Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

During the 60s and early 70s, there were many student protests in Japan that centered around the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. This treaty forbade any military force and put pressure on Japan to be prepared to fight the Communists. To get around this, Japan had created an army through the title of a police force. To create even more tension, there were concerns over the return of fascism and many protesters also fought for improved labor conditions and changes in economic and social policies.

Jin-Roh serves as an allegory for all of this. The film takes place in an alternate 1950s where Germany had conquered Japan instead. This universe is brought to life with realistic art direction and design and incredibly fluid animations. The German art overwhelms and heavily contrasts with the Japanese, making the setting even more unsettling. The use of color is also used well. The terrorist couriers' eye-catching red hoods contrast nicely to the dark and drab setting.

The film follows Corporal Kazuki Fuse after a protest turned riot after guerrilla forces bomb the police. Fuse is tasked to hunt down terrorists in the sewers but is forced to confront his own humanity when the courier he was chasing turns out to be a young girl. Fuse refuses to shoot the girl but she detonates the bomb she was carrying, killing herself and causing a blackout above where the riot is taking place. The film then proceeds down this path of twists and turns. Every reveal left me in suspense.

The ending however is one of the most powerful and politically charged scenes I've ever seen. It serves as an allegory to Japan's current state which has been ruled by the LDP from 1955-2009 but regained control in 2012 with little political opposition. It also serves as a nice character study as the film deals with Fuse's humanity and references an iteration of Little Red Riding Hood where the girl wears out metal clothes and gets eaten by the wolf. A metaphor for Fuse's relationship with Kei.

Hiroyuki Okiura and Mamoru Oshii have created a political masterpiece with Jin-Roh. They really push the boundaries of animation and storytelling. It's a wonderfully small piece of a large universe. It's also a film that I wished wasn't still relevant. Very few films can leave you feeling like this in a good way.