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Nothing is wrong with the backdrop, it's clear Oshii has a respectable knowledge of politics and the craft of writing. He also has very interesting motif and metaphor at play. The problem is that, while there are glimpses of character development, there isn't enough to let the themes, motifs, metaphors, and obvious meanings shouldered onto the characters reach a point where it resonates. This leaves us with a deliberately meditative directing approach which mostly fails; it focuses intently on images which work as symbolism, while the script gives us nothing underneath which allows the static shots to inspire or captivate to their fullest potential. The characters don't feel compelling; often less like people and more like chess-pieces moving around in a display of technical skill. This is not always the case, as one scene seems to show a blossoming of two personalities. It's promising, and interesting, but the focus quickly changes to violence and representation.
That isn't to say that everything is entirely ineffective. The major players aren't fleshed out, but the topics are, and they're even stronger due to the film's sense of realism. The characters feeling dialed back may even be a part of it, as it does paint them and the situation they're in as cold and alienating. Dingy settings are eerily reminiscent of the real world and are polished with a grim palette. Which leads me to the biggest compliment I can give Jin-Roh : it has a firm grip on everything visual, Production IG truly brought their A-Game. The reality miming physics of the two-dimensional world can be impressive; sometimes it seems subtle enough as to match reality, other times it's bended and filtered through a (more refined than is typical) stylistic anime touch. The music is a detached element, serviceable albeit dated, which isn't a hindrance since the sound design is most effective in it's use of silence. All of the visual and aural elements work well in tandem with the cleverly constructed places and ideas. Though it's true the characters never distract or compete, for that department to underwhelm is still an opposite extreme.
In the end, Jin-Roh mimics and suggests enough to evoke intelligent thought and thus succeeds as a dark statement, with the added benefit of being rendered with beautiful visual detail. However, it doesn't have enough character merit to function as an enjoyable narrative with long lasting appeal.
Suggested viewing for :
- Oshii fans for completion purposes, since he receives writing credit.
- Self-titled anime buffs at least once, as it is essential viewing.
- Those partial to critical assessments of war and it's psychological aspects.
- Anyone skeptical that anime can drive home a well constructed point, or reflect on mature themes.
- If you just want to sit back and watch pretty animation.
Avoid if these are dealbreakers:
- Slow pacing.
- Characterization forsaken for plot or purpose.
- Realistic violence. read more