On the technical side of things, Wolf’s Rain’s animation is gorgeous. You can almost always count on Studio Bones to put out good work, but Wolf’s Rain has a particularly proficient pedigree. Fantastical backgrounds are detailed, varied and engrossing, character designs are distinct and very attractive, and the fights and chases are breathtaking.
The music was composed by Yoko Kanno, which means I might not have to say anymore, but I will. All her work is magnificent, but this may be some of her best. Insert songs and orchestration are beautiful as standalone but absolutely MAKE the emotional moments too. It’s a wonderful soundtrack to
listen to without the anime, but it never overwhelms the story either, matching the action onscreen beat for beat.
In terms of voice acting, the Japanese is a solid listen, but also, Wolf’s Rain has one of the best dubs ever made. There’s not one askew line in the whole package, and what’s more, while I usually use this time to mention the standout players of the cast, I can’t even do that for Wolf’s Rain. Every single voice actor goes beyond the call of duty in their roles, all of them. Even some of the extras leave a strong impression in their five-minutes in the spotlight. This dub is perfect.
So the production values are top dog, but the real important things are story and characters, right? Well, that’s where your mileage may vary. Some people will shout, “This is brilliant!” only to be echoed by others saying “Uh…what is?”
Wolf’s Rain takes place in a complex fantasy world with a rich history, but doesn’t feel like sharing any of that history with the class directly. This is good because that leads to greater focus on the characters, and almost NO exposition spouting. Speaking of the characters, they all start out as flat archetypes and slowly flesh out into very complex personalities, which is kinda different. Still, this approach of showing very little and telling far less really forces you to think and catch fine details in order to understand why wolves are considered divine, what makes the nobles different from normal human beings, and most importantly, just what happened 200 years ago to make the world what it is in the story. It is possible to figure it all out, but it’s NOT easy.
This is because, and this is a little known fact about the show, Wolf’s Rain is an allegory, whereby most everything is actually symbolic of something else. Pilgrim’s Progress was a religious allegory, The Little Prince was a sociological allegory, and Wolf’s Rain is both, but not as obvious as either of them. The show cross-references several religions and mythologies to portray a unified theme. The wolves face trials of doubt, despair, mistrust, confusion and even a false paradise that offers bliss in exchange for identity, and this is in addition to the villains that hound them. The humans in the story struggle with issues of self-worth, denial, choosing comfort over facing the truth, etc., all leading up to a whizbang climax featuring one noble’s idea of the “perfect city for humans.” Think Brave New World or 1984.
The thing I like about this approach is that it’s subliminal. It’s not like Evangelion or Lain where you know there’s this big philosophy being waggled at you, you may not recognize any of the references in Wolf’s Rain, but its powerful message gets through just fine without mentioning a hedgehog’s dilemma or a god in the Wired. Simply put, Wolf’s Rain is powerful and it will make you think, but you’ll get even more out of it if you’ve say, read Revelation or know anything about Shinto animal symbolism, but the writers don’t expect you to. I learned a lot more about the show after I did some research, but I only researched because it was already fascinating.
If there’s a problem with Wolf’s Rain, it’s the infamous recaps. There are four completely useless recap episodes right in the middle of the show together, and I still don’t know why they are there. Still, this isn’t much of a detriment as all four of them can be skipped without missing any new info. And if you’re buying the DVDs, they’re all on one disc by themselves! Unless you’re a masochist, don’t buy the disc.
In the end, though, even if you want to turn your brain off and be a little confused while you watch, the outward beauty and emotional resonance of the series cannot be denied, even in its fairly controversial conclusion. I’ve watched it through several times now and every single time I discover something new and profound. It’s pure magic, it will make you cry, but I hope in the end you’ll be howling-happy.
All in all, I almost pulled this series down a level because of its slightly alienating religious themes and focus on animals instead of humans, but then I thought, how can I punish a show for being both incredibly deep and refreshingly different? It may not be perfect, and I can’t promise you’ll like it, but it is a quality work of art amongst anime and a whole new breed of fantasy.
*THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF MY VIDEO REVIEW WHICH CAN BE FOUND HERE:
The new millennium has brought us many new anime titles. Most of which seem to involve a sad story, a sad main character, and an overall sad feel. Wolf's Rain may indeed fall into that category, but there are unique differences that make this series more complex than that.
Take first, the main character Kiba. He has a goal and he'll do anything to reach it. But he has two distinct sides to his character. One is his proud, rash, and arrogant self that attacks anything that stands in his way. And the other is a quiet, mysterious, and observing type that is expressed when meeting
new friends (For instance, when he was reluctant to say his name to Hige) and whenever he is around Cheza. Though not technically the sorrowful character one would expect him to be in an orphaned and lonely state, he still makes sad connections to his past.
As this was an anime before it became a manga series, BONES (the same company that made Fullmetal Alchemist) had unlimited freedom on where to go with the series. Except for a few "flashback" or "clip" episodes in the middle of the series, there is almost no filler and the pacing of each episode is excellent. The animation is amazing (as expected of BONES) and the music just as well. Beautiful orchestral music is played throughout the series, and, unique to most anime, the opening and ending themes are in perfect English (as are other soundtracks songs during the actual show).
The main story follows an unusual cast of characters, most of which are not even human. Kiba and his crew are all wolves with the power to create the illusion that they are human (though it is not perfect as their shadows and pawprints are still shown through). There are also the typical human characters, like the greedy Dracia that wants Paradise to himself and a pair of lovers that rekindle their relationship through hardship. Plus there's also the ghost of a cryptic owl that gives advice in proverbs. (Whether or not this is a Legend of Zelda reference is still beyond me)
But there is never a time when an anime can be perfect. There are still plot-holes within Wolf's Rain. Mainly the ending: It's open-ended and leaves more to be desired. But as a more thought-provoking series, the ending does its job... Kind of. But besides a few odd turns, Wolf's Rain is good at creating plot twists. And BONES was so confident about the series that most episodes don't even end in a cliffhanger. They just find a natural stopping point.
Overall, Wolf's Rain is an enjoyable series if you love wolves, action, the supernatural, and beautiful music. Though don't expect it to be happy or provide fan-service.
Wolf's Rain was, to say the least, and interesting, but not overly involving anime. Although I liked the concept, setting, sound and art direction, I could not find myself getting attatched to the characters or involved in the plot.
When I look back at it, I honestly believe that the characters just followed common stereotypes, and really didn't evolve throughout the plot. The supporting characters were able to garner a little interest from me, but the lead was dull and drab, and the only dialogue I can remember from him is "we have to get to paradise". A lead character is supposed to get a viewer
emotionally attatched, not bore the viewer to tears.
Then there is the plot. Basically it follows a rather dull and drawn out journey to find the wolves "Paradise", with a few twists and turns along the way. As the characters personalities barely evolve through the course of their journey, the plot becomes tedious, and I found myself not caring at all about the characters and their journey after a few episodes.
Then, there is the final act. To me, the last few episodes feel rushed and poorly thought out, and the story reaches a conclusion where there is no reward for patiently watching the show in its entirety. The show ended on a very vague and sour note, and had kept me in an irritated state for a fair while.
Despite not enjoying the overall plot and the characters, the sound and animation quality of this anime is great. I still find myself listening to pieces of the score to this day to fuel my imagination, which I am very grateful for. I watched the dubbed version, and the voice acting throughout was done well enough. I still despise that opening song, Strays, or whatever it was called, just not my cup of tea.
In conclusion, if more thought was put into the character development and plot, Wolf's Rain could have potentially been a great anime in my eyes. The shows concept really interested me, and I wanted to like the show, but it sadly didn't work out the way I wanted it to.
Earth's decay has long provided anime with many disquieted plots over the past 30 years, but few have been more genuine than Keiko Nobumoto's "Wolf's Rain". Facing the long and dreary tundra before him, the mysterious canine protagonist, Kiba (meaning "Fang" in Japanese) reluctantly moves forward, being called to something he can only describe as paradise. The world has fallen in on itself, as humans have tarnished the earth and almost wiped out the wolf race. Kiba, along with a handful of his remaining kind have learned to blend to their environment, one day hoping to find salvation in the form of a
wolf paradise. And now, finally grouped with his own pack, and a guide in the form of a beautiful young flower maiden named Cheza, Kiba must face the dangerous plight to find rebirth. This compelling journey in conjunction with the amazing characters involved makes Wolf's rain easily likeable, as well as admirable because it addresses the end of life as a new beginning to an ironically never ending journey. The paradise it describes is brought forth from the journey's experiences, rather than the journey's conclusion.
Directed by Tensei Okamura, who has delighted with his past collaborations on Full Metal Panic and Cowboy Bebop, this genuinely compelling series is only set with a few anime conventions: the hard pressed rival to the leader (Tsume), the insane but devoted antagonist (Darcia) and the mysterious hunter who wants to settle a score (Quent). Besides these, Wolf's Rain is a plot on its own. The whole pack is in search for paradise for their own reasons and gradually learn more about themselves on the way. They stop by various towns to face obstacles that instigate these learning experiences. While this is happening, the larger picture of the story deals with the remaining three nobles of the world. They all vie for supremacy for their individual purposes, but all come into contact with the wolf pack in one way or another. Like a kick in the pants, it was insane to see the wolf pack take on the noble's soldiers and display their canine powers. Likewise, it was great to see them fail in their attempts because it showed how real they actually were. If you enjoy being attached to characters even with their shortcomings then I strongly recommend this series.
One of the great things about Wolf's Rain is that the only really beautiful characters are the wolves themselves. Everything else the art depicts is very alive, but in a darker, more decayed way. All of the landscapes are hauntingly dismal, even when the story shifts to the more modern settings. The art is very realistic in this way, and beauty is only used as a reflection for the characters who are the purest.
Bad music could have really hindered a series with this much melancholy and drama. Luckily, Yoko Kanno, the jazz queen composer from Cowboy Bebop also blessed Wolf's Rain with her talents. Its so amazing the way she sets the tones for scenes in the series. She never over does anything, which makes the really big "holy shit" scenes far more impactful. There are actually many long scenes in which nothing but music is used to describe the mood of the situation, and it was refreshing to see a series that didn't jabber on to describe what was happening. All you really have to do is listen during Wolf's Rain to appreciate what is going on below the surface. Thank you for that Ms. Kanno.
The characters are what make this series a classic. Every one of them, even the minor ones only have to speak or make a certain facial expression to show you how they LIVE. By this I mean, we only have to look at the way they act to get a feel of who they are right off the bat. I was sort of expecting this, because Nobumoto's writing is always so real. She was never afraid to pull punches in this series, and none of the characters are set in stone. They all grow at their own paces and aren't always the same person. The pack becomes more of an extended family as it progresses and does so through many conflicts. What I loved most is that when things really got bad, none of them really went into the predictable dramatic speech about life and death. Everything was always quiet when something bad in the series happen, and only loud when it really needed to be. This subtle realism is what made the wolves seems all the more relatable and ironically human. If you want real drama in your characters, than you'll love these wolves.
Now, I'm a guy who has been brought up in fast paced, shounen style anime, and Wolf's Rain was really the first serious piece of art for me. I mean I've seen some mildly toned anime sure, but this series really gets you in the gut from the beginning. Its very dark, I mean the world is ending throughout the plot, who wouldn't be depressed? It had some lighter, happier moments, but they were often offset with depressing, real ones. I wouldn't recommend this series if you want to escape reality, but if your someone who wants to see a more genuine, less optimistic piece of art than you'll like it. I only scored the enjoyment at a 7 because even for me, a natural pessimist, the story did drag out the harshness of reality sometimes. It makes you sort of hate Nietszhe. Well, maybe not that much, but you know what I'm saying.
"They say there's no such place... as Paradise. Even if you search to the ends of the Earth, there's nothing there. No matter how far you walk, it's always the same road. It just goes on and on. But, in spite of that... Why am I so driven to find it? A voice calls to me... It says, Search for Paradise." - Kiba
::Note:: This review includes the OVA. Those final 4 episodes were supposed to be included with the original TV airing run but had to be delayed because of a SARS outbreak in Japan at the time so they aired a few recaps. Note that this review ignores these recaps because it's fucking 2013 and if you watch recap episodes then it's your own bloody fault
It used to be the case that if you wanted to start a fight in an anime clubroom, all you had to do was stand up and proclaim “Wolf’s Rain is pretentious” and watch the chaos unfold. Fandom has since moved
on. Now they get fights about whether Madoka Magica is a deconstruction or not. I’m going to see if I can rekindle a few of those old flames by calling Wolf’s Rain a load of pretentious old twaddle. Also Madoka Magica is a deconstruction. Also also Lelouch is not the cart driver.
Wolf’s Rain is set in the pre-apocalypse where the world is being slowly destroyed by oppressive grey screen filters. The story follows a bunch of boys as they track from city to wilderness in search of a nebulous concept called ‘Paradise’. The boys are actually Wonderful Outstanding Lovely Fellows, or W.O.L.F’s, who have deceived humanity into believing the W.O.L.F’s all look like humans because otherwise humans are just too jealous of the W.O.L.F’s so they try to wipe them out. Along the way each of the W.O.L.F’s go on a voyage of self-discovery while meeting a variety of interesting characters trying to work out why the world is ending.
Despite my snarky tone, there is a lot of good things to say about Wolf’s Rain. The characters are well-rounded and flawed in interesting ways. My favourite characters were normally the humans because the four main W.O.L.Fs didn’t act very human. Which might be intentional, but in particular with the poster boy Kiba it was very hard to get invested in his story when he felt so inhuman with his actions. It was more like he was a robot following a programme in his brain than someone governed by emotions. The humans were way more interesting because you actually understood why it was they were going to the great lengths they did. Some of my favourite episodes were when it was just two of the humans chilling out, chatting with each other. One that sticks out in my mind was when the alcoholic wolf-hunter and the divorced husband spent an entire episode driving across the wasteland. It allowed the anime to show a rare sense of humour while also giving us plenty of time to get deep into these character’s minds.
On a slightly less positive note, while the animation is certainly impressive, the grey landscape on grey buildings on grey characters makes the show very repetitive and dull. 2003 was around the period TV animation started to get to grips with fully digital animation and no longer look universally awful, and Wolf’s Rain is one of the most technically proficient anime from that year. But it’s so grim and grimy and endlessly grey that it’s boring to look at. There’s no stylised decay in the style of Casshern Sins. This is the realistic concrete building apocalypse. It may be intentional, but that doesn’t stop it from being boring. Similarly with the W.O.L.F characters. They are supposed to not feel quite human in their actions and thoughts. It’s a plot point that they act like there’s a radar in their mind governing their actions rather than logical or emotional thought. But that still means they are difficult to have any emotional attachment to. It makes their actions feel like tools to move the plot along rather than that of people.
The tone of the overall story is…I’m not sure if there’s a word in English for it. Full of itself? Head jammed firmly up its own arse? Chuunibyou? Imagine a man wearing a trenchcoat indoors just hiding an Iron Maiden t-shirt with sideburns and a neckbeard. Or a lady with badly dyed purple hair, trousers with 50 million chains and pockets on them and wearing black eyeliner. Or just imagine the early-mid 00′s emo culture. Imagine someone like that watching this show and explaining to you:
“You just don’t understand man. The wolves are, like, misunderstood by society just like me. Other humans just don’t understand them so they have to isolate themselves from the scum. But that’s OK because they are the ones that will achieve paradise when everyone else succumbs the capitalist materialist apocalypse. It will be the noble wolves that reach paradise. I identify with the wolves because society doesn’t understand me so I deceive everyone into thinking I’m human but actually I’m a wild beast who is just searching for paradise. Oh please take me away wolves where I can’t be persecuted hey listen to my poetry about how I became a wolf and got a sexy wolf wife and then we hey wait where are you going pah just another person afraid of my inner wolf.”
The story is supposed to be about the world being reborn to wipe away sin, but humanity doesn’t appear to have committed any sins. The biggest sin they appear to have committed is not have the luck to be born as a W.O.L.F. There’s this over-arching story about how this noble tried to become a wolf, which is far and away the stupidest part of the whole story with the most embarrassingly awful dialogue and dumbest plot twists, who again seems to be only punished because he’s not a W.O.L.F. My snarky W.O.L.F. thing is because there’s no reason as to why wolves are the creatures that open paradise, beyond idk wolves are cool animals. While I thought the anime was generally serviceable throughout the airing run, by the time it reached the end I was starting to realise the whole thing barely had a purpose.
Which leads me to my big final point: Wolf’s Rain is pretentious. It’s plenty ambitious and got loads of highfalutin but no over-arching theme to back it up. ‘Everyone must die for their sins for the world to be reborn and also wolves are cool’ appear to be the extent of the themes. Elfen Lied was also really big around the same time, so I’m just going to blame Wolf’s Rain’s popularity on the emo culture that was hip with nerds at the time.
Wolf's Rain is a Shounen, Action, Adventure anime with something different about it. It is based on a post apocalyptic Earth that is slowly dying out, yet the main focus is on a pack of Wolves on their journey to paradise.
The show has a very promising start as it kicks off with plenty fast paced action in the first couple episodes and it's not even an issue that a lot of things are unexplained, like why the wolves are able to disguise as humans. Of course a lot is slowing explained throughout the series at a steady pace. Following the initial excitement of the series,
it does loose a bit of its essence, from the beginning, but it still remains interesting to watch. It is just before the halfway point that the story becomes inconsistent and confusing, as it just adds in a completely different plotline about some war that just happens to be going on, which is when you begin to wonder "What is going on?". At least the series manages to redeem itself by the end and the main characters, with their different quirks and personalities, are what helped. Yet some may not like the few depressing episodes before Wolf's Rain reaches it's climatic finale (OVA ending).
The animation and music are of the sort of quality that you'll expect from BONES. With a good choice of dark tones, for the color palette gives this series a very sombre mood. The music is a good variety of Jazz tunes and Piano melodies that also go with the mood of this anime.
Overall this turned out to be an enjoyable anime to watch (except for the chunk of re-cap episodes), which is about something out of the ordinary but still remain level-headed. The best thing about this series is really the characters and how you can form some kind of attachment to some of them as the story goes on. However there are also characters like the Nobles, which are just there to further complicate the story. I recommend this anime to anyone, as there is no specified preference, because it is a series you will grow to enjoy or end up bored.
The contrived and cliched storyline is fed in drabs and threatens to turn into something good without ever realising this threat. After getting halfway through the show, it spends at least 3 episodes just repeating old material. Then when you get near the end, like a second punch in the face when you're down it has another 5 whole episodes of material repeated from previous episodes. And WHAT material! Repetitions of nothing much happening at all. Now I love movies and series where not much happen and where the enjoyment comes from the portrayal rather than a traditional climax
driven storyline; but this series has nothing else going for it.
The biggest tragedy of this series is the ending that is so pseudo-metaphysical I want to give the writers angry words for the insult to my intelligence. Whilst I'm sure people who think might consider "Greys Anatomy" well-written were probably mind blown by the semi-mystical ending, If you have any intelligence whatsoever I'm giving good advice here: this anime is not only a huge waste of time, but totally embarassing. I'm left wondering "How could they pass of this junk" and "If this got an average review of 8, then this is a bad sign for anime".
When I first heard the name Wolf's Rain, I was like, hm, I wonder if it has wolves and when I found it that not only did it have wolves, but the main characters ARE WOLVES, I was so overjoyed, so I had to start watching it.
First thing, I hate to say it and be superficial, but I will - I love Kiba. When I first saw him, he moved my soul and my heart, he was so beautiful in both human form and wolf form, I loved him. I watched in English the first time and I even loved his voice, since Johnny is
As I continued to watch it, I got more and more attached and I really liked the characters and their different storylines and then the overall storyline is absolutely amazing - it's extremely original and engrossing and I adored watching it and looked forward to the next episodes that aired each week very much.
I went through all the emotions with this anime ranging from sadness to crying to happiness, anger and fear. I totally suggest this anime to anyone that likes wolves, serious dramas, awesome fighting, blood and an awesomely intense and original storyline, beautiful BEAUTIFUL art and good music!
When you want to put a mark and your own opinion regarding show like this, you first need to think about every detail. Because in this anime, nothing is so obvious. There is always some hidden meaning.
This is the story about friendship, strong bonds between characters, that are yet to be formed, the tasks and dangers that they need to get through together. The love, the honor, the pride.
This is not the story about wolves. This is the story about humans. About US. We take everything for granted now. And in our lives, there will be the moment when those things we took for
granted, cease to exist. And then we will face ourselves.
And wolves are trying to tell us that. Only people that still have something human in them will prevail, and live, when the judgment day arrives.
And that thing that makes us humans is not tech, guns, computers, cars, and stuff like that.
It is our feelings, our bonds, our spirit.
This is not a classic apocalyptic story. There are no aliens. Nature won't destroy us.
Here, humans destroy themselves. But nature just won't give up hands from us.
She's trying to save us, and sending wolves to "restart" the world.
At the beginning they just want to go find Paradise. But Paradise doesn't exist, and yet it does. The Paradise is not somewhere in sky, in clouds, or in space. The Paradise is on our planet, and only WE, no one but WE can form it the way we want. Depending on that, the Paradise can become real Heaven, and can also become Hell. And when we learn and see our errors, we are yet again repeating them.
Animation is quite good, the action is fluid and very nice. But I have seen better. The light effects are pretty awesome, but there are no "happy" colors. It is almost always gray-brown-black combination. But it's logical, because you can't expect apocalypse with happy colors, except in Disney cartoons :) (I actually love them :D)
Music is also good, but for you guys that like more than 1 opening and ending it's not, right :)
Ending is pretty emotional and leisure. But when you consider opening and rate it by quality you can't get a good mark. The thing is that the creator wanted symbolical meaning for opening, so he put those puzzles in it, so you could see the story behind the obvious.
When anime is ending, you again hear that previous opening "Stray". That is the last puzzle of this great story. I've composed the puzzle in my way. Try it yourself. you will be thrilled.
Let me say just that the point of "stray" being in beginning and ending of a show is a symbol of never ending circle. The wolves will always come back and try to help us.
The characters are not so good shaped like in some other shows, but the story is not about "some" characters, but all humans overall. Yet every main character has his own story, they aren't so special.
If you like being a "detective" and like watching shows that hide the real meaning behind it's covers, this is the show for you.
Yet if you like battles, blood and story about pure friendship this is, again, story for you.
That is the most awesome thing about this show. It is written for everyone.
But how the end, and story overall is going to finish, depends on each individual :)
Warm recommendation :)
This is the show that turned me on to anime. This show means so much to me, and has seriously impacted my life and it took me several days after finishing the series to process all the symbolism. That's the thing about Wolf's Rain, it has an incredible amount of depth, metaphors, and symbolism.
STORY: Set in a distant future, the world is falling apart. Most humans don't seem to notice anything that's going on outside of the cities they live in. Just slowly working themselves into the ground, it appears. The end of the world is near. The plot of Wolf's Rain is amazing, and
is an amazing take on the classic story of good versus evil. I don't want to give much away here, but trust me... It's worth it to watch all the way through. I know a lot of people have watched it, and stopped towards the end. They're missing the best part! What ties everything else together - what makes everything else so important. After finishing this show, your life will change. I took several days to think about what it all meant, and that includes thinking about my own purpose of existence.
ART: The artwork of this show is amazing. The landscapes are beautiful. The action scenes are intense and powerful. Something I personally really love about the artwork on the show, is the detail on Lord Darcia's attire. Darcia in particular is a visually stunning character throughout the entirety of the show.
SOUND: Good grief, this sound track is amazing. If I understand correctly, the same artist created every song. And every song is so beautiful in its own way. My personal favorite is Heaven's Not Enough, which plays in an episode towards the end of the show (this is actually my favorite song, period). The amazing thing about the music, is that it's very obvious the effort that was put into each song. Not just into the tune itself, but also the lyrics. Each song has such a strong meaning that ties so well to the show, and after you watch the show I highly encourage you to listen to Heaven's Not Enough and I think you'll appreciate how well it encapsulates the show as a whole.
CHARACTER: The characters are great. I don't want to give anything away, but everyone has their favorite. And each character on the show has a backstory and wonderful character growth. Toboe's character growth is one to take note of - but I won't say much more than that. I also think it's important to notice that even though we are all rooting for Kiba, each other character has their own enticing qualities. As I said, everyone has a favorite. And there are a lot of fully developed characters to choose from - all of whom are entirely different from the next. The only unfortunate part is that sometimes Tsume doesn't have the best dialogue, but it's easy to look over and appreciate what they are trying to accomplish with his character (which most of the time he's just as great as the rest of them).
ENJOYMENT: What can I say? This show turned me into an anime lover. Before I watched it, I really couldn't care less about anime. But this beautifully done show made me fall head over heels in love. My only regret is that I didn't watch it sooner. This show really gets deep down into my heart and affects me in a way other shows don't. Take for example Fullmetal Alchemist. I am currently watching that show, and I practically cry every episode and it really has me wrapped up in its grip... But it still does not make me think, and get to me, the way Wolf's Rain does.
OVERALL: To be honest, I think this show has too low of a rating. It deserves a spot in the top 100 animes. I think the problem is that it seems that people watch it up until the last few episodes and then 'woops' they forget. Which hey, no big deal. I actually did it too. But then I decided to sit down and watch the entire show and I was SO glad that I did. I actually like to have the television on while I do other stuff around the house and to be completely honest, I had this playing in the background for about three months. But if you think wolves are cool, and you like stuff that has depth to it and makes you think(along with beautiful animation and an amazing soundtrack)... Then this is definitely the show for you.
I truly think the only way someone WOULDN'T like this show, is if they didn't really like stuff that had an /ocean/ of symbolism, meaning, and feeling. There's a reason Wolf's Rain is sometimes considered an 'anime legend'. But I can tell you that it isn't called that enough, and in fact I believe it to be completely underrated.
But unfortunately a plot which just couldn't capture my imagination.. or interest ..
The concept could have been done so much better.
Cuz it starts out well .. building up the basic plot elements.. but then eventually just ends up getting lost and confused..
The whole story with the nobles and all just ruined the series to the point of boredom for me..
Has its moments. Like, you really feel for the characters .. their pain and anguish..
So, in terms of characters and how flesh and bone they feel, you gotta give credit to the animators and voice-over artistes who brought the wolves
Similarly, the background score of the series is fantastic IMO, and perfectly fits the scenes in which they were played..
*Note that for the purposes of this review and the rating I'm ignoring the existence of the 4 back-to-back recap episodes (15-18) and factoring in the four OVA episodes that bring the series to an actual conclusion. Also, expect some spoilers!*
I have a lot of problems with Wolf's Rain. More problems with it than any other anime on my top ten list. Yet it's also on my top ten list. How did this happen? Let's find out! :-D
Wolf's Rain is about four wolves, which in this post-apocalyptic future/past/alternate universe aren't your standard pack of wolves. They demonstrate great resistance to physical injury and possess remarkable
regenerative capabilities. They can perform feats of physical skill that no living creature could possibly match. They are capable of disguising themselves as human via some sort of illusion-based magic. And, when the end of the world approaches, only they are capable of discovering and activating Paradise, which essentially serves as a reset button, reverting the world back to a more idyllic state.
The story follows these four wolves, and the humans, 'nobles,' and various other things (including a girl who was bio-genetically engineered from a flower?) who become involved with them. The characters are where the heart of this story is--while it does take a long time to warm up to them, and while their development comes in fits and starts (and their interactions are frequently repetitive), by the time the series is half-over you'll probably be very attached to most of the large cast. And, if you're not, at least you've got some great eye-candy to lose yourself in. Between the attractive characters and the detailed background art Wolf's Rain is pretty close to being a visual marvel, for an anime series. It's never particularly flashy or inventive, but the fluid animation and assured designs help ensure that the art will stick in your mind, even if ultimately the whole thing feels a little cold. Which at least is fitting--the post-apocalyptic environment in Wolf's Rain actually feels post-apocalyptic, particularly in its final episodes as the world begins to degenerate at a rapid rate.
Much warmer is the music, by the always fantastic Yoko Kanno. Expect lots of pop, rock, and jazz influence coupled with some gorgeous orchestration. The score does an amazing job of complementing the mood of the visuals, and, like all of her best work, stands up well on its own even when divorced from the anime. Dub fans should be pleased as well--the English language dub is almost universally fantastic, and may be one of the better English dubs I've ever heard in an anime, right up there with FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist, Princess Tutu, and Cowboy Bebop. A few of the characters may take a while to warm up to, and some of the minor characters that show up once or twice are a little cringe-worthy, but otherwise this is great acting, probably the equal of the Japanese, if not better. (I'm going to lean towards better--Steven Blum as Darcia sends chills down my spine, and all of the actors truly shine in the last four devastating episodes.)
So, all that is well and good, but what about the story? This is what's going to lose some people. It might seem cheap of me to say so, but I think that the only real way to approach Wolf's Rain is to treat its story as pure allegory or symbolism. Taking it literally is only going to lead to frustration--it almost totally falls apart upon close inspection, and it gets so many details wrong (or just includes so much ridiculous stuff that feels totally out of place or breaks the story in other ways) that you'd have to be pretty selective and/or willfully ignorant to enjoy the story on a literal level. And you detail-oriented people are going to be driven especially insane. I'm pretty lenient when it comes to breaches of logic in my anime, but even I had to 're-write' the rules that Wolf's Rain was feeding me in some instances just to prevent myself from being annoyed with it. Especially annoying to me is how the human disguises that the wolves used are supposed to be more illusions than anything else, yet the wolves frequently use them in ways that suggest otherwise. And that's just a minor example--I'd hate to spoil anything or turn this into a thesis paper, but suffice to say that there are plenty more.
But how is the story when you move past this stumbling block? I dunno. It's good I think. It's sort of vague and dreamy--you should certainly expect further re-watches to reveal more. And the forward momentum does tend to drag here and here, particularly in the first and third fourth of the series. I honestly suspect that this would be a 'masterpiece' series if it lost a handful of episodes (and remember, I'm cutting out the four pointless recap episodes already! Don't even get me started on those...). I will say that the final four episodes are either make it or break it depending on the audience--viewers who are invested in the characters and the plot by this point will be devastated but eager to move forward nonetheless, whereas everyone else will likely think the final four to be an overly-sentimental dirge. It's one of the most brutally sad endings I've ever encountered in anime, which is both something of a blessing and a curse.
So, I don't know if I've managed to quite hit on why I love this series then. Re-reading what I've written so far, it mostly just sounds like I'm sort of conflicted about it--and I certainly am. But Wolf's Rain is hardly the only series in my top ten that I'm conflicted about--Serial Experiments Lain and Neon Genesis Evangelion spring immediately to mind. I love both of those series because of how challenging they are--their flaws are nasty, yes, but I feel that both reach for something above and beyond that which most anime series strive for. Give me a flawed series that reaches too far over a well-constructed series that plays it safe any day, and the same holds true if I look at some of my other favorite series as well. (Revolutionary Girl Utena, anyone?)
I think what strikes me about Wolf's Rain is its passion. It presents itself as being somewhat cold and mean, but the love that went into this anime is just not something you see that frequently, even in the best-constructed series. Just spend a little bit of time in its off-center fantasy/sci-fi world and down a drink or two with wolf-hunter Quent and you'll see what I mean. If this series is awkwardly paced at times, it's only because the team behind it lets the characters dictate the pace. These characters are not wholly in service of the story--they've got room to breathe, and to just be themselves. And the world itself is sort of an unique one in fantasy anime--its mythology weird and lovely, its social and political structures recalling 1984, and its depictions of weaponry updating that old-school 50's sci-fi charm for a modern audience. Then of course there's the fantastic art and music and acting, the surprising character developments, the unique character designs, and the heartache that accompanies its beautiful and bleak ending. Wolf's Rain is the anime equivalent of that kid who hides his or her passions underneath a shy exterior. It's tough work to draw them out, but well worth it when you do.
I'm actually surprised I got through this whole anime. I knew I hated it halfway through, but I also wanted to finish it to see if it would get any better somehow, or, at the very least, to be able to say I finished it.
Story - 2
I think the story starts off decently well. Initially, I liked the darker tone it seemed to be going for, and I was curious about the supernatural elements, as well as the overall setting the story takes place in. The anime proceeds, past the beginning episodes, to have episodes focused on side characters and random towns that have
nothing of value - no character development, no real world building. The only thing these episodes might be helping is to contribute to some thematic elements, but honestly, after watching the whole show, I have no idea what those elements would be. When the questions the series opens with are answered, mostly about the nature of wolves and flower maidens, the answers are vague and unsatisfying. I never felt like I had a good grasp on what the point of all the 'paradise' related parts of the story served. Near the end of the story I was confused, because there was no explanation of the world or many of the characters in it. The tone also suffers- not as badly as I've seen in other shows, granted - because the dark, gritty, initial tone is surpassed by a middle-of-the-road standard adventure tone. There is a scene later on (Beginning of episode 22) that is needlessly dark, with no buildup whatsoever.
Overall, I felt like the story in this could have made for an average movie. But they tried to stretch the content of the show over 26 episodes and it just feels so incredibly bland because of that.
Art - 7
The artwork is gorgeous, especially so if you enjoy looking at attractive men. There is an obvious level of care put into the animation, and the character designs are stellar, for the most part. (Some of Darcia's outfits were just silly looking.) I only wish there were more scenes that didn't take place in such bland looking towns.
Sound - 8
The music is fantastic. The background music always felt very appropriate for each scene, and, if I were as emotionally invested in the characters as I usually am, it probably would have added to my enjoyment significantly. I really liked the song for the OP, and I loved all the songs with lyrics that played during the show.
The voice acting is alright. I switched from the Japanese audio to the dub about twenty episodes in, because I was bored of watching the show and needed to look at something else while I was listening to it. Anyways, the Japanese voice acting is good. The English dub is passable. It's nothing to write home about, but it isn't an abomination to the ears like some dubs.
Characters - 1
This is by far my least favorite part of the show. The characters are bland and one-dimensional. They have no goals save going to 'paradise'. I would actually be into this, if they were shown to be so at odds with the world around them that the only thing they had was chasing after some myth. But we know so little about the characters themselves. We only get tiny details of the main four's backstories, and what we do get doesn't really justify their motivations. The show does repeatedly say that 'the wolves are drawn to paradise', but I refuse to accept that. It's just lazy character writing.
Anyways, the characters can essentially be summarized in a few words each.
Kiba - Generic hero. Stoic. Leader for no particular reason.
Tsume - Grumpy. Kind of a dick. He follows the 'jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold' trope even though there doesn't really seem to be any reason for his character to act that way.
Toboe - Innocent. Emotional.
Hige - Comic relief.
I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with simple characters. The problem is that there's nothing interesting or relatable about these characters, for me. There are a few moments in the show where there was an obvious attempt to develop the characters, but these moments just feel incredibly forced. For example, there is an episode where one of the characters decides he doesn't want to journey to paradise anymore. At the end of the episode, he changes his mind, in a way that is obviously meant to imply that he has grown since his initial decision. But nothing happens to him in between during the episode to warrant this change. Another example, near the end of the show, is when a character says, "That's not what the (name) I know would say!" the other character then proceeds to go on a completely unwarranted identity crisis. Before this scene, I never got the impression that he had even struggled with anything of the sort. It was so jarring and unexpected that I burst out laughing.
The show also focused on three side characters (Cher, Hubb, and Quent) who are all completely boring, and mostly exist to give exposition about wolves or prophesies. I cared about them even less than the main four, and yet they were given nearly as much time on screen. The two noble characters seemed vaguely interesting, but so little is said about them until later, where suddenly they start talking about what happened between them in the very last episode. The climax of the story suffers greatly due to this, because the viewer is trying to piece together the backstory right at the end.
Oh, and there's Cheza. She has no personality, and only exists to further the almost no existent plot. Also, to force in a love interest, because every piece of media seems to think that's necessary. *Sigh*
Enjoyment - 2
This anime sat on the 'watching' section of my list for a year. Watching this show became a chore for me after about four episodes. I actually fell asleep at one point watching this, which is a first for me. I really wanted to like this show. It's so pretty and the music is nearly perfect. But I couldn't get past the awful writing. It tries to be deep, but only in that pretentious way through 'symbolism' and 'theme', without knowing what each of those mean. If I can't clearly identify these 'hidden meanings' then they mean nothing to me. Mawaru Peguindrum has symbolism. Psycho-Pass has strong thematic elements. In both cases, the shows stand well enough on their own to be enjoyable without fully grasping these deeper meanings. And I would recommend both miles above this anime.
Well, this certainly was interesting. A pre-apocalyptic world with both gothpunk, fantasy and sci-fi elements. Could have been a total mess, but the mashup actually works. Much thanks to the great graphic design that makes the dying ashes of the world really believeable. The strong cast makes for a great pallet to paint up the core structure of the setting and the music brings the mood to even higher levels.
Sadly, while the world itself is a masterpiece, the story that takes place in it, is not. It is a tale of the Journey variety, and an unusually boring one at that. The cast moves
in a straight line during the whole anime, and although there are lots of characters, they all walk in the same direction. The only thing that varies is the constellations of characters, due to a lot of random and pointless splittings and re-mergings of the party. On the way, there are a lot of stuff happening, of course, but all the events point in the same direction, even those that by all logic should be just "random encounters". Even the lowliest housecat seems to have something to contribute to the heroes' journey. It all feels like a two thousand year old epic, where the art of storytelling hadn't come very far. Sure, it is epic as fuck, but at least as boring.
All in all, totally watchable, but don't expect your sense of dramaturgy to be challenged or even tickled in any way.
It does do everything it intended (*spoilers* throughout - this is more of an analysis of the aftermath)... it uses grey colours, but it's about a dystopia... it's about bleakness... there's ice caps all over, it's the end of the world. It's a kill-or-be-killed world... if there were any cheerful characters it would seem odd (this makes it more poignant, I think). I'd say that makes it an appropriate vehicle for both the visuals and characterizations.
For anyone who thinks Kiba's expressions are bland, or binary... what would one expect, if he was the sole survivor of his clan? The only white wolf... should he be
cheery? All he could do is obsess about the flower, as that was his idea of peace. Tsume also knew the realities of Freeze City... he spouted some angry lines, but it was the most heartfelt apology to Toboe in the end. He was genuine and poetical when he felt like it... Hige was a traitor, so he had to deflect attention from that through some humour... and Toboe was practically the heart of the group... not very useful practically, but when he nursed the hunter back to life, that was touching, I thought... Quent, besides his coming to terms with wolves and that wonderful moment when he realized who Blue the human was, also served as the 'dirty human', in Darcia's mind (and sure, Darcia was mad, but he was bent on accessing this pinnacle of evolution, so much that he receded to being a wolf... he had just lost his beloved that he hoped to revive, his sole reason for going to Paradise... such irony). Also, the anime's ending is depressing, but that is a moot point, because the story necessitated it, otherwise the 'seed' of the new world couldn't have been planted... creation through destruction.
For those who think Cheza had barely any role, or was solely submissive... she was the mythical maiden of flowery beauty, or some such... she was advanced technology, but she still served a pivotal role in the series. She was dragged around only because each Noble thought they could open Paradise to themselves... it might be surreal, but I felt like I could follow the mythical undercurrent well... it wasn't even as oblique as Evangelion, I thought.
The characters' motivation were based on instincts... that's supposedly what most canines use... and sure enough, it doesn't make much logical sense to chase a technological flower, but that's how they were 'programmed' (perhaps not in the same sense as Cheza).
Then there are the scientist and her detective ex who still dearly loves her... it was such an ascent of hope, that led to such a sharp decline... the ending seemed merely preordained (a reference to its mystical side, which allows the watcher to understand that it's a classical end-of-the-world scenario... which the Indians understood as well... and, though that intermission may have seemed random, it may be based on real-life mythology which centres around nature).
Every episode had a mixture of myth, mysticism, conflicts, political intrigue, artistic expression, along with other themes... I've noticed how much effort the creators put into it... not to mention Yoko Kanno's beautifully matching music.
Wolf rain; if you like carousels this is the anime for you. These wolfs will run on a 2d slant across amazing backs drops they will past mounts, grassy fields, snowy mountains, woods, volcanic mountains, oceans, city’s, deserts, rocks, snow, trees, forests, roads, LAZER BEAMS, spaceships, shops, relics, labourites, streets and many other locations.
Wolf rain is a lot like that sentence too long and only one eight interesting. I enjoyed wolf rain enough to watch all of it but I would not recommend this anime.
Have you ever watched a show that played with your heart so much that you actually cried when watching it? This is what happen to me when I watched Wolf’s Rain. Now before I get pegged for saying that it’s the best show ever, that is not the case. While I love most of the concepts and ideas, followed by music and characters, the show does have one or two downfalls that keep me from saying it’s the best. The story is very slow and almost always seems to go one step forward and two steps back in many different places, leaving you feeling like
you don’t want to watch anymore once in a while. I warn people that this is not exactly the show you want to be marathoning, especially if you have a tendency for feeling too much for a character or get to involved in the show.
The characters are almost all wonderful and fleshed out with their pasts, and they even explain their pasts instead of saying, ‘go read the manga’ which is good because when it came out, there wasn’t really any manga on the shelf. The manga only got out just as the show was in completion. Something most people don’t get out of the show is that each of the main characters (the wolves anyway) is actually supposed to symbolize a different type of wolf that is actually endangered.
Kiba is an Arctic (Tundra) wolf, a very beautiful white wolf. He is my favorite of the pack for he has a rather strong will about him. He’s proud of his wolf heritage to the point that he hates showing himself as a human though he does to survive. I consider him much more spiritual and idealistic of the wolves for he seems to always look for a reason why he exists. Most of the time, he seems lost in thought and rather disconnected from everyone else except for Cheza whom he stays very loyal to. Now, still I have one or two nit picks about his character. You would think that threw a long series like this, he would grow to trust and change a bit more then he does, but yet near the end, he seems to still be exactly the same as he was in the beginning. The journey doesn’t really change him in any way and I feel it makes him seem like he was a little to perfect.
Tsume is a Gray wolf with a large scar across his chest from his old pack. He’s untrusting of both human and other wolves for much of the series, ready to snap at a moments notice when something happens. He’s always on edge, and with turn away from almost anyone, except Toboe. I can see why there are so many people out there that have paired him up with Toboe in a romantic way for he always seems to be more protective of Toboe then any other. Although I fall into the wishing to god that the romance were there, I can see what actually is there. I believe that Tsume protects Toboe more for the fact of almost protecting his own ‘innocence’ and love that he lost long before the series even started. Toboe being a pup means he never got to deal with the heartache of being betrayed by his pack. He looks at him more like a brother then a lover (Sorry fan girls). In my opinion, Tsume seems to be the one that grows the most out of any of the wolf characters.
Now, speaking of Toboe, he is my second favorite character of the whole show! Toboe is a Red wolf, and the pup of the group. Tsume always calls him the runt because he’s a bit smaller of the group and acts the most immature of times. He had a sort of sheltered life being brought up by a old women he called Granny so he’s rather friendly to people, even trusting them enough to sometimes show what he is. For most of the show, he does act rather whinny and childish, although he grows as the story goes on making him a bit stronger as a ‘person.’ He stops wanting to rely on others and tries desperately to be on his own, though he looks up to Tsume a lot for his strength. Again, people may see this as a romance between the two but I see it more as a little brother looking up to his tougher big brother more.
Hige is a Mexican Wolf who seems to be the most laid back of the group. He’s flirty, eats a bit more then the others considering how chubby he is, and just goes with the flow most of the time. He’s also a rather interesting jokester, being quick to poke fun at a situation. He also doesn’t really change like Kiba, though he does fall in love with someone and gets the reason he needed to protect them.
All I can say about the next wolf is that it’s a black wolf dog but if I said anymore, it would be a spoiler.
Then we come to the main villain of the show, Darcia. He is one of the nobles somewhat responsible with the ‘extinction’ of the wolves. He searches for the flower maiden for his love, Hamona, who was stricken with an illness that her soul was taken to Paradise and she had fallen into a coma. After a while, Darcia is driven insane by the act of wanting to go to Paradise to be with her.
Now, I have one thing to say about the ending, DEPRESSING! And yet I really want more! It may be a spoiler but I want to see what happens after. I wish it had a second season to it or a series that happened after.
The animation is rather beautiful yet dark, keeping a rather steam punk and post apocalyptic look. The animation is pretty fluid, with nothing really being comical. Actually, if it had anything comical in it, it would destroy the feeling of the show. Everything has a gray filter over it and keeps it dark to where sometimes I had to pop up the brightness a tad to see things.
The instrumental is beautiful monotones and almost music box like. It’s gentle and keeps the sad slow tone that the show has within itself. The opening song ‘Stray’ has a rather dreamy like quality that gives it an almost hunting feeling while staying rather energetic. On the other hand, the ending song ‘Gravity’ is a more slow, sad song that has almost a sleepy tone to it. The difference in both of these songs mimics well to how energetic the show is, to how slow it gets in the middle, and then the climax will have you grasping your seat to see what will happen.
The voices in the English dub are awesome! Johnny Yong Bosch perfectly betrays Kiba better then I think most of his other roles in how almost dreamy his voice is. It’s done as though you’re walking in a daydream looking for something but never finding it. On the other hand, Crispin Freeman gives a perfect contrast as Tsume with his rather brash and almost barking attitude. Unsurprisingly, Mona Marshall is the voice of Toboe with his rather childish personality and girly looks and voice. Now, though they play these roles so well, that I didn’t even notice who was playing the characters because I was two into the characters!
Before I begin I should say that this review will cover the 26 episode series and the four episode OVA. So just be aware of that fact. The reason I don't review them separately is because they only tell a complete story together.
Wolf's Rain has a fairly simple premise. Four wolves who can disguise themselves as humans in an apocalyptic future search for the flower maiden so that they can reach Paradise. It seems simple enough, but the story has a lot of layers. Throughout most of the series there are three or our sub-plots running at the same time and it isn't until the
end that they all converge. The story is actually pretty spectacular. Nobumoto Keiko is a very talented writer. The use of symbolism throughout is very subtle and well done. That being said there are a few story problems.
The first is that the way the wolves' disguise works is never clear. The viewer is told that it's an illusion but there are several times when the wolves have to have actually become humans because they couldn't do what they're doing as wolves because wolves lack opposable thumbs or the ability to make fists. A few examples would be Hige pulling a key out of his hair and using it to unlock a jail cell or Blue roughing up a guy who's clearly shown to have a bunch of bruises afterwards in contrast to the bite marks he should have if he's just been roughed up by a wolf. There are also several scenes where one wolf drags another by the hand. Then there are moments where they could use human hands, but don't have them because they're just wolves. Like when Blue tries to get Hige's collar off or when Tsume is trying to save a human from falling to his death. The disguises basically work by the principle of dramatic convenience and it's just lazy. The other story problem that comes up in the anime is that there are four review episodes consecutively, episodes 15-18. Now I can understand why you might want an occasional review episode, but four in a row is just excessive, and a good way of bringing the story to a grinding halt. Why is it even necessary for a thirty episode series to have four review episodes?
The story deals with themes of merit, animism, rebirth and pack, I could have just as easily called it camaraderie but since the story is about wolves... All of these themes are handled pretty well. I especially like the way that each one is a natural part of the story so you don't get a bunch of forced speeches about friendship helping win card games or some such nonsense. The characters are also very well done. The wolves especially, but the humans too. Part of the reason that Wolf's Rain gets so depressing toward the end is that you care about these characters and you want them to be okay. The only problem with the characters is that they spend most of their time running around in their human disguises, even when they're alone, with other wolves or with humans who know what they are. Even Kiba who expresses discomfort at taking on a human guise. My guess is that the reason for this is that they thought people wouldn't be as interested in watching wolves run around but it still doesn't make sense from a character perspective.
The art is excellent. The wolves are especially well done and you can really see that artist worked at portraying them accurately. There is one problem. There's a crucifixion scene where the character in question is shown with the nails through her palms. This happens all the time in media and it isn't accurate. You couldn't hold up a human body by the palms. It would cause the nail to rip through their hands. Usually crucifixions were done by tying rope around the wrist or driving nails through the wrist. The only way you could do it with the nails through the palms would be if their feet were on the ground or a stool or something to keep them supported, but since the character in question is hanging off the ground this is just inaccurate.
The voice acting and music are both great. Miyano Mamoru, Miyake Kenta, Ogasawara Arisa, Mayumi Asano, etc... they all do a great job. The music helps contribute to the atmosphere and is really well put together.
There's a little yuri potential since Cher's obsession with Cheza borders on the homoerotic but there's not a whole lot. So I'll give it a yuri factor of 2.5/10.
In the end all of the problems with Wolf's Rain are pretty minor and the art, story, music, voice acting, and characters are all excellent. I give Wolf's Rain a 9/10. You should definitely watch it, just skip the review episodes since they contribute absolutely nothing.
It starts out fairly good. Then enters Kiba, someone who eventually will make you want to punch the screen. He's extremely selfish, never says anything memorable, expects to be followed, and he's always aggressive and moody. It makes no sense that anyone in the universe would want to be around someone like that, but he manages to find numerous of fellow wolfs who are willing to give up their lives to follow him.
Because there are subplots with other characters on different missions, I was really hoping those moments would outbalance the annoying sight of Kiba. They didn't. Episode 19 got me closer than ever
to punch the screen, so I thought it safer to just stop watching the last episodes.
I'm generous by giving this an overall score of 4, but that was all due to the art and the potential I saw in the story if Kiba wouldn't have been in it.
It’s the distant future, and the Earth has been caught in an endless winter. Humanity has pressed on, as it is known to do, by building enclosed communities where they can keep the weather at just where they need it to be in order to eek out what little living they can, brazenly defying the worsening condition of the world around them. Theirs is a world on the brink of apocalypse, and according to an old legend, it’s heralds will not be humans themselves... But wolves. But didn’t wolves go extinct 200 years ago?
Well, no, they didn’t. They acquired the
ability to project the image of humans upon themselves, and to the eyes of most humans, they can walk among us completely undetected. Whether they act on it or not, these wolves are drawn to the presence of an entity called The Lunar Flower. Four young wolves, all abandoned in some way or other, have been brought together by circumstance to answer that call, braving the elements and countless other dangers in their quest to find Paradise. It’s a call they’ll follow to the ends of the earth... Which, according to the legend, is exactly what’ll happen if they find it.
In early 2003, Studio Bones had yet to make a name for itself... It had some modest success with Rahxephon and the Cowboy Bebop movie, but the big hit that would establish it as one of the top production companies was still about six months from hitting the air waves. The anime world, at this point, had not yet become accustomed to Bones’ unmatched aptitude for bleeding beautiful art and animation out of even the smallest of budgets. Well, Wolf’s Rain isn’t one of those cheaper shows... It actually went pretty well over-budget, and the results speak for themselves. This is one of the most gorgeous anime I’ve ever seen, on almost every conceivable level. There are a few staticky key frames here and there, mostly where they won’t be noticed by anyone who’s not deliberately looking for them, but for the vast majority of it’s run, Wolf’s Rain is fluidly animated, without a single camera angle out of place. From the mundane images of wolves running across a snowy terrain to more fantastical CG images of air ships and man-sized computer screens, not a penny was wasted in bringing this story to life.
And the artwork is even more beautiful... The landscapes are mesmerizing, even when they’re mostly dominated by hues of white and gray. Whether our lupine heroes are trudging through a blizzard or looking for answers in the many domed cities they come across, the intimate level of detail will make you feel as if you’re there with them... You may even feel the urge to wrap yourself in a blanket during the colder scenes. Character designs are inspired, thoughtful, and very easy on the eyes. Not only does each design fit it’s character’s personality and story to a T... The tough guy is dressed in leather, the laid-back guy is wearing a baggy hoodie, and the forlorn divorced couple are dressed like they stepped off the set of Casablanca, to name a few... But they’re distinctive enough that even in wolf form, you’ll never have any problem remembering who’s who.
So, the animation is beautiful, the artwork is beautiful... What about the music? I rarely talk about music, as it normally all sounds the same to me, but when the name Yoko Kanno is attached to a project, that music doesn’t fall on ANY deaf ears. Kanno’s music has built her a very strong reputation amongst the anime medium, and rightfully so... In Wolf’s Rain, she provides a range of different music styles, from orchestral to western, and oddly enough, some rock ballads that have actual English lyrics to them.
I recently listened to the RWBY soundtrack... And I mean really listened to it... And while I’ll save my comments on it for another day, it did remind me how important it is to builds a soundtrack that fits the tone of your show not only musically, but also lyrically. Otherwise, you wind up with a breakneck paced action song with the lyrics of a solemn break-up song... Which is just sloppy. Yoko Kanno understands this, and even in English, the songs she composes fit the series like a glove, adding to the emotional impact of any given scene she’s attached to.
The English dub of this show is every bit as good as the original Japanese track, with a cast of actors that flawlessly transition their characters through gradual, subtle development that may be lost on some viewers... Which, if you’re monolingual like I am, makes it the better option. Johnny Yong Bosch pulls off what may be one of his best roles ever as Kiba, the leader of the pack, adding emotional depth to a character who could have easily been portrayed as bland and by-the-numbers. Crispin Freeman faced a similar problem, playing an all-out tsundere character... Tsume is probably one of the best uses of the tsundere trope, and Crispin brings his trademarked sincerity to every single step of it. Joshua Seth takes the loveable slacker Hige through some reveals that will honestly leave you speechless once you reach them, and Steve Blum’s Darcia will earn your sympathy as well as your terror, sometimes in the same breath.
The only real problem I have with the dub is Tomoe, played by veteran Mona Marshall... Not because of her performance, which was outstanding, but because no matter how many times I hear her do it, I can’t buy her as a young boy. The rest of the cast is very natural sounding and subdued, with special emphasis on Kari Wahlgren, Jessica Straus, and an insane cameo from Beau Billingslea halfway through. Despite the caliber of the starring cast, the best performance is probably that of Tom Wyner, who plays Quent Yaiden, an old alcoholic who’s sworn vengeance on the wolves for... He believes... Burning down his village and murdering his family, long ago.
I mentioned earlier that Studio Bones has some very consistent tendencies in terms of their animation. Well, the same can be said, at least in their early years, about the stories they took on. Wolf’s Rain is the third of several consecutive Bones projects that deal with deep, introspective ideas about faith and humanity, as well as the idea of there being another world parallel to our own. It’s also easily the most mature of the group, at least as far as I’ve seen. It has a very slow pace, but it’s rarely boring, as it spend most of it’s time developing and exploring the intriguing cast of characters and the complex, mysterious world around them.
There are very few big moments throughout the bulk of the show, but when they happen, they happen in huge, climactic ways, taking every possible advantage of the build-up and development that lead to them. It is thanks to the slow, almost meandering suspense that those big moments... Whether they be triumphant, heart-warming, or excruciatingly tragic, are able to work as effectively as they do. You’ll find yourself pumping your fist with every insurmountable obstacle they overcome, from a battle with a giant walrus to the conquering of their own inner demons, and you’ll find yourself crying on more than one occasion as the harsh world around them constantly tests the strength of their bond, and no, this series is not afraid to rip out your heart and stomp on it.
On the surface, this is a very simple, easy to follow story. Well, mostly easy, the villain stuff can get a bit complicated. The wolves and their journey to paradise can be taken purely at face value while still being an entertaining watch. However, watching with your brain turned off will NOT give you the full experience, and it’ll probably leave you unsatisfied with the ending. I’m not the first person to point this out... Far from it, at this point... But there is a wealth of depth, symbolism, and meaning hidden beneath the snowy surface of this series, and while a lot of it finds it’s roots in Buddhism, there is material for any viewer of any faith to latch onto.
I won’t go into the religious stuff... It’s way too spoilertastic for this review... But what I can go into is the most accessible theme that the series has to offer. That theme, ultimately, is the struggle to find fulfillment. As the wolves press on through the apocalyptic world, they constantly have to decide whether to continue their journey, facing unrelenting hardships in the pursuit of something greater, or to quit, settle down in a town and just exist. This dilemma is explored dozens of times through those that they meet on their journey, with entire civilizations leading stagnant existence devoid of purpose to other wolves who’ve put aside their pride and sold themselves into manual labor just to get by. Is it better to live a long life of complacency, or is it better to die in pursuit of a greater, more meaningful path? Does true happiness come through survival, or struggle? Wolf’s Rain puts forth it’s own definitive answer to this question, and makes several very strong cases for what it has to say, but it also leaves just enough ambiguity to keep the debate alive in your mind long after the series is over.
Unfortunately, the show isn’t perfect... There are two rather glaring flaws in it that even the most appreciative viewer will have to acknowledge. First of all, this is the only series I’ve ever seen that has four... Yes, four... recap episodes placed right in the middle of the series. If you have the officially released Complete collection DVD set, this recap takes up the entire fourth disk, and Wolf’s Rain catches a lot of flack for it. As it turns out, this wasn’t a conscious choice on the part of the creators... When Wolf’s Rain was going through its initial Japanese run, there was a SARS outbreak that incapacitated the majority of the people working at the studio. Short on man-power, the four recap episodes were put out to fill up the show’s time slot until they could get back on their feet again. It’s a pretty damn good excuse, all things considered, and one that’s worthy of a little understanding.
And to be perfectly honest, even before learning that fact, I’ve watched this series multiple times without ever skipping them. That’s not to say they’re not skippable... They totally are... But as far as recap episodes go, they’re remarkably well put together, and each one tells a chunk of the story through the voice of a different supporting character. They’re a waste of time, but they’re pleasant, and I can’t really find it in me to criticize them.
What I can criticize, however, is my other problem with the series... The wolves’ illusions are entirely inconsistent. There’s a scene very early on where a young boy is about to fall to his death, and a wolf(in disguise) tries to catch him. Lacking real arms, he tries to catch him the way a human would, only to end up catching him in his jaws, killing him. This implies... Nay, straight up confirms... That they can’t interact with people and objects the way that people can, and can only act in ways that are physically possible for a wolf. Well, then, how do they punch and kick things? How can you explain a scene where one wolf punches another through the bars of a cage? How do they hold knives to peoples’ throats? It’s not a big problem, but it still bothers me.
Wolf’s Rain is available from Geneon entertainment, and the rights to it have not yet been rescued by company that’s still in business, which of course means the series is entirely out of print. You can find the collection online, but they’re not cheap, and you’ll be lucky if you find a playable copy for less than sixty dollars. At the same time, I don’t believe there are any legal sites streaming for it, so your options are kind of limited here... I don’t personally condemn the purchase of more affordable Malaysian DVDs, as I’m pretty sure it’s not illegal to do so, but those things are shady as hell, and it’s about a fifty-fifty shot as to whether or not they work. I don’t necessarily condone illegal streaming, either, but if you don’t have the cash to pony up, that might just be your only option. Hopefully Funimation will scoop it up and release it as a classic, but until that day, it’s the pirate’s life for ye!
Wolf’s Rain is a very mature show... And I mean that in terms of actual maturity, not ‘M-Rated’ maturity... And as such, it demands a very mature audience. You have to show it some degree of patience, and a willingness to understand the material, so it may not resonate with everybody. People who are looking for bombastic action, a clear definition of good and evil, easy answers and a happy-sappy ending that ties everything up in a nice big bow... For example, the “Brotherhood is better” crowd... Should probably avoid this title, as it’s likely to just put them to sleep. For those of you who are looking for a profound experience that will challenge and maybe even enlighten you, Wolf’s Rain is just what the doctor ordered. I can’t give it a perfect score, due to a few small issues and it’s lack of accessibility, but I see no problem giving this dreamlike wonder a 9/10.