vehicles and equipment in this film.
The Special Unit, influenced by the German occupation, are equipped with MG-42s, MP-44s, Stahlhelms, Mauser C96s and FG-42s, while their command vehicles are SDKFZ 222s, and transports like old Opel Blitzes.
Story or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof
What do you get when you cross a mentally damaged stormtrooper with a power play at the highest levels of public security?
I’ll tell ya: you get exactly what you deserve!
Oops, sorry, wrong film.
Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade has many themes, but essentially is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood via the “relationship” between Corporal Kazuki Fuse and Kei Amemiya.
There is also a powerplay storyline between the Capitol Police and the Public Security Division. PSD has had the CPO in their sights for some time and is looking for an opportunity to take them out.
Fuse serves in the 2nd Company assigned to Strike Platoon 3, Special Armored Brigade, Capitol Police Organization (and breathe). We first meet Fuse in the sewers of the capitol during a street stand-off between ‘protesters’ and the Public Security Division. The Sect has inserted themselves in the street rioters to cause general mayhem.
A young female member of The Sect called a Red Riding Hood by the G, has delivered an explosive satchel charge to a local agitator. This is hurled at the Public Police line and explodes, breaking their line and causing an all-out engagement in the streets.
The Red Riding Hood flees into the sewers and eventually comes face to face with Fuse.
Here is where I’m going to stop and let you get off the spoiler train. If this sounds interesting to you then skip down to my appraisal and wrap-up.
If you’ve seen the movie or just want to keep reading about Jin Roh and ruin it for you then be my guest!
WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS BEGIN
But for some reason, Fuse hesitates and does not eliminate the threat.
His platoon mates show up and RRH reacts by detonating the device. Fuse is saved thanks to his Protect Gear and a comrade tackling him to the ground. The resulting explosion kills all power in the area which only increases the chaos in the streets.
Fuse is reprimanded and sent back to the Academy for retraining. Seemingly adrift and in exile, our punished Wolf Fuse goes out among the humans of civilian life.
You know, moping around like a pitbull with nothing to maim.
Eventually, Fuse obtains information about the RRH from a chance encounter with an old friend Atsuhi Hemi of the Public Security Division. Atsuhi was a fellow cadet at the Academy, but washed out and joined the PSD.
Fuse travels to the location of the RRHs ashes and meets Kei for the first time.
Kei is the sister of the original RRH from the sewer scene and apparently knows that Fuse was there when she died, although there is no dialogue to establish this detail. Kei and Fuse form a bond, walk about the city and stare melancholically into the distance and other feely stuff.
Fuse receives a copy of Little Red Riding Hood that Kei was going to put in her sister’s vault, but thinks it would be better served by giving it to him.
During their time, Kei shares that someday she wishes to leave the city and its troubles and never come back, “to forget about everything that’s happened up to now and become a different person.”
Kei asks why Fuse joined the Special Unit and he curtly answers that he’s finally found a place where he belongs. Kei does not respond to Fuse’s answer, but the pair continue on their… uh… date, I guess.
Eventually getting caught out in the rain and seeking shelter under an eave together. We hear Kei and Fuse’s voices give a few lines from the old school German version of Red Riding Hood where the wolf convinces her to come closer, to “rest”.
Shortly after, Fuse has a waking vision about that time in the sewers. He is running through the sewers with a pack of wolves accompanying him but, lo — instead of the original RRH, Kei is in the sewers!
Fuse is haunted by the vision during his nights at the Academy. So what will our star-crossed, would-be lovers do? You’ll just have to wait and see. Muahahaha!
“But Slothy, you said these two were caught up in a power play between The Public Security Division and the Capitol Police/Special Unit? Well, what’s up with that?”
Well, funny you should ask as we now get some needed exposition courtesy of a meeting of the head of the Public Safety Division and the Capitol Police/Special Unit commanders. Taking place in what appears to be a junkyard away from curious eyes, of course.
These commanders discuss how their cooperation has worked well until now, but given The Sect’s re-emergence, it’s time to unify the command of both the PSD and the CP/SU into one organization.
They propose to fold the PSD into the CP/SU to keep the strengths of each and avoiding any further mishaps like the earlier sewer scene.
Of course, the price is the dissolution of The Special Unit of the Capitol Police.
To accomplish this end Fuse’s old friend Atsuhi Hemi is involved. Well, it appears that ol’ Atsuhi is setting up Fuse in order to discredit The Special Unit so high command can move unification forward.
It turns out that Kei is not the original RRH’s sister at all, but a plant meant to entrap Fuse as aiding the anti-government forces.
The meeting breaks up and Hemi returns to his vehicle, a sullen Kei sits in the back seat. Hemi fills us in on why Kei was pointed at Fuse.
“A forbidden romance between a terrorist and a member of the Special Unit… should be quite a scandal.”
Hemi tries to console Kei by telling her she is not really betraying a human being, but a wolf.
“A wolf is always the villain in any fairy tale he appears.”
Now cut to a smoke-filled room at the Academy. We learn that the Special Unit was wise to the PSD’s plan all along.
Unbeknownst to Fuse, he was cut loose as bait for this PDS scheme. Knowing that Fuse was conflicted, the SU gambles that he will stay true to who he and the members of his unit are, wolves, then betray his pack for Kei.
“Once a beast, always a beast.”
Not to spoil the ending here, but the meeting is set and Kei awaits Fuse with PSD men ready to pounce when the deed is done. However, Fuse avoids the “ambush” and takes out the PD officers and both flee into the sewers, again.
Fuse meets up with some plainclothes comrade from the SU, who just happen to have a spare set of Protect-Gear.
How did they know where Kei and Fuse would run?
SU Commander Tohbe explains that they kept Fuse under surveillance and when Kei was put in play, the SU learned everything about her. They knew about her prior record, how she was turned by the PSD and her purpose.
During Tohbe’s speech, Fuse is wordlessly suiting up.
Tohbe shows Kei the tracking device that PSD put in her package, Kei realizes the full extent of the game she has been caught up in.
With PSD officers approaching, Fuse continues to gear up. Commander Tobhe explains that Fuse is a member of a secret group within the Special Unit… wait for it… The Wolf Brigade, a counter-intelligence unit in The Special Unit with a wide network within the government.
Kei asks Fuse if this is true, his answer is to wordlessly finish gearing up and finally removing the human disguise and assuming his true form, the wolf.
“We are not men disguised as mere dogs. We are wolves disguised as men. Only in the tales that humans tell did the hunters kill the wolves in the end.”
In no way do I give this scene justice, so see for yourself.
The story does move onto to the same junkyard form earlier.
Fuse is given a choice to either eliminate the threat and protect his pack or to fail again and face rejection from that pack. What will Fuse do? What would you do?
All right then, let’s wrap this up.
I Thoroughly Enjoyed Wolf Brigade
At times the film does get a little overly dramatic for me, but I see this a lot in most Asian films I watch.
Hiroyuki Okiura’s dark retelling of Little Red Riding Hood should be considered a masterpiece of the animation genre.
Surprisingly, the film was sent to the Academy in the hope of a Best Animated Film nomination. But alas, it was rejected as the film was already released on video in Japan. What a loss, as this film’s hand-drawn animation rivals or beats contemporaries such as American Pop, Heavy Metal and hell, even The Wall.
A live-action film with that much background detail would run the budget into the hundreds of millions, which is a testimony to the uniqueness of Jin Roh.
Hajime Mizoguchi’s music is top-notch. With the emotional restraint of Fuse, I guess its a Japanese thing, the music helps the viewer feel the conflict within him.
You should also note there is a 2018 live-action movie from Korea and distributed by Warner Bros. called Illang: The Wolf Brigade, Illang being Korean for “werewolf”.
The story is set in a dystopian future and the plot revolves around Korean unification. This version is available on Netflix, dubbed in English.
So that’s it Goblins. As a first effort, I would appreciate any honest criticism or tips. Just try to imagine turning this out with three claws whilst hanging upside down.