A Tale Humans Cannot Tell: On Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
This article explores the interrelated questions of form and identity in the Japanese anime feature Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. The film is a reworking of the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood, set in an alternate Japan which was conquered by Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. The main character of the film is a young recruit to a special police unit named Kazuki Fuse. His inability to kill a young girl carrying a bomb leads to disciplinary action from his superiors, but also draws the attention of the rival division in the police force, which is looking for a way to abolish the special unit. The narrative explores whether or not the traumatized young officer will be capable of using violence to defend himself and his unit. The question of whether Fuse is a rapacious wolf, capable of remorseless violence, or a sensitive victim of trauma converges with the question of the status of the film in relation to its medium. For Jin-Roh is a political thriller that, with the exception of one scene, might as well have been shot as a live action feature. Engaging the work of animation scholar Thomas Lamarre on the distinctions between the animetic image and the cinematic image, the article seeks to demonstrate that the question of the film’s film can only be addressed by reference to how the narrative resolves the question of the protagonist’s interiority. It is the one scene that resists being translated into a live action sequence that holds the key to the enigmatic behavior of the protagonist. Fuse proves fully capable of defending himself against armed men and defeating the conspiracy to destroy the special unit, while remaining a traumatized individual who becomes complicit in worsening his own state of psychic anguish.