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.*