I might never have heard about Wolf’s Rain if not for Doug Walker, a.k.a. That Guy With The Glasses. It was only because it made the top pick in a video he made listing his favorite anime that I got interested. I wanted to see what it was about this show that got him so excited.
Well, now I know!
The Story: Man’s Best Friend Searches For Paradise
After a worldwide catastrophe, a pack of wolves are driven to seek Paradise, a mythical place of beauty and peace. However, while most human beings think wolves have gone extinct, some believe that a wolf’s entrance to Paradise will bring about the end of the world and are set to slaughter them on sight. To survive, the wolves have learned how to project illusions and disguise themselves as human beings in order to move through human settlements. But their quest remains imperiled as they try to recover the legendary Flower Maiden, whose role in the rediscovery of Paradise makes her invaluable to both the wolves and the Nobles that rule what’s left of the human race.
The Cast: Wolves Who Become Men, Men Who Become Beasts
This anime works on two solid foundations. The first solid foundation is its cast, a plethora of individuals with their own goals and bleak storylines.
The core cast is a pack of four wolves. The leader is Kiba (voiced in the English dub by Johnny Yong Bosch), who is level-headed, proud, and fiercely determined to save Cheza the Flower Maiden and reach Paradise. He’s balanced out by the cynical Tsume (voiced by Crispin Freeman), the happy-go-lucky Hige, and the young but earnest Toboe. Cheza later joins their group and is interesting only to the extent that she’s important to the prophecies about Paradise and the return of the wolves; beyond that, she hardly has any true personality.
The remaining cast is an interesting collection of human beings. The detective Hubb Lebowski plays a major role as the human protagonist and has an interesting relationship with his ex-wife Cher, a scientist who had a role in the creation of the Flower Maiden. Their romance slowly recovers over the course of the show, especially as the rest of the world falls apart around them, and seeing them interact is one of the more touching parts of the show.
There are more tragic characters like the embittered hunter Quent Yaiden, his dog Blue, and Nobles like Lord Darcia (voiced by Steven Blum) and Lady Jaguara (voiced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn). They also happen to be the main antagonists, although Quent becomes more sympathetic and closer to redemption as the show progresses and even Darcia and Jaguara are ultimately tragic and emotionally wounded people in spite of all the horrors they commit to our heroes.
The Style: Picture A Flower In The Middle Of Endless Snow…
The other key pillar supporting this show is its animation, which is beautiful. On the one hand, you have picturesque landscapes of snow, forests, mountains, and decaying cities, along with the rich detail of the Nobles’ costumes, ships, and castles. And on the other hand, you have the wolves themselves.
Because these wolves aren’t shapeshifters, the show plays around with perception a lot. Most of the time, the wolves take on a human appearance and do human things like walking upright, moving their arms, and talking through their mouths (mostly for the benefit of the human audience, for which we’re grateful!). But during fight scenes and the occasional human spotting their true form, we get a very realistic portrayal of wolves: how they look, how they run, how they pant and howl. It shows that the creators did their homework on wolf anatomy and behavior, which makes the show all the more engaging.
Final Verdict: Paradise Can Be Painful And Still Worth It
This show is beautifully animated and nicely written. The soundtrack is pretty great and the voice acting is top-notch. In some ways, it’s like Evangelion in that the entire cast is full of traumatized people and the ending is a bit bleak, though not without its silver lining. But as I felt after watching Evangelion, I loved this anime for being so dark and so detailed all the same.
Bibliography: Wolf’s Rain. Directed by Tensai Okamura. Written by Keiko Nobumoto. Bones (studio). Bandai Entertainment; Cartoon Network. January 6, 2003 – July 29, 2003.