Hoodwinked! and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade: Animated "Little Red Riding Hood" Films and the Rashômon Effect

Article excerpt

"Little Red Riding Hood" (ATU 333), a deceptively simple narrative about a young girl and her grandmother who are beset by a wolf and sometimes rescued by a woodsman, has been adapted by a plethora of creators. The results include novels, short stories, children's literature, comic books, television productions, cartoons, video games, and advertisements as well as films - shorts and feature length, animated and live-action, humorous and serious, creative and formulaic, and sometimes even erotic or outright pornographic.1 With the possible exception of "Hansel and Gretel" (ATU 327A), no other international traditional fairy tale has offered filmmakers such extensive opportunities for examining crime, criminals, criminality, and criminal justice.2 In previous studies in this area, we addressed feature-length, live-action, present-day-setting "Little Red Riding Hood" crime films. We have also considered movies that seek an adult audience and use the story to explore such issues as corruption, pedophilia, and serial murder (see Greenhill and Kohm, "Little Red Riding Hood and the Pedophile" and '"Little Red Riding Hood' Crime Films"; Kohm and Greenhill, "Pedophile Crime Films" and "Crime Films"). Unlike the recent teensploitation/ werewolfsploitation Red Riding Hood (2011, dir. Catherine Hardwicke) or the many "Little Red" movies for children, the films we have examined offer complex reflections on current issues of crime and justice.

We turn now to two otherwise quite dissimilar films: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and Hoodwinked! Jin-Roh (1999, written by Mamoru Oshii and directed by Hiroyuki Okiura) is a Japanese anime reflection on an apocalyptic past/present; the film is intended for adults. In the film Germany has won World War 11, and corrupt militaristic elites in the Special Unit of the Capital Police and the Public Security government branch seek power for its own sake. The antigovernment resistance uses young girls, called Red Riding Hoods, as couriers to run weapons and explosives. Capital Police member Kazuki Fuse observes the suicide of one such Red Riding Hood. Amid rumors of a secret police group called the Wolf Brigade, the suicide's "sister" gives Fuse her copy of Rotkäppchen. Their voiceover narration of the tale punctuates the primary narrative. Their unlikely relationship leads to a tragic denouement, with no woodsman in sight, more reminiscent of Perrault's version than of the Grimms' version of ATU 333. 3

In contrast, Hoodwinked! (2005, written and directed by Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, and Tony Leech) is a child-friendly film featuring Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother as cookie capitalists:

Furry and feathered cops from the animal world investigate a domestic disturbance at Granny's cottage, involving a girl, a wolf, and an axe. The charges are many: breaking and entering, disturbing the peace, intent to eat, and wielding an axe without a license. Not to mention, this case might be tied to the elusive "Goody Bandit" who has been stealing the recipes of goody shops everywhere. (Edwards)

These two films have in common thematic connections to ATU 333 and crime as well as their animated format. A perhaps less obvious commonality, though, is that both also narrate different characters' stories about criminal acts, invoking the perspective of Akira Kurosawa's Rashômon (1950) and the "cinema of interpretation" (Boyd).4 The relevance to fairy-tale scholarship of considering these three films together goes beyond simply drawing links between the tale type, the two ATU 333 adaptations, and the Japanese classic. It fosters exploration of modes of storytelling connecting fairy-tale, filmic, and legal discourses. Moreover, these films offer popular explications of the so-called Rashômon effect - a term used by legal scholars and others to underscore the often elusive nature of truth itself (e.g., Kamir). But we also examine how analysis of legal- and justice-related fairy-tale and film discourses can influence fairy-tale studies. …