Apr 5, 2014

Review: Jigoku no banken: kerubersu [StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops] (1991)

The follow-up to Mamoru Oshii's The Red Spectacles is in fact a prequel, set in the time before
Koichi Todome goes back to Japan. We get a look at the final stand of the Kerberos Panzer cops before their demise and we're introduced to a new character named Inui.

He's actually the main character of this film and he's on a hunt to find Koichi. He holds a bit of a grudge against Koichi because of the fact that he was their leader and abandoned them. I had mentioned in my review for The Red Spectacles that cats were used very symbolically throughout and this time, it's dogs that are. The concept of dog and master is very important at advancing the plot and that's why Koichi's abandonment is so important.

The environment in StrayDog is not dark and foreboding as it was in The Red Spectacles which makes sense because it's set in Taiwan. It's a safe haven from Japan's Orwellian society. What I like here is the idea of Inui being a stray dog and just wandering about, almost aimlessly. This is accompanied by some great music from Kenji Kawai. Despite the bright colours, it's forlorn and lonely.

Unfortunately, the use of dog symbolism in StrayDog is overdone in my opinion. I almost feel like everything plot-wise, dialogue-wise and imagery-wise is related to dogs which is nice at first but there's a point where it's too much. Kerberos refers to Hades' three-headed dog and is in the title title itself. But all the same, I think more subtlety would have been better. Symbolism should be restrained and leave the watcher looking out of it, not spotting it over and over again.

Production value-wise, StrayDog is a step up from The Red Spectacles in terms of effects and sound. There's still some wonky eating sounds but everything else is pretty good. Action scenes are also a lot cleaner and more impressive overall as well.

StrayDog is in certain ways a better movie than The Red Spectacles. It's definitely more focused in its storytelling and is not anywhere near as bizarre. The Red Spectacles however is not as heavy-handed in its use of symbolism and to me, it's uniqueness puts it over the top. I can definitely see how some people would prefer StrayDog though.

6/10