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Anime Info

Creator: A Bones Studio Production
Director: Tensai Okamura
Genre: Post Apocalyptic Fantasy
Length: 26 Episodes + 4 OVA

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Summary

+ Beautiful animation
+ Awesome soundtrack
– Story line is old and boring
– Too many flashbacks
+/– Like Excaliber with wolves

Overview

Anime producers may hate to admit this, but there are other plots and themes available than the basic quest for enlightenment or paradise. Wolf's Rain is a well made re-tooling of this overly familiar theme. Once the basic plot is established in the early episodes there is nothing to do but sit back and wait for the inevitable set pieces, fights, chases, and moment of salvation. However, the series is almost worth watching for the beautiful and haunting musical score.

Public Rating

Our Rating

Score of 3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Wolf's Rain Anime Review

Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 4/7/2008

Introduction

When civilization crumbles into dust, who will lead us to Paradise? That has been a central theme of religion and myth for thousands of years and it is the central theme of the anime television series Wolf's Rain. Created by Keiko Nobumoto of Cowboy Bebop fame and produced by Bones Studio, Wolf's Rain combines elements of Eastern and Western mythology with elements of post apocalyptic science fiction to tell the story of a small pack of wolves tracking after a mystical flower maiden that it is thought will lead them to Paradise. Set 200 years in the future, when wolves are thought to be extinct, Wolf's Rain follows its lupine heroes from the city and across a futuristic wasteland as they battle a fanatical wolf hunter, humans who would possess the secret of paradise for themselves, and the elements as they valiantly struggle on their epic quest.

Review

Wolf's Rain takes place in a post apocalyptic world that is all too familiar from other science fiction themed movies and TV series. Those who have seen such diverse series and films as Ergo Proxy, Appleseed, and Akira will instantly recognize the setting. The survivors of some unnamed disaster have moved into a handful of cities where they struggle to eke out a living just above that of 19th century Russian peasants or slowly die of boredom in a supposed utopia. Meanwhile, elite scientists seek a path to paradise by exploring a scientific mystery left behind by the previous generation. Add to this mix a prophecy that when civilization crumbles, paradise will arrive on Earth but only the wolves will see it, a hero on a sacred quest, a fanatical wolf hunter, the belief that wolves have gone extinct, and a gang of thieves right out of the Mad Max movies and you have the basic plot elements of this series.

The central figure in this mess of a plot is Kiba, a white wolf on a sacred mission to find the Lunar Flower and open the way to Paradise. Except for being a wolf, Kiba is a knight-errant drawn directly from chivalric romance. As the story begins his travels have brought him to a city in the far north where everyone believes wolves are extinct and the prophecy is only half remembered as a child's fairy tale. Overcome by fatigue, Kiba falls asleep in hollow beneath a tree in the middle of a run down city park. The park turns out to be the turf of a gang of thieves lead by the Clint Eastwood-esque Tsume. Believing Kiba to be a dead dog, the gang members contemplate eating him or selling him on the black market. Kiba awakes and kills two of the gang members before being drawn off by Tsume. As they fight away from humans, it is revealed that Tsume is also a wolf. Wolves aren't extinct, the majority of them live as humans, disguising themselves with illusionary magic. The ability of certain animals to live amongst humans by casting illusions is common among the myths, legends, and folk beliefs of much of Asia, and has found its way into many anime series. In Isao Takahata's charming film, Pom Poko with its strong ecological message this ability as used by the raccoon dog heroes of that story is used as a funny, charming, and occasionally heart breaking device. In Wolf's Rain, it is perhaps the only interesting touch. The fight between Tsume and Kiba is interrupted by a young member of the gang trying to get in Tsume's good graces and Kiba wanders further into the city.

Meanwhile, scientists studying Cheza, a young woman being kept alive in suspended animation, are astounded by the fact that she seems to be gaining consciousness through some unknown catalyst. Cheza, also known as the Flower Maiden, has been artificially created through the lost art of alchemy (yes, alchemy) and it is thought the she will be key to finding Paradise. Elsewhere in the city, Kiba has encountered and been shot by the fanatical and mysterious Quent Yaiden, an ex-sheriff from a destroyed village whose family was killed, or so he believes, by a pack of wolves. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Yaiden believes wolves still exist, using their illusory magic to trick humans and must be destroyed. Yaiden is arrested for discharging his hunting rifle within city limits and Kiba is taken to police headquarters for study. Kiba is brought to the attention of Cher Dugre a scientist working on the Cheza Project by her ex-husband, Detective Hubb Lebowski. Dugre believes there must be some connection between the wolf and Cheza; she is determined to find out. However, before she make a close inspection of him, Kiba is set free by a disguised wolf named Hige who sneaks into the Police Department by pretending to be a janitor. As the first episode comes to an end, Kiba swallows his pride, takes on human form, and disappears into the city with Hige.

Show More As the second episode opens, we are introduced to fourth wolf who will become a member of Kiba's makeshift pack. Toboe is a young wolf who came to the city as a cub and was raised by an old woman. He is young, naïve, and of the most trusting of humans – even going so far trying to befriend a young girl who gave him some sausages while he after he was unsuccessful scavenging from the garbage. Meanwhile, after an unsuccessful raid on a government distribution facility, the members of Tsume's gang desert him, deciding that they would rather leave town than associate with the strange and distant Tsume – it doesn't help that the government has begun cracking down on drifters and petty thugs in the wake of the raids on government facilities. At the same time, Kiba and Hige use these mass arrests as a way to break into the facility where Kiba believes he will find Cheza. Once inside the government facility, Hige and Kiba break out their cell and sneak into the laboratory just in time to see Cheza being carried off by the mysterious and cloaked Darcia – a member of a cursed family of nobles who believes Cheza is the key to a cure for his lover's so-called Paradise Sickness.

There's nothing particularly new or original about Wolf's Rain. If you have ever read any of the stories from Arthurian legends or seen any of the movies derived from them such as Excalibur, read novels such as Watership Down, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Lord of the Rings, or watched any of a dozen similar anime series, you will instantly recognize this story. It's as if manga and anime creators have latched onto a single myth and are obsessed with retelling it in endless variations. The quest for paradise, the search for redemption is one of mankind's oldest myths but there are other stories to be told and it is about time anime producers found them.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series is the way it incorporates mythic archetypes into a science fiction framework. The four heroes of the series each represent an aspect of a wolf, their names being the Japanese terms for "Fang" (Kiba), "Claw" (Tsume), "Whisker" (Hige), and "Howling" (Toboe). Separately they are flawed, troubled, and often overwhelmed by various problems. Together they are strong and function almost as a single, complete wolf. At the same time they fulfill recognizable mythic archetypes. Tsume, the scarred loner was exiled from his pack for cowardice – he fled a battle when the pack was attacked by human soldiers and was savaged by the pack's alpha male before being driven away. He is filled with self loathing, trusts no one, and has tried (and failed) to create a substitute pack as the leader of a gang of thieves. He is convinced to join Kiba's quest for Paradise by Toboe but at first doubts Kiba's stories about it – he is a lupine parallel to Sir Lancelot as depicted in stories of the Holy Grail.

Show More
Hige is a trickster. Often jovial and a womanizer, Hige usually uses his brains to achieve his goals such as sneaking into police headquarters, stealing food, and fitting into human society. Toboe is equivalent to Percival from Arthurian legend. Naive and innocent, he is often plagued by blunders such as accidentally killing a pet hawk that belonged to a girl who befriended him or freezing in fear when he should be fighting. However, he is also kind towards the hunter Quent and helps him realize that wolves are not the evil threat that he once believed but are only dangerous to humans when they are unnecessarily provoked. Kiba, the de facto alpha male of the group, could be equated with Galahad. While the other wolves don't necessarily believe in Paradise, they are eventually swayed by Kiba's undying faith in its existence and his devotion to his goals. As in the Grail legends, it is through intuition rather than intellect that he finally achieves his destiny and achieves Paradise and the promised regeneration of the planet.

The most original aspect of the series is its musical score created by Yoko Kanno. Kanno is well known for her scores for a variety of anime series including Cowboy Bebop, Vision of Escaflowne, Macross Plus, and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Her music combines diverse elements including rock, jazz, and classical. Her score for Wolf's Rain brings together elements of classical, world music, and folk sounds to give the series a universal mythic quality. Unlike some other series which rely heavily on over synthesized J-pop, Wolf Rain's world beat inspired score actually helps tell the story – sometimes propelling scenes forward better than either the dialog or action.

Conclusion

Kiba Wolf's Rain is a competently produced series that while entertaining, doesn't break any new ground. The question of who will lead us to Paradise and rebirth when the world ends is as old as the human race. Anime producers have been using it as a theme for science fiction and fantasy based anime for almost as long. Setting such series in a crumbling city of the future is as old as anime. The use of wolves as protagonists doesn't provide nearly the novelty that the producers may have hoped as the lupine heroes still neatly fit into established archetypes. In the end however, those who may choose to view this series will not suffer for the experience – they won't gain much either but at least they will have had a chance to hear some more of Yoko Kanno's excellent and evocative music.

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