Jin-Roh: a beautiful appropriation of the Red Riding Hood

I have never stopped being fond of stories that emit positivity despite the heroes’ tribulations throughout the different series. My top five would suggest that: from Honey and Clover to the Tatami Galaxy, I love stories that are positive without being cheesy. Only Cowboy Bebop may be questionable as regards its ending, but even then Spike was able to do what he wanted to do. He was able to square with his past, and that was his aim all along.

Those eyes ...

I don’t stay away from tragedies, however. I simply prefer the series that are more positive. I wanted to watch Jin-Roh, for example, for approximately five years now. Ever since an online acquaintance told me that it was one of her favorites (and I admired her anime knowhow), the film was never off my radar. Because I’m such a disorganized person, however, I wasn’t able to watch the film until very late yesterday. I did not expect anything from it, but I really liked the film. I can’t say that it’s in my list of the best, but I can confidently say that it’s one of the best anime films I’ve seen (since I haven’t seen much, too).

I appreciate well-placed complexity in the different media I enjoy. That was one of the reasons why Tatami Galaxy remains close to my heart: it was a series that was heavily complex, but the complexity did not detract from its story or from the viewer’s enjoyment. People could look into the nitty-gritty (like me) and enjoy its allusions and imagery, or they could just ride into the frenetic action and nevertheless enjoy the series.

That is also one of the reasons why I felt so cheated when The King’s Speech won Best Original Screenplay instead of Inception. Whether it was really based from a Donald Duck comic (which I highly doubt), the sheer execution that Christopher Nolan was able to pull off in Inception was simply a beauty to watch. It was, for me, certainly more original than an English period piece.

I guess that is also a central reason why I like Jin-Roh a lot.

The film is slow and deliberate. Anime viewers looking for consistent action will most certainly be disappointed, as it is more a film of ideas than it is of physical action (although the film has that, especially in the later parts). Anime viewers looking for an analytical, psychological film will relish in the appropriation done in this film.

Appropriation as a literary term was taught to us about six years ago, during my first year in university. Essentially, our professor told that it was utilizing elements of a previous work to synthesize an altogether new work. I guess Wikipedia says the same thing. Funnily enough, the same story was borrowed: both ‘The Company of Wolves’ by Angela Carter and Jin-Roh transformed the Little Red-Riding Hood fairy tale into something much more deviant and devilish. Both display innocence lost and tarnished, although both do so differently.

You guys should stop now if you plan on watching the movie, because I’m going to tackle certain aspects of the movie, and that will entail spoiling.

The film begins when a certain Kazuki Fuse is unable to shoot a ‘Little Red Hood,’ or a girl who is used by the terrorist cause to transport weapons and explosives. Deep in the Protect-suit and the haunting red lights, there was actually a human who struggled to pull the trigger. The girl ended up blowing herself to pieces, with Kazuki only sustaining minor injuries despite being near the girl.

I’m really hesitant about doing a summary: one can read that elsewhere. I’m just being haunted by the ending. I believe Kazuki’s superior was right when he said that Kei wasn’t innocent at all. She had her part in the deaths of probably tens, maybe hundreds of people. They also couldn’t let her live because she knew too much about both the Capitol Police’s plot as well as the Jin-Roh. She also couldn’t really run away, not with someone sniping her.

He couldn’t run away with her, because he had a responsibility and duty first to uphold the standard of the Wolf Brigade. He had to go through that mission to protect his comrades, his pack. She, however, couldn’t leave by herself because she was already marked the first time she met with Kazuki. She just wanted to die together with him so that she would have at least a place in his heart. It’s a tragic film at the surface but I think it’s a lot more tragic when one dives deeper. She knew that she had to die, and she knew she couldn’t run away, so she simply acknowledged that she had to die by him: it just resounds within me that maybe that was her way of realizing her hope that he would never forget her.

I keep on thinking about what would happen if he didn’t shoot, but when I saw another Wolf Brigade member aiming a gun at the pair I saw that Fuse didn’t really have much of a choice. While it was heartbreaking that he had to kill her, I keep thinking that his act was also his method of atonement: he would rather be a part of her death, I think, than let his other teammate do it. It, at least, gives her some peace that it was him and no one else: ‘at least it was him.’

The movie is excellent, but it’s something that doesn’t really invite re-watching. It’s a great film especially for those who want to think about the grey patch that pervades our world. It only magnifies the fact that in reality, a clear distinction between good and evil is not very easy to determine. I highly recommend to watch it once, and only once, because it’s also honestly a film that’s very depressing, even more so than Oshii’s other, more popular Ghost in the Shell.

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4 Responses to “Jin-Roh: a beautiful appropriation of the Red Riding Hood”

  1. Taka Says:

    It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Jin-Roh so my memory is a bit hazy. It was one of the first feature length anime films I watched and remains one of my favorites. I agree that the ending is very haunting and while I can’t quite remember the details with the girl, what I can remember is the line “We are not men disguised as mere dogs, we are wolves disguised as men.” Which for me hammers home the idea that even though he had a connection with the girl he couldn’t change what he was. A wolf is still a wolf and they are not acting, it’s not a facade, they really are frightening soldiers. It’s not a particularly uplifting message. It’s got the air of futility about it. You get the idea, if Fuse were given a 100 different tries at that situation, the outcome would still be the same.

  2. Michael Says:

    Taka:

    Indeed. The movie has the air of inevitability that pervades it, and it’s a miasma one doesn’t one to face, but has to recognize.

  3. Angelus Says:

    The Company of Wolves is certainly something that can stand comparison with Jin-Roh as they both, like other fairy stories of note, deal with the male “inner beast”. I suppose it should have come as no surprise to me that the various sources that were combined to make our “Red Riding Hood” are, by modern standards, much more adult and darkly sexual in their tone than the thoroughly sanitized version we read to our children now. One interesting version even has the girl dressed in a suit of iron, which is reminiscent of the soldiers’ suits. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Jin-Roh, especially because the ending took me completely by surprise (I must be getting old).

    Oh, and as a fan of The King’s Speech, I should probably ask whether you have finally managed to watch Satoshi Kon’s Paprika yet 😉

  4. Michael Says:

    Angelus:

    I haven’t seen Paprika yet. That version was the Rottkappchen, right? 😀

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