I’m sure you remember my mentioning Wolf’s Rain my Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood article. As I said there, Wolf’s Rain was the first “proper” anime I watched that wasn’t Pokemon.
At the time, that was quite a leap to make from a “for kids” anime that’s silly and kinda brain-dead, to Wolf’s Rain, an anime that has a lot of brain and heart contained in a short amount of episodes.
The premise of Wolf’s Rain is an interesting one. In this world, wolves are believed to have been extinct for over two hundred years and the humans live in domed cities surrounded by wasteland. Life in these domed cities ranges from slum to totalitarian nightmare, depending on the ruler of the city.
Our main characters this time around are a group of wolves, who begin as strangers before starting their journey together. It is through them that we learn there are wolves left in the world, but they have survived by learning to appear outwardly as human.
The leader of this pack is Kiba, voiced in the English dub by that-guy-you-hear-in-everything Johnny Yong Bosch. Johnny is known for his loud, shouty characters who lack any real difference from each other, but Kiba is actually the exception to this rule.
Kiba is miles from the rest of Johnny’s characters, as he is reserved, intelligent, and soft spoken. While he does have his shouty moments (it seems old Johnny can’t help himself), overall Kiba is one of Jonny’s finest performances.
The main prong of the storyline focuses on an old legend. As I mentioned earlier, the world in which we find ourselves this time is in a bit of a sorry state, and there is a vibe of “the end is nigh” hanging over the whole thing.
This ties in to the main driving point of the plot and the old legend: that when the world ends, a place known as Paradise will appear. But only the wolves will be able to find it, with the help of a mysterious woman known only as the Flower Maiden.
Kiba, eventually joined by three other wolves (although there is eventually a fourth), embarks upon this quest for the Flower Maiden and ultimately, Paradise. Naturally, this journey is far from easy. The five main characters, Kiba, Toboe, Tsume, Hige and Cheza travel across this doomed world, encountering all sorts of people and running into all sorts of trouble.
It is through them that we see just how messed up this world really is, as see the true sorry state of some of the domed cities. Along their way, they get pulled into other stories and struggles and the wolves do their best to help out as they seek clues for the direction to Paradise.
The real strength of Wolf’s Rain are its story and characters. The animation is good, but it does show it’s age as this was released in 2004. The pacing can also sometimes feel off with entire episodes dragging on with others flying past. But despite the flaws, Wolf’s Rain has kept me interested through multiple viewings.
The characters are deep and humanly flawed, each with their own backstory and personalities. They are an unlikely group of friends who are drawn together despite their difference in personalities, and they interact with each other in ways that are amusing and interesting.
The only real weakness, character wise, is Cheza. She doesn’t feel fleshed out in comparison to the others, and in comparison to the very well written wolves, she feels flat and two dimensional. Despite this, and the fantastical setting, the characters still feel grounded and real and this anime has some seriously heartbreaking moments.
Trust me when I say, one scene had me bawling like a small child, which is not easy to do. The villains and antagonists are also interesting and well written, with their own reasonings and motivations for getting in the way of the wolves’ quest. The main villain, Darcia, is intelligent, manipulative and intruiging as an adversary to the wolves, and he provides some seriously memorable scenes.
The music is also very good and fits well within the world, and I count the Wolf’s Rain soundtrack among some of my favourite anime soundtracks. A nod must also be made to the English dub, which was one of the best for it’s time and stood tall among a field of anime with terrible English voice actors. All of the actors here play their parts well, and truly make you care about these characters.
The art style is suitably bleak, really working together with the overall tone and music choices to paint this as a world that knows it’s near the end. You see ice caps, dead forests, blasted wastelands, ruined cities… all the locales truly give this world an apocalyptic feel.
All in all, Wolf’s Rain is an adult (there is a fair amount of gore), intelligent anime with a heart, which is afraid to sucker punch your feelings. Given the harsh and brutal setting, this is only appropriate.
Sadly, Wolf’s Rain is pretty hard to find legally to watch online, but it’s more than worth the effort.