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The Kerberos Saga (ケルベロス・サーガ, Keruberosu saga) is an alternate history political thriller media mix created by the Japanese writer and filmmaker Mamoru Oshii in 1986; [clarification needed] are members of Headgear, including Oshii himself. The most famous installment of the franchise, especially outside Japan, is the 1999 anime film Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade; it was remade as a Korean live-action film in 2018.
The saga is centered on the fictitious Tokyo police Special Armed Garrison whose emblem and nickname is Kerberos (a.k.a. Cerberus), the mythological three-headed watchdog of hell. Before it was officially renamed "Kerberos Saga" circa 2004, it was known as the "Kerberos series" (ケルベロス・シリーズ, keruberosu shirīzu) or the "Kenrō series" (犬狼・シリーズ, kenrou shirīzu).
The franchise is currently owned by Mamoru Oshii; It consists of works based on Oshii's original story spanning in various media including tokusatsu feature films, radio dramas, comic books, animation films and monographs. Licensed products are mainly Special Armed Garrison powered suit based action figures or garage kits called Protect Gears, and Kerberos Saga episodes derived soundtracks, storyboards and guidebooks. Merchandising includes posters, folding fans, mousepads, statuette busts, tee-shirts and even bottles of wine with a dedicated online shop available on the official website.
The most famous paraphernalia of the franchise is the Protect Gears; designed by mechanical and character designer and RahXephon director Yutaka Izubuchi, these are the powered exoskeleton suits wore by members of the Special Armed Garrison.
Kerberos story arc
- 1987 : While Waiting for the Red Spectacles (紅い眼鏡を待ちつつ), Radio drama
- 1987 : The Red Spectacles (紅い眼鏡), Feature-length tokusatsu film
- 1988 : Kerberos Panzer Cop - Part I (犬狼伝説 第一部), Comic book series (Act1~4)
- 1990 : Kerberos Panzer Cop: Original Edition (犬狼伝説 オリジナル版), Comic book volume (vol.1)
- 1991 : StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (ケルベロス 地獄の番犬), Feature-length tokusatsu film
- 1999 : Kerberos Panzer Cop - Part II (犬狼伝説 第二部), Comic book series (Act5~8)
- 1999 : Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (人狼), animated feature film
- 2018 : Illang: The Wolf Brigade (인랑), Korean live-action remake
- 2000 : Kerberos Panzer Cop: Conclusion (犬狼伝説 完結篇), Comic book volume (vol.2)
- 2003 : The Killers (キラーズ), Comic book short story
- 2003 : Kerberos Saga Rainy Dogs (Rainy Dogs 紅い足痕), Comic book series (Act01~08)
- 2005 : Kerberos Saga Rainy Dogs (犬狼伝説 紅い足痕), graphic collection (with "The Killers" and the previously unreleased "Act00")
- 2006 : Kerberos Panzer Jäger (ケルベロス 鋼鉄の猟犬), radio drama
- 2006 : Kerberos & Tachiguishi (ケルベロスＸ立喰師 腹腹時計の少女), Comic book series (Act1~7)
- 2007 : Kerberos & Tachiguishi (ケルベロスＸ立喰師 腹腹時計の少女), Comic book volume
- 2009 : Kerberos Panzer Cops: Tokyo War (ケルベロス 東京市街戦 首都警特機隊全記録), Monograph (with Special Issue)
- 2009 : Kerberos Panzer Cop: Special Issue (前夜-ケルベロス騒乱異聞), Comic book short story
- 2010 : Kerberos Panzer Cop: A Revision (犬狼伝説 20周年エディション), Graphic collection collecting revised Volume 1 and 2, with Special Issue
Tachiguishi story arc
- 1984 : Urusei Yatsura: Hisatsu! Tachigui Wars!! (うる星やつら ~必殺! 立ち食いウォーズ!!~), TV anime series (episode #99)
- 1987 : While Waiting For The Red Spectacles (紅い眼鏡を待ちつつ), Radio drama
- 2004 : Tachiguishi-Retsuden (立喰師列伝), novel
- 2006 : Tachiguishi-Retsuden (立喰師列伝), live-action/animated hybrid feature adaptation of the novel
- 2006 : Onna Tachiguishi-Retsuden (女立喰師外伝 ケツネコロッケのお銀), Short film
- 2006 : Kerberos & Tachiguishi (ケルベロスＸ立喰師 腹腹時計の少女), Comic book series (Act1~7)
- 2007 : Kerberos & Tachiguishi(ケルベロスＸ立喰師 腹腹時計の少女), graphic collection
- 2007 : Shin-Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden (真女立喰師列伝), Short film
In order to celebrate The Red Spectacles' 20-year anniversary (actually the movie's 1986 production since the theatrical release is February 1987), a new Protect Gear armour (Type 34 "Wolfpelz") was designed by Jun Suemi in 2006 as part of a new Kerberos Saga project. This new episode was Kerberos Panzer Jäger a radio drama series narrating the Protect Gear's roots on the 1940s German-Soviet War.
2006 was also the opening year for the Kerberos Saga's official website. Kerberos Saga official website owner Raiden (Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Media Bridge Inc.) released a collectible bottle of German wine, Riesling through the official online shop.
As a 20th celebration of the Kerberos Panzer Cop original edition (1990 volume compilation by Nihon Shuppan Sha), the Kerberos Saga's new publisher Gakken released a collector boxset Kerberos Panzer Cop a Revision: 20th edition (犬狼伝説 20周年エディション). This boxset features both volumes from Kerberos Panzer Cop in B5 size original aspect with "digitally refined" graphic arts by Kamui Fujiwara (original illustrator), a pamphlet and a new Revoltech Yamaguchi Protect Gear figure.
In March 2009, a new comic book chapter entitled Kerberos Panzer Cop: Special Issue, was pre-published in Gakken's Kerberos Saga monograph Kerberos Panzer Cops: Tokyo War. This was released as a sample of the two-volume Kerberos Panzer Cop "revised edition" to which it was included.
Characters & organizations
As a military science fiction work the Kerberos Saga's main characters are members of rival military and police services, namely the Shutokei (a.k.a. the "Capital Police" in the English language adaptation), the Self-Police ("Local Police" in the English adaptation) and the JSDF. However, these conflictual forces have a common foe, Anti-government organizations and terrorists such as The Sect and its factions.
Secondary and guest appearance characters introduced by author Mamoru Oshii are taken from his previous works such as culinary art and rhetoric masters Tachiguishi ("Fast Food Grifters" in the English adaptation) or Detective Matsui from the Patlabor franchise.
Members of the saga's core organisation, the Shutokei's Special Armed Garrison, have an animal counterpart which is an allegory and sometimes a metonymy. This animal can be a mythological dog such as Cerberus (the garrison's emblem) and Laelaps as in the comic book, or it can be a German dog breeds as in Kerberos Panzer Cop and its sequel Kerberos Saga: Rainy Dogs; this comic book series original title means "Dog-Wolf Legend" (犬狼伝説, kenrou densetsu). It can be a Japanese wolf (狼, Ookami) as in Jin-Roh ("Man-Wolf" in English) and in Kerberos & Tachiguishi which borrow drama parts to the Little Red Riding Hood tale. Also it can be a stray dog as in the 1991 eponymous movie.
The Kerberos Saga is based upon an alternate history with key events called "incidents" (事件, jiken). Altered historical events turned into fiction include Japan siding with the Allies, the Germany-won battle of Stalingrad, Stauffenberg's then-successful assassination attempt on Hitler, the occupation of Japan by Germany - instead of the United States - called "Weimar Establishment" (ワイマール体制, weimāru taisei), and the prominent 26 February coup d'état (a.k.a. "Kerberos Uprising") attempted by the Special Armed Garrison instead of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Although the saga's plot is mainly located in the Japanese capital (as the Special Armed Garrison jurisdiction is limited to the Tokyo area), some episodes happen in foreign cities including Taipei and Tainan (StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops), Old Havana (The Killers) and Stalingrad (Kerberos Panzer Jäger).
Among the Tokyo landmarks appearing in the saga are Odaiba (The Red Spectacles), Shibuya, the Tokyo International Airport (Kerberos Panzer Cop Act4), Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department headquarters building (Kerberos Panzer Cop Act8), the Prime Minister's Official Residence (also known as Kantei) (Kerberos Panzer Cop Act8) and the University of Tokyo's Yasuda Auditorium (Kerberos Saga Rainy Dogs Act3).
A recurring location is sewer, it can be the Tokyo sewer as in Kerberos Panzer Cop (Act 1) and Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade or abroad sewer as in Kerberos Saga Rainy Dogs (Act 8). In all these works, sewer is the final stage holding the Special Armed Garrison (Kerberos) main character's last fight. In the Greek mythology, the Kerberos (Cerberus) watchdog guards the gates of the Underworld, called Hades, to prevent those who have crossed the river Styx from ever escaping. Hence the sewer can be regarded as an allegory of the Underworld; the original title for the 1991 movie StrayDog is "kerberos: watchdog of jigoku" (ケルベロス 地獄の番犬, keruberosu: jigoku no banken) with jigoku being the realm of the dead in the Japanese mythology.
The saga started in January 1987 with the Japanese broadcast of the radio drama series While Waiting for the Red Spectacles (紅い眼鏡を待ちつつ, Akai megane o machi tsutsu), prior to the theatrical release of the live-action film The Red Spectacles (紅い眼鏡, Akai megane). A manga series adaptation, Kerberos Panzer Cop (Kenrou densetsu) started the following year and was compiled as a single volume (Acts 1~4) in 1990.
The following year was released StrayDog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (ケルベロス 地獄の番犬, Keruberosu jigoku no banken), the first theatrical adaptation of the manga.
In 1999, the manga series was completed (Acts 5~8) and re-released as two compilation volumes. Few months later was released Jin-Roh (人狼, Jinrou) the anime adaptation of the first manga. It remains the franchise's most popular work outside Japan until today.
Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters (立喰師外伝, Tachiguishi retsuden), an animation feature spin-off was released in theaters and DVD in 2006.
Kerclros Panzer Cop 犬狼伝説, an unlicensed Chinese version of the 1990 manga volume was published in Taiwan in the early 1990s.
犬狼傳說, a Chinese version complete volume (Acts 1~8) was available in Malaysia in 2000. A licensed, two volumes, Chinese version of the Japanese 2000 re-edition ("Frozen Version") was issued in Hong Kong the same year. A similar edition was available in Korean language in South Korea the same year.
A traditional Chinese 2-volume licensed edition was published in Taiwan in 2002.
North American releases
A six issues English adaptation of the first manga volume was published in 1994, in the United States and Canada as Hellhounds: Panzer Cops. A compilation volume edition was published in 1997.
The English dubbed version of Jin-Roh was released in North America in 2001.
Two years later, the English subtitled version of the 1987 and 1991 live action films was released on DVD.
Hellhounds: Panzer Cops, the English adaptation of the first manga volume, was translated in German and serialized in a German book from 1996 to 1997.
In 1998, the American Hellhounds: Panzer Cops all-in-one volume was licensed and distributed in the United Kingdom.
The following year Jin-Roh was premiered in France and later released in Germany. It was one year before the Japanese release.
With each new episode release, Japanese toys and model kits manufacturers such as Kaiyodo, Medicom or Takara produce Protect-Gear scale models.
In 2005, Images of the Last Battalion, an independent short anime directed by a student, Koichi Kishita, was released in Japanese film contests. The following year, the bootleg video was edited and projected as an official trailer at Mamoru Oshii's Kerberos Panzer Jäger launch party and Kishita joined Production I.G's 3DCG team.
Japanese and Chinese Protect-Gear fans sculpted, modified, or repainted licensed toys. Some of these "custom" items are released as limited edition garage kits available in conventions and import action figure shops and websites.
- Kerberos saga at the Hobby Japan website (Japanese)
- Production I.G official English website (English)
- Kenji Kawai official English website (English)
- GA Graphic official website (Japanese)
- Monthly Comic Ryu official website (Japanese)
- Production I.G Special Site (Japanese)
- Kerberos Panzer Jäger official website (Japanese)
- Kerberos Panzer Jäger@Raiden Kinema channel 2[permanent dead link] (Japanese)
- Kerberos Panzer Jäger@Raiden Kinema channel 9[permanent dead link] (Japanese)
- Mamoru Oshii's official website (Japanese)
- Kenji Kawai's official website (Japanese/English)
- JOQR Radio (Japanese)
- Images of the Last Battalion@Digital Frontier Grand Prix 2005 (Japanese)
- Axis Animation (English)
- Watch Impress (Japanese)
- Jin-Roh DTS Edition booklet, Bandai Visual (Japanese)
- Jin-Roh Maniaxx, Kadokawa Shoten, ISBN 4-04-853219-7 (Japanese)
- Kenrou Densetsu, Nihon Shuppansha, ISBN 4-89048-271-7 (Japanese)
- Kenrou Densetsu Fukyoban, Nihon Shuppansha, ISBN 4-89048-402-7 (Japanese)
- Patlabor (created by Headgear, in which Mamoru Oshii and Yutaka Izubuchi are members)
- Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (popularizes the idea of powered exoskeleton)
- Chapman, Paul Thomas (February 11, 2015). "[Review] Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Blu-ray)". Otaku USA. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
Jin-Roh is one part political thriller, one part allegory, and one part action movie.
- Mechaphilia (メカフィリア), Mamoru Oshii & Atsushi Takeuchi, 第2章：プロテクトギア篇 vol.01［三頭犬の皮］：92式特殊強化装甲服【PROTECT GEAR】, page 25, October 5 of 2004
- Mechaphilia (メカフィリア), Mamoru Oshii & Atsushi Takeuchi, 第2章：プロテクトギア篇 vol.01［三頭犬の皮］：92式特殊強化装甲服【PROTECT GEAR】, page 22, October 5 of 2004
- "KerberosSaga.jp, news099：『犬狼伝説 20周年エディション』＆限定仕様BOXが発売決定！, 2009.07.17". Archived from the original on 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
- "Kerberos Saga The Red Spectacles 20th Anniversary". Archived from the original on 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- "Kerberos-Saga.jp news099：『犬狼伝説 20周年エディション』＆限定仕様BOXが発売決定！, 2009.07.17". Archived from the original on 2009-07-27. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
- 犬狼伝説 20周年エディションBOX (コミック), Amazon.co.jp