Wolf's Rain: An Anime Series Review
Number of Episodes: 26 + 4 OVA's
Genre: Fantasy, adventure
Source Material: Anime Original written by Keiko Nobumoto
Love canines? Love adventures? Love good music? Then Wolf's Rain deserves the 3-episode test.
**May Contain Spoilers**
Led primarily by Kiba, the alpha wolf of the group, Tsume, Hige, Blue, and Toboe join him in rescuing Cheza, the Flower Maiden and key to opening Paradise, and follow their noses and gut instincts to wherever they "feel" like is the doorway to Rakuen. Their journey is marred with exhaustion, hunger, and constant fighting, for on their tails are Darcia, a now-crazed Noble who wants Cheza for his own personal reasons, Quent, a man hell bent on killing wolves because of what they did to his family, and Jaguara, a mighty Noble who wishes to open her own version of Paradise.
The Characters: Although Wolf's Rain boasts a moderately large cast, each character is fleshed out so well that viewers will have no trouble keeping track of them. Among the wolves you have Kiba the alpha wolf whose single-minded desire to find Paradise drives him to make the incredibly difficult journey to find Cheza, the Flower Maiden; Hige, the laid-back wolf who loves to eat; Tsume, a fiercely independent wolf who uses anger to mask his inner self; Toboe, the youngest of the pack and the one who has to grow up the fastest; and Blue, a half-wolf-half-dog mix who becomes romantically involved with Hige. Among the humans you have Cher, the beautiful scientist who has studied the Flower Maiden for years; her still-devoted ex-husband and police officer Hubb; Quent, a bitter man seeking revenge for his family, who was killed by wolves; Jaguara, a powerful Noble who wants to open a Paradise for other Nobles; and Darcia, a fallen Noble whose life is consumed by the desire to open Paradise in order save his beloved, Hamona.
Overall Impressions: When I first saw Wolf's Rain many years ago (it came out in 2003), I was immediately enamored with it because of the wolves. To be honest, I didn't even care if the story was good
or not, as long as I could see the
characters in their wolf forms. But needless to say, I was soon blown away by the world inside Wolf's Rain that I fell in love with the series completely. The well thought out characters, the beautiful (though slightly old) animation, and the wonderful background music (some of the best I've heard--"Gravity" ED by Maaya Sakamoto found here) really enhance the series and allow us to be properly set up for the emotions of an intense fight scene or a happy scene. There's a kind of apocalyptic and depressing feel to the world of Wolf's Rain, helped by the dreary and dull colors of the slums and the vast desert we often see the wolves running through. But this only allows our main characters, and especially Cheza, to shine.
Sequences involving Cheza are spectacularly animated and brightly colored, fitting for the Flower Maiden who is supposed to be the key to allowing the wolves to open Paradise. I especially love the scenes between Cheza and the wolves--they are clearly so enamored of her and so at ease when they are in her presence that you can't help but feel happy for them, especially after you've seen all the fights they've been in, trying to protect her.
The characters of Wolf's Rain also help to make this series a wonderful one to watch. Each wolf and human has his or her own baggage and share of unhappiness or tragedy, and they all have their own reason to want to find Paradise. The characters mature so much over the course of the series that you never feel like they are "made up," or one dimensional, despite the fantastical element of the anime and the plethora of characters, respectively. We accept Cheza easily as the Flower Maiden because she acts very much like a flower--delicate,
floaty, and fragile. We accept that the wolves can be what they are because they are, despite their prowess as wolves, so humanly flawed and realistically capable of being injured. We find forgiveness for Quent, even as he attempts to hunt down our main wolf pack, because we feel his pain and frustration at having everything taken away from him. Even Darcia, who goes insane at the conclusion of the anime, gains my sympathies because he is driven solely by his wish to be reunited with his love in Paradise.
Truth be told, however, Wolf's Rain is not a kind and gentle anime. The fighting is brutal, the blood is copiously spilled, and the main characters are thoroughly beaten down time and time again. Many sacrifices are made along the way to Paradise, and although I won't spoil the ending for you,
be ready for some heart squeezing moments. Yet there are still spots of lightness and laughter that shine through the violent and tenuous journey our main characters have to endure--sweet moments shared between Hubb and Cher, the adorable reunion of Hige and Blue, and Quent's redemption. These brief but achingly beautiful moments are made even more important when presented against a rather bleak backdrop of Wolf's Rain, but they certainly convey the meaning of hope well enough to the audience that we want nothing but the best outcome possible for the main characters.
If you're looking for an anime that tells a well thought out and beautifully engaging story involving canine characters and complimented by spectacular background music, then Wolf's Rain is worth adding to your list.