This review covers both Wolf's Rain and the Wolf's Rain ova.
Wow, I really wasn't expecting to like this series as much as I did. Wolf's Rain is a rather cheesy anime with strange pacing changes and a mediocre plot. But what makes a series work as a whole? The answer to that is easy, it was just enjoyable. The characters, the atmosphere, every little detail was somehow able to hold this anime together.
Let's start with the story. Simply put, it's not that great from a technical standpoint. The story begins with a wolf named Kiba's thoughts about paradise. No one knows exactly what paradise is, but obviously all believe it to be the most most wonderful, perfect place in existence. It is said in the mysterious Book of the Moon that wolves will be the ones to reach paradise. That is what the entire story revolves around, wolves (and people) trying to find paradise. Not exactly the most creative plot, and the execution is a problem as well. Two-thirds of the story is slow, it goes very slow and then after 4 recap episodes (really guys?) the pacing picks up speed. I'll go more into the story later.
The animation quality is quite good. It was made in 2003, so its age is noticable, but it's still pretty darn good. Especially the wolves, the wolves look great and move with amazingly well-done animal anatomy and action. The human characters also look pretty good and all have different, defining features. The backgrounds are detailed and there are not a whole lot of still shots used to waste up time.
The music. My god the music is wonderful. From the rather dated, but still catchy opening "Stray" to the beautiful ending theme "Gravity" to all of the great background music, wolf's rain had a superb soundtrack. There are also many subtle but spot on sound effects, usually more noticable during battles, with splashes of blood, the clicking of guns, and sometimes (like near the end) snapping of bone (ugh, I'll never forget that scene...) being prominent.
Now for the really important stuff. The story, as I said earlier, was problematic. The Book of the Moon and the legend of paradise is not exactly explored in full, nor are the wolves. Most of the anime is about the group of four pretty-boy wolves, Kiba, Toboe, Tsume, and Hige running around to many different places, and the side characters Hub, Cher, Quent, and Blue searching for the stolen flower maiden and the wolves. In a way, the side characters seem unimportent to the main story, as they somewhat end up helping the protagonists, but mostly deter them (Mainly Quent doing this by trying to shoot them.) As someone once said (Don't remember who, sorry.) the anime seems to have side characters just to show that it has side characters. This does not mean that those characters were bad at all, though. Cher was a strong scientist searching for the flower maiden with the persistent Hub following her every step of the way. Their relationship was interesting, as they were torn apart by work and called off the marraige they had planned. Quent was even more interesting with his manic desire to murder every wolf left alive because they killed his family (well... ) along with his trusty dog Blue. As for the wolves themselves, their personalities seem to work well together. Tsume is the tough, hard to convince, city wolf who says he despises humans. Hige is laid back, seemingly careless, and just goes with what goes. Toboe is the little one, the runt, who loves humans and is always positive and working to keep the group together. Oddly enough, Kiba, the main wolf, is the hardest to describe. He seems somewhat cliched, though quite likeable as well. Cheza, the flower maiden, is a strange creature. Born from lunar flowers, they say she is the key to opening paradise. She refers to herself in the third person "this one" and has strange healing abilities. All of the wolves are attracted to her (not sexually though, there is no real romance going on. Even Hub and Cher feel like just an old fling, but one that still tries to hold its roots) and are drawn in to the scent of lunar flower. As for the evil characters, they are certainly well-defined as such. The two main nobles, Lord Darcia and Lady Jaguara, are both after the key to paradise, though they are also working to stop each other. SPOILER The reason for this is later explained by Lord Darcia's love, Hamona, who is basically in a coma due to paradise sickness. END SPOILER
The major problem with the story, as mentioned, was how slow it goes. I love slow-paced animes, but there is a time and place for such pacing. In a drama anime about finding the place of eternal happiness, it seems somewhat out of place. There seemed to be some filler (Definitely the four recap episodes, but I ended up skipping those both times I watched it) especially near the middle. SPOILER The deadly forest with the wierd pointless talking owl, the false paradise Kiba sees in his paralyzed state in the desert, just to name some that I remember. END SPOILER Now, these are not that bad, as far as filler goes, but they break the flow of the anime up a bit. They have some important elements, but could have been done better.
Now the ending. My god, the ending. This seems to be a love it or hate it ending and I absolutely loved every minute of it. No spoilers, but it gets pretty damn tragic. It made me emotional in all four of the last episodes, almost as much as AnoHana did, and that is saying something. It is a happy ending, also a sad ending. Optimistic, but pessimistic. Nothing changes, yet everything changes. Words can't accurately describe what happens: it must be seen. To me it was one of the most amazing endings of any anime, and I could not see Wolf's Rain going out on a perfectly happy "all-is-well" ending at all.
In the opening theme, the line is sung "Stray, no regret 'cause I've got nothing to lose."
That one line sums up the bittersweet journey that is Wolf's Rain.
TL;DR - An interesting but flawed drama anime that holds an atmosphere that seems much more lost and sad, and less filled with fanservice and action than one would expect out of the show. Quite a nice surprise, really.
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!
Wow, so there's so much to say about this wonderful anime that I don't even know where to start! Between the characters, the ending, the plot, the subjectivity to all aspects of the story, I can't possibly begin anywhere! Just know that I'm listening to this anime's awesome soundtrack while typing this. Anyway, my true interest in Wolf's Rain is with the very interesting (and equally controversial) ending. Wolf's Rain is the only anime that I've seen so far to kill off allof its characters; that being said, it's also one of the few animes I've seen to not kill of any characters!
So you're sitting there wondering what the hell I'm talking about, right?
Thing is, Wolf's Rain is so laced with twists and turns that much happens and the nature of its plot can be linked to very real existential, post-Socratic and scientific theories and concepts today that turns the facts upside down. And that is the basis of my review: To link this wonderful anime to real, established philosphical thought. But before that, how about a quick overview?
In a nutshell, the story focuses around "Kiba," a fiercely proud white wolf who is attracted from the mountains to the city due to the smell of a Lunar Flower. At the city, he meets the social pariah that is Tsume, who maintains that he's "a strong independent wolf who don't need no man." Kiba later teams up with the cheeky Hige, who tells him that "pride means nothing if he [Kiba] is dead." Finally, Toboe, the youngest wolf, joins the clan and we have ourselves a little canine family. In the peripherals is scientist Cher who works for Lord Orkham, a Noble. Her ex-husband, Hubb, spends the entierity of the series searching for her as he is still in love with her. Also, there is Quent, a tenacious wolf-hunter who holds a grudge against wolves for supposedly ravaging his home and killing his wife and son, Ruus. His companion, Blue, is a half dog/wolf (much to nobody's knowledge) and the duo cause early troubles for the group at the beginnnings of the series. So remember that Lunar Flower that I made reference to? Well that happens to be personified by a "supple maiden" named Cheza who was biologically engineered from Lunar Flowers as a means to access an eternal realm known as "Paradise." This Paradise holds a magnetic force over the wolves and when their innate impulse to seek it out becomes apparent, it signifies the end of the earth as we know it. Kiba, Hige, Cheza, Tsume and Toboe (and later with the additions of Blue, Hubb, Quent and Cher) seek out Paradise at all costs, much to the chagrin of antagonist Darcia.
So now that the introduction is over, it's time to do some linking. Basically, Wolf's Rain brings up some interesting concepts pertaining to different worlds, that is, "Paradise," "Earth" and an "Imperfect Paradise" (Noble's paradise.) This idea is also seen in the Greek philoshopher Plato's theories outlined in his book known as The Republic. In this work, Plato outlines that here in the real realm (yes, the one containing you, I and my rickity keyboard) there are two dimensions: The imperfect world, and the eternal world. Earth as we know it is the imperfect world and everything on it is but a mere copy of the beings, objects and forms seen on the eternal world. However, the human soul, according Plato, is a derivative of the eternal world and is simply trapped within the physical and subordinate human body -- an imperfect copy of those seen in the eternal world. When we die, our souls return to the eternal world and glimpse at it, briefly, before returning to inhabit another human being. The fact our souls have seen the perfect beings of the eternal world is where our perception of perfection comes from; this is how we can perceive a "perfect circle" or a "perfectly beautiful person."
So how does this link into Wolf's Rain? Well while I was watching the series, the characters continued to say that Kiba was "the chosen one" and I couldn't really understand why. I mean, why him? Who chose him? What did he do the merit being chosen? Think back to when Kiba died; when Cheza brought about the new world, a pure Eden, Kiba glimpsed at paradise, or in other words, the world before becoming tainted. Then, Darcia's taint takes over, spreads, and the cycle begins again. But look! This is why Kiba's urge to seek out Paradise is so much stronger than Tsume's, Hige's and Toboe's, he has (or at least, his soul has) seen the perfect Paradise and so he is called to it, just as our souls have seen the eternal world and are called to perfection. If you remember, the other 3 members of the pack were slain before seeing the early stages of the new world and so are not as drawn to it as Kiba, who has a subconscious memory of the place in his soul, in his being.
Basically, the setting of Wolf's Rain is subject to a cycle: Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth, and Kiba is the only character from the old world to briefly witness the creation of the new world (Paradise). Our progression towards death is defined by the maturity of our taint -- a taint of which comes about from Darcia. Now, for the 2nd link. This idea of "birth, life, death and rebirth" has religious origins and a scientific origin. Before I go on, I apologize in advance for nerding out on you! In the religious origin, we can look to Hinduism where Shiva and co give birth to life, maintain it and destroy it. This trio creates a cycle wherein life comes, sustains and dies, just as life did in the anime. The scientific origin goes back to the Big Bang, in a theory called "The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics." This is a concept wherein the universe eventually comes to contain too much chaos (entropy) and reaches "heat-death" where it destroys itself and starts anew. The anime actually tricks you about its concept of Paradise until the very end; We think that this place is like Plato's "perfect" and "imperfect" worlds where the wolves need to cross from the latter and into the formal where they can preserve life and proliferate there. As Hubb and Cher theorized, humans could maybe even live on in this eternal world, right? Well, sort of. The thing is, the eternal world (paradise) and the imperfect world (as we know it) aren't separate from each other as Kiba and Darcia thought. Instead, they are one and are only separated by timing. You see, at the early stages of the world before corruption and before taint (Bibically speaking, Adam's doing during Genesis or in this case "Darcia's" doing) it was Paradise. This was the world seen just after Cheza died and as Kiba sank into the water. However, as time went on, Paradise became more and more corrupted by Darcia's taint (or entropy/sin whatever you want to call it) and so it became the earth as we know it, where murders and injustices take place and animals kill each other. You see, these worlds are of the same tissue: Paradise is like you as a baby, before you held any discriminations or hatreds towards people and life, and Earth as we know it is you now, who retains the aforementioned traits.
So a lot of people complained about the slaughter of every character and I can't wholeheartedly blame them. However, just know that the characters in the sense of their essence, did not die. Each of them will live on within this cycle of life and death however the Hige and Toboe of thatparticaular world, the one we watched come to an end -- yes, they died. And when the cycle matures, they will die again. And again. And again, for this if their fate. That's how it goes. But remember that in each death of our beloved characters, they carried something new into the next world. Toboe brought devotion and care (bolstered by the fact he was tending to a kitten in the new world.) Tsume brought power and endurance. Hige brought humor, love and the ability to be redeemed into the new world and Kiba brought heroism and morality. Cheza brought nature, life, and birth while Darcia brought corruption, chaos and death. As long as Cheza and Darcia's essences are carried into the next worlds, the cycle will continue. Cher and Hubb bring forward the human race, companionship and righting your wrongs (in that they both agreed that never should have divorced.) Quent brought realization and gratitude. Everyone carried forward something different to the new world.
When Kiba said "there's no such thing as Paradise," he meant it in that the Paradise as he thought of it didn't exist. As I said, he thought of it Plato-style in that there were two definitive worlds when all along, Paradise was the past -- the world before the taint spread -- and the world that he would glimpse at during his own death and would strive to find, over and over again during his life.
What's interesting is that Paradise is unattainable for every character in the story. Only Kiba gets a glimpse of it during his death but he doesn't get to indulge in it. In a way, he is the most depaired as the others all settle for personal Paradises (Toboe and the Granny; Hige and Blue staying together etc) and he is forced to chase this ideal forever, even in the next world and the world after that. I think the message in the anime is that everyone has a Paradise-like life envisioned for his/herself, but that vision never comes true for any of us exactly as we picture it; we can glimpse at it sometimes as Kiba did, but we can never hold onto it. This is because we always strive for more, beyond what we already have. But when we learn to appreciate what we have, only then can we be content in Paradise -- Toboe is an example of this, as his death told us that his Paradise differed from the conventional one that Kiba obsessed over and all he wanted was Granny, affection, and someone to scratch behind his ear.
So anyway, if you've gotten this far and managed to survive Plato, The Cycle of Life, and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics then I wholly salute you! I hope you carry that trait onto the next world :')
This is one of my favorite animes and I hope you all enjoyed it too. Any questions? Leave a comment!
EDIT: So it's been almost a day since I finished this series and I can't get it out of my mind. I often wish real-life was as vivid as the world conveyed in Wolf's Rain *sigh.*
The anime itself was very good, but you had to wonder about the story. There was but wasn;t a geniune plot- get to paradise it was supposed to be, but it always seemed to drift away into sideplots then suddenly come back every few episodes.
The artwork for this anime was amazing. The settings were always different and never left you confused, and nearly every detail was perfect. The complicated movements while the wolves fought was flawless. The post-apocalyptic setting was very well shown with many run-down cities (which never looked the same!). Plenty of interesting angles.
Sound by far was the very best. The soundtrack was very fitting of the anime and incredibly good. The music never seems out of place and never blocks out the character's voices. Definitely my favorite OST.
Some of the characters seem cheesy and can be slightly annoying at times, but each of them have a great backstory with unique individual personalities. They have interesting appearances as well.
I tend to think this anime is looked over a lot. It's got great art, an even better OST, and still an extremely likeable, serious plot.
A little heavy at times, but very very good
Absolutely awesome to look at, fits perfectly
The music is excellent; it fits to every part of the show. The dub for this anime is one of the best around
A little cliché at times, but still good
Excellent, but have something light-hearted lined up afterward to watch