Critic's Log - Earthdate: January 29, 2013. Review #32: Wolf's Rain
Some people thought that the world was going to end on December 21, 2012. We are still here. For the last three weeks, the pastor of my church was discussing about the End Times and The Book of Revelation. A topic that many Christians find a little unsettling. The pastor at my church mentioned about the End times in response to the 2012 Phenomenon. A while back I was Looking at my list of animes that I will review. This anime was high up there and I thought this would be fitting for me to go over this one. Oh, Hold on a second! This isn't going to be the ONLY ANIME this month that I'm reviewing that had apocalyptic settings! I previously reviewed Evangelion 1.0 and 2.0 and those have some apocalyptic moments (sort of) Gee, me going to church and hearing about the End Times and reviewing anime that have Apocalyptic imagery and so forth sure does feels like the timing is no coincidence. With that said, Let's journey into Paradise with Wolf's Rain!
In some distant future and in another time, It was commonly known that all wolves have been extinct for 200 years. However, it seems this is not true as wolves have not vanished to the ends of the earth but rather have taken human form. Kiba, a lone wolf, wanders into a city, trying to sniff out the Lunar Flowers that are supposed to lead whoever follows the scent to Paradise. The source of the smell is Cheza (who is referred to as the Flower Maiden), a girl who sleeps in what appears to be suspended animation in a lab. She and the wolves are drawn to each other, and Kiba hopes to find Paradise once he finds the source of the scent of Lunar Flowers. However, once Kiba finds Cheza, she is kidnapped by a mysterious man named Darcia, and his search begins anew. Before he leaves the city, he meets 3 other wolves, Tsume, Hige and Toboe. All four wolves have very different personalities and ideas, and their friendliness towards each other is a little rough around the edges. However, they soon band together in a pack to continue to search for Paradise.
To be technical, this is a Studio Bones production and I can honestly say that the animation in this show is absolutely gorgeous to look at. And Studio Bones really turned Wolf's Rain as a visual tour de force in both quality and symbolism. Guess what? This isn't the only anime that year to get high remarks. Fullmetal Alchemist started later that same year and it was also made by Studio Bones. 2003 proved to be a wonderful year for Studio Bones. It's been ten years since Wolf's Rain started and the show has aged beautifully.
I know you Otakus know full well that Yoko Kanno is responsible for the soundtrack on Wolf's Rain, so stating the obvious can not be helped. The music is... by Yoko Kanno and I don't think there's anything else that hasn't been said about her. She is a talented musician and I think everyone agrees on that, but here's my thought about her regarding this show. I do think Yoko Kanno's music is magnificent in most of the shows she's involved in, Wolf's Rain is one of her best scores in any anime out there. The soundtrack's approach is similar to Cowboy Bebop in terms of mashing in more than one genre for the entirety of the series. There's even a little jazz in it. Steve Conte who was involved in Cowboy Bebop sings the opening theme "Stray" which is nice. Mai Yamane has a song in the soundtrack which she was greatly involved in the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop. Maaya Sakamoto (a friend of Kanno-san) sings the Closing theme "Gravity" which is a beautiful closing theme on my book. Sakamoto-san's vocals and Kanno-san's piano just strikes all chords for just that particular theme and compliments the show greatly. Kanno-san even uses orchestral themes which really gives the soundtrack the icing on the cake. Kanno-san's soundtrack to Wolf's Rain greatly compliments the show. It simply is a soundtrack worth listening to without the show.
When it comes to voice acting, the Japanese cast is a solid listen. I should point out that there are some good seiyus in the subbed version. Mamoru Miyano is great as Kiba, Akio Suyama is fine as Hige, Kenta Miyake is great as Tsume, and Hiroki Shimowada is not bad as Toboe (pronounced "To-bo-eh"). There are some worthy seiyus such as Unshou Ishizuka, Maaya Sakamoto, Mayumi Asano, and Norio Wakamoto. Like I said, the Subbed version is a solid listen, then there's the dub. Wolf's Rain has one of the best dubs ever made. I think most people might agree on this. If you're a purist, I strongly suggest trying the dub here because it truly doesn't disappoint. Wolf's Rain has big names, and even some voice actors that aren't as big. When it comes to my format of reviews, I usually mention the standout performances and mention some others, I can't do that with Wolf's Rain because every single voice actor in the dub, big or small leave a great impression even if some of them got 5 minutes in the entirety of the series. Some voice actors even play outside their usual typical roles. Johnny Yong Bosch is terrific as Kiba, Joshua Seth is great as the street-wise Hige, Crispin Freeman is spot-on as Tsume, and Mona Marshall is wonderful as Toboe. Kari Wahlgren is also great as Cher, Robert Buchholz is also spot-on as Hubb. Tom Wyner is also a delight to listen to as the drunken marksman Quent. Sherry Lynn plays Cheza quite well and might be her most famous and best role in her career. Jessica Straus is also great, too bad she hasn't been active these days. Last but not least, there's Steve Blum as the noble Darcia. Mr. Blum's performance in Wolf's Rain really left a big impression and it is simply one of his best roles in an anime and (if not) the best villian performance in his career. Beside the standout performances, This dub has other voice actors and actresses such as Beau Billingslea, Bridget Hoffman, Dave Wittenberg, Jamieson Price, Kirk Thornton, Liam O'Brien, Michael Lindsay, Michelle Ruff, Peggy O'Neal, Peter Spellos, Skip Stellrecht, William Frederick Knight, and then there's Mary Elizabeth McGlynn who was the voice of Lady Jaguara. All the performances are great and really did make Wolf's Rain having one of the best dubs in an anime and Mary Elizabet McGlynn was responsible for this dub and she previously did the Cowboy Bebop dub prior to Wolf's Rain, I think she is a great ADR director for dubbed animes. I think I've said quite enough of the dub. It's terrific.
Now that I've mentioned about the great production value and the dub being top dog, you're thinking of the more important stuff like characters and story. That's where it gets somewhat debatable here. Before I discuss this, I just want to point out that I am going to credit Hope Chapman for the following since she pointed this intriguing topic on Wolf's Rain. Allow me to explain who Hope Chapman is. She reviews animes and she goes by JesuOtaku and she has her own thing called The JesuOtaku Anime Review and so forth. Ms. Chapman has reviewed Wolf's Rain and she said in her review that Wolf's Rain takes place in a complex fantasy world with a rich history. The way the show portrays its history seems like it doesn't want to share it directly. She mentioned further that this is good to give more focus on the characters. I agree with this. I won't go into much detail since this is supposed to be my own personal review. If there is one last thing I want to credit Ms. Chapman for, it's that there are a lot of things that the viewer should try understanding and she commented that it isn't easy to figure it all out because Wolf's Rain is an allegory where everything is symbolic. She further said that Wolf's Rain crossreferences several religions and mythologies to portray a unified theme. Now that I've credited her enough to some degree, now this whole review is under my jurisdiction regarding my analysis on Wolf's Rain. I actually like the approach to all this because it leaves room for interpretation and gives the show high re-watch value too. The direction by Tensai Okamura is an interesting one.
Here's what I think of the characters in this show. Kiba is our main protagonist in the series and I almost had a problem with this guy until I saw further into the story because I almost saw Kiba as a shallow character at times. I'm not sure what else to say about the guy, the more mystery the better I guess. Hige is street-wise and laid-back, I actually liked Hige from the start. Tsume is pretty much the stereotypical angry loner, Tsume actually gets away with this because he's actually a pretty good character as the story progresses, not to mention he was badass from the start. Then there's Toboe, He's the runt of the group but he's a great character as well. If you stick around later in the series, you're in for quite the surprise. As far as human characters go, Cher is pretty interesting as the story progresses, same goes for Hubb and Quent. Hubb is definitely the gentleman of the series while Quent was probably the most interesting human character for me in this series. As far as the nobles, There's Lady Jaguara, I decided to just keep Lady Jaguara silent on this one, and last but not least there's Darcia and Oh My... This guy was quite the interesting one too.
I want to at least mention about the story, I got to admit that my reviews from square one have been formulaic as hell and that's because it's my little routine to make my reviews easy to write down while analyzing. I usually mention the sypnosis of the show first and talk about my afterthought of the story last. I don't think it necessarily matters at this point. I can honestly say that there's not much Icould say about the story because it is a little hard to explain about the whole thing. What I can say is that it is an incredible journey to witness as the viewer. It is heavily symbolic because the journey that these wolves are on is a spiritual one. I like how the creative staff wanted the viewers to see the journey through. I like how dynamic the characters are in terms of personality and ideals. There are times where the viewer may even connect to the character and boy, does this become extemely effective in the long run. I felt connected to the characters and I really felt sorry for Darcia losing Hamona, the woman he dearly loved. As the series progresses, the common viewer may get attached to the characters. Then along came the final 4 episodes where I guarantee that guys will end up crying like a little bitch and ladies will cry their heart out. I actually cried over moments that occur in the last 4 episodes. Think Mufasa's death plus Bambi's Mom getting shot, but a bit more tragic and heartbreaking. That just shows you that the show's doing its job and Keiko Nobumoto deserves enough credit for making the story emotional and making the characters flow with it. The ending did get some mixed opinions, I understand it's open ended and a little confusing. I do think it was all about the journey and after everything was set and written, it leads to another beginning. I actually believe they were in Paradise in the ending, just not the kind of Paradise we would expect. If there is anyissue with the show, it's the infamous recap episodes that are right in the middle of the show and I'm not sure why, consider these episodes optional since you are not missing out on anything if you skip them. Best of all, they are all on one disc. Another slight issue is that the animation does have some slight bumps from perfection, but I'm satisfied with the animation already. In the long run, Wolf's Rain turned out to be an unforgettable journey.
Before I wrap this up, I just want to point out that this review was brought to you by
Wolf's Rain was available by Bandai Entertainment and I hate to be the messenger of bad news, Wolf's Rain has become out of print, The manga illustrated by Toshitsugu Iida and written by Keiko Nobumoto is available through Viz Media. I can't say the manga is necessary to read alongside the show, but check it out if it will satisfy your curiousity.
With all that said, Wolf's Rain is an emotionally powerful journey with a complex setting, dynamic characters, a terrific soundtrack and gorgeous animation. I cannot absolutely guarantee 100% that you'll like this series to the fullest because of some things portrayed in this anime. I can say that it is purely a visual tour de force that proves itself to be a work of art. If your familiar with Doug Walker (The Nostalgia Critic) Wolf's Rain is one of his favorite shows. Like it, hate it, or be neutral about it. It's an anime that's worth seeing if you're the spiritual type or the artsy type of person, or if you like anime in general.
I give Wolf's Rain a 9.8 out of 10, it is EXCELLENT!
Feel free to comment below, and let's meet again...in Paradise
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