If there was a movie that I watched this month that hurt watching in this horrible year than any other, it’s this one. We will get why over the course of the review. I do have to mention that this is the only film of this month not directed by Mamoru Oshii himself. Still, it is written by him and it is based on Oshii’s own Kerberos Panzer Cop manga so it counts. In terms of adaptions, this is the third film of his Kerberos saga and the only animated portion of it. You could say that this was something special. The music is by Yoko Kanno and directed by his protégé, Hiroyuki Oikura. Not because he didn’t want to, but Bandai visual got in the way. Production companies, man. What are you going to do?
Jin-Roh takes place in an alternative 1950’s Japan. It takes place after a German occupation of Japan after World War 2 finished. A surprise to no one, the country is under a state of political unrest. The government has become much more totalitarian state with the hidden police force, the Kerberos troops. A hyper elite police force with invincible armor who are strong enough to carry whole machine guns while walking without much strain on their bodies. Does this possibly sound a little crazy to you guys? Or if possible, familiar? You can see why this is kind of upsetting, right? It gets worse. So much worse. This film is such a wonderful tragedy. All framed with the story of Red Riding Hood
The film starts with an unrest in motion. The normal police are on top holding out against protestors with their riot shields. To even the odds a bit, little girls dressed in red hoods bring massive explosives which protestors can throw at police to break their riot shield walls. Of course, the real story starts in the sewers. One Kerberos trooper, Kazuki Fuse, holds a red riding hood at gun point unable to fire his weapon for some reason. Even with her committing suicide with a bomb, he can’t get himself to do it. With him surviving the explosive based on his armor, that leads to him going under basic training again. Fuse also visits the grave of the girl who committed suicide and meets her sister named Kei Amemiya. A girl who takes him on dates to zoos and amusement parks for some reason.
This film is a bunch of double crosses on top of each other with a wolf eating Red Riding Hood imagery on top of it all. Jin-Roh is a film about Fuse’s downfall while breaking more and more normal moral event horizons of this alternative universe. This is a universe where he is fooled by everyone because he’s a pawn. Fuse is the center of all of their plots. With the government of Japan’s attempt at trying to get rid of the militarized police and his incident with the red riding hood, there is no way for him to escape his fate. Since Fuse is generally purer hearted in the beginning of the film, he is the perfect person to follow in the story because of the intrigue around him. His best friend in the normal police is technically the good guy. If he stops Fuse, then the protestors will win and Japan can go back to it’s normal time period.
It’s too bad that this film won’t let that happen. Fuse falling into darkness as the last good militant cop is what this movie is about. It doesn’t matter if the viewer knows how this film it’s going to end by the wolf imagery, this film just pulls the viewer into it anyway. Especially since the frame device works as Fuse fighting his inner wolf self. There are more than two wolves in him. He passes the moral event line by, instead of taking fire, killing his best friend at the end of the film. It gets even worse when he kills Kei right before the credits. Or maybe he doesn’t. In context it doesn’t matter because Fuse things he did it. He can’t turn human again. He is a wolf with a thirst for blood now like all of them. It’s so sad and yet powerful.
This film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue to it. Something that could be a major detriment to a lot of films, but it works considering the spy rings going on. For one thing, Fuse isn’t a talkative guy but a man of action and power. He is a standard jar head with a little more empathy and intelligence then one would expect him to have. That’s it. He only talks a small amount and when he does, it means a lot. Sort of like this film as well. This film is Fuse’s character story in ever since of the word and it’s beautiful. There is also the fact that this movie is practically a spy film, so keeping secrets and not talking a lot is on point there too. Plus, the music sells the sort of mood as well. It provides a wonderfully dreadful backbone to it all. You know it’s a tragedy.
The production design behind this film is gorgeous as hell. To carry onward from Mamoru Oshii’s other live action films, Jin-Roh moves and feels like a live action film. The city scapes are wonderful and fun of moody dread, characters are heavy and move slow, and there is Oshii’s realistic character designs at play again with Fuse looking like a modern Guts (from Berserk). There is a lot of leg work to make this world feel real and you can tell. The weaponry is very 1950’s in how realistic they are drawn and the armor forces people to move really slow as you would expect them too. I do think the characters being strong enough to carry heavy machine guns without pushes reality too far, but it’s not asking for much.
Do you get why I said this film hurt me more than the rest of the films from this month? Will, for now at least? This film feels like an encapsulation of one of many 2020 fears and it came out in 1999. Cops in the United States are shooting innocent people while getting more and more militarized. Oshii saw a future that would come to pass in a similar way. Still, this film doesn’t support what is going on. It lets you know how this is bad through as many ways that it can. If I separate 2020 from this film, it’s such a solid and wonderful tragedy to watch whenever you want to. I do not see a lot of flaws in it at all. It is an underrated piece of fiction that not a lot of people have seen. I cannot honestly recommend it enough. Especially now because the lessens of this film are important.