Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Inspiration Part Three: Jin-Roh The Wolf Brigade

Note: Before I get into the regular post, I'd like to take a moment and thank everyone who reads this blog. I put up a tracker to see how many people were dropping by, and more importantly, how many people were coming back. For the group of you who do keep returning, thanks so much, it really makes doing this worthwhile. I know my method of blog writing is not for everyone, and tends to focus on what some may consider overly "heady" topics, but I'm glad that I've tapped at least somewhat into a little niche that you enjoy.

Note 2: Before I forget - I'm going to be gone starting this Sunday for the next three weeks, so I won't be able to update the blog during that time. Once I return, I'm going to be doing a guest post for Open Journal on Indy Anime, along with my regular updates. Expect some more interpretations of classic series (I'll be tackling Kino's Journey along with the "legacy series," that have dominated the anime scene up till now).

It's a rare thing to find fairy tales transformed into anime productions. Even more so to find an anime that faithfully captures the original essence of that fairy tale. It's easy to forget, with all the Disney movies out there, that fairy tales like those written by the Brothers Grimm are not happy. The tales are filled with darkness, a compelling, mystical darkness that permeates their telling. Such a tale is that of Little Red Riding Hood.

I don't know about the rest of you, but the Little Red Riding Hood I heard about was a cute, colorfully animated picture in a storybook. Likewise, the wolf was an exaggerated, mischeviuos creature, not all that threatening. And no one was eaten.

What I loved about Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is that it captured the essence of the fairy tale - their dark, tragic nature. The story of Little Red Riding Hood, unlike the one imparted to me by my parents, is not happy, or uplifting. It is a story of a girl imprisoned, forced to wear iron clothes, and who then departs for her grandmother's house only to be devoured. No, not a happy story at all.

The funny thing is that, as optimistically minded as most people are, they are wont to turn the story on its head and change it into something that uplifts the spirit. Jin-Roh does not do that. What Jin-Roh does, is force man to see man for what he is, and that sight is not in the least bit beautiful.

By linking the characters to the story of Little Red Riding Hood, Mamoru Oshii (writer, not director) creates a semblance of familiarity that allows viewers to relate to the story in a way normally not possible for adults. By harkening to something tied to youth, Oshii's work attempts to create an entirely new framework by which to view the world. There are no rose-colored, Hollywood-perfect lines or endings here. What Oshii does, is open the eyes of the viewer to what life is.

From the moment the protagonist, Fuse, meets the girl, whose name is so easily forgotten (purposefully - in keeping with her role in the film), the wheels of tragedy begin to turn. The classic conflict between duty and desire rages forth, as Fuse finds himself forced into the position of having to kill her. But there is something deeper, and darker, that compels Fuse to act in the manner that he does. It is continually stressed during the movie, as character after character reiterates, "he is a wolf."

Jin-Roh won't win any awards for entertainment. My friends find it far too mundane. But to me, its slow pace builds the tragedy even more poignantly, to the point that it tears at the heart. Especially because the movie's message is directed at all people - at you and me. All of us are Fuse, all of us people are the wolves, beasts disguised as men. By repeating this over and over, Oshii points to a flaw in the human character that many recognize, but few will admit aloud.


At 1:35 AM, Blogger Anga said...

I liked the end. Kind of expected that Jin-Roh use usual happy ending where main hero save the girl and everyone are happy.

I was also impressed to see it's honesty. That little girl who blew up herself in the beginning is probably too nasty to most series (both anime and non-anime) even if it's partly true as current war on terrorism shows.

At 6:44 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Oh definitely - the end is what makes Jin-Roh such a beautiful piece. As far as being honest, heck I'd have to agree there too, although I find it interesting that not too many people found the "suicide" of the first girl to be at alarming at all.


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