This review has many spoilers, especially at the end.
I have many anime on my to-watch list, some more urgent than others. I always intended to watch Wolf’s Rain, but only managed to in the past week. It has one of my favorite things in it; wolves, and so of course I was going to love it, right?
Wolf’s Rain is a twenty-six episode anime (If you don’t count the four recap episodes which sucked) about four wolves searching for a mythical Paradise where wolves rule the land. Wolves are thought to to be long extinct by the human characters in the show, but they are actually hiding among them, clothed in the illusion of being human. The search for Paradise was initiated by a lone wolf named Kiba who during his journey meets the other three wolves and convinces them to head for Paradise. They are driven by the scent of lunar flowers-also extinct in the land- but the scent comes from a young woman who has been made entirely from the last of the lunar flowers; the Flower Maiden, Cheza.
I watched Wolf’s Rain via Viewster this week, an ep or three at a time late at night before bed. At first I was enthralled: wolves who could speak and flowed from human to wolf form with ease from scene to scene. And they had a purpose, a reason to fight and make their way through a strange futuristic Earth where they were not the only fanciful aberration to the norm. There were also Nobles, people with silly masks and outfits who appeared to be supernatural in nature, and ruled a depressing human world with weapons and powers unseen on our own Earth. The wolves are hunted by many throughout the story. Indeed, there are so many hunting and harming them, you have to feel sorry for their flea-bitten hides and can’t help but cheer them on through the endless fights while hoping the story will get better, happier.
With all anime, there is an element of forgiving from the viewer. Wolves can not speak-at least, certainly not human speak- yet we forgive this for the entertainment and fantasy value. But there were things in Wolf’s Rain I just couldn’t forgive. One was the creepy knack of the characters eyes to balloon in their sockets. Obviously this was an art-choice by the animators and creator to give the characters a cuter look, but these bug-eyed moments gave me The Fear.
There was also the fact that no matter what the wolves were hit with, they came back bouncing after a few moments of being winded. Of course, this changed in the last two eps, but I will speak about that debacle in a while. They were stabbed with swords and knives, hit with cars and bombs, thrown into the air with concussive weapons and yet they got up and rejoined the fight. At one point they even fought a blasted huge walrus!
There were times when the story-line became so confused it was too hard to follow. There appeared to be many part-stories floating around but never fully explained. Things happened that were forgotten a few scenes later. (They ate the massive walrus once they defeated it, yet were starving soon after!) So many characters came and went you forgot who you were meant to hate or root for. Stories should not be so confusing that the viewer or reader are left bewildered. There should be a point when everything is eventually explained so the reader/viewer can say, “oh THAT’S why!”
The main antagonists of the story were so out-there I kept thinking, why the hell am I still watching this?! Darcia, the odd-eyed villain, was some freaky love-sick dude who lost his partner to a curse which was never explained. The creator felt that calling her coma-like illness a Paradise Curse would suffice, but what caused it? Why did it affect her so? Why did it not effect anyone else? At one point Darcia explains the curse was caused by wolf-kind, but this was not much of an explanation for a happening that caused the creation of the main antagonist. And even though Darcia was established as a villain, he really wasn’t that much of a baddie until the very last episode. Until then, I kept thinking, what is he? Good or bad? Why the hell is he even in this at all?! He doesn’t do much except brood and whine and walk around with a weird mask on.
The other antagonist, Jaguara, appears to be even worse than Darcia. It would seem she hunts down the remaining wolves on the land in order to eat their flesh and drink their blood, while searching for “The chosen wolf” who would eventually open Paradise for her.
Yet another antagonist is an old man and his dog, Blue, who hunt down wolves in revenge. He lost his family and entire town to a wolf attack and spent the rest of his days hunting and shooting them down. It is later revealed that wolves had not killed his family, that Jaguara’s forces did the awful deed, yet he still remained wary and hateful of the wolves, even when Blue-his faithful companion for years-eventually turned out to be a freaking talking wolf-dog hybrid!
Are you confused yet? Because when the story then went on to say things about space rockets and the Nobles being born on a different world, I thought, why the fuck not? Throw in some aliens just to spruce up the already confusing story.
I thought I had it all figured out when Kiba ends up in “Garden of Eternity” after passing out under a poisonous plant in the desert. (How he got there, I have no idea.) and meets a caracal. The caracal is the only other animal who takes human form. When Kiba eventually gets pulled from the Garden of Eternity by a native American chanting away over his paralysed body (I shit you not!) we get to see many portals of other worlds. At this point I thought, Ah! Alternate worlds and dimensions! Paradise is just another of these! I was wrong.
All the way through the anime I rooted for the wolves, cheered them on towards their goal. They would find Paradise! They would bring this depressing-as-fuck story to an end with a lovely happy ending where the poor battered wolves could live out the rest of their lives in wonderful peace!!! Imagine my frustration when this beautiful ending did not happen.
No. Instead of the wolves finding paradise, they found hell on top of a damned mountain. They fought their way up this mountain after miles of travelling (Honestly, all they did was travel, for miles and forever) Hell came in the form of Darcia, who decided Paradise should be his and SOMEHOW managed to turn himself into a wolf with the help of some dark orb which powers are never explained.
He then goes on to kill the old man, who inadvertently kills the youngest wolf which is trying to protect the old man. *breathes* At this part, I did almost cry. The scene of Toboe, the youngest wolf, dragging his hind legs across the snow to lean against his killer is heartbreaking. Because up to this point, he will be the only one of the original wolves who you know will never make it to the promised Paradise.
Things move on and Darcia kills Blue, the dog-wolf hybrid. Then Hige, the wolf who fell in love with her. Then Tsume-the badass wolf of the story-dies trying to help Kiba reach Paradise. So by this point I am like, holy shit! They are all dead except Kiba! The very first and chosen wolf!
So I start to think that Kiba and the Flower Maiden will open Paradise and all his friends will be there, alive again and running though fields of green under skies of blue while howling and playing together. Then, the Flower Maiden and Kiba die. I looked at my husband, who looked at me and we both said at the exact same time “What the actual fuck?!” This is the one thing I absolutely can not forgive.
Now, in the scenes after, it is clear that when the Flower Maiden died she burst into seeds which apparently, with the death blood of Kiba, opened Paradise. We get to see what is meant to be the world rebooting into Paradise, as well as a scene of Kiba falling beneath water, dying as he laments his wasted life and fruitless journey. It has all been a huge waste of energy. But the Paradise is contaminated by Darcia’s evil and so Paradise is imperfect.
A new scene begins. It appears to be present day Earth in a big city where there are high rise flats, business buildings and traffic. Cars and motorbikes and people milling around a smoggy land. Then we see Kiba in human form, then Tsume on a motorbike, Hige eating a hot dog and lastly Toboe petting a cat. In the end, Paradise looks like our world as we know it, and the wolves don’t even know each other! Kiba begins to run, the others turn to look as if sensing something, and you can’t help but think that Kiba is searching for Paradise again. No wonder, so would I if my paradise ended up being nothing more than present day earth!
I would have to say the animation is gorgeous (with exception of the bug-eyes) It is smooth and the wolves beautifully drawn. The soundtrack is haunting and beautiful, suited to the anime as a whole. But while there are so many things I absolutely hated about the anime, I still love the wolf characters, and will imagine a better ending for this depressing and heart-breaking tale. I think if you look past all the messy plot lines and weirdness, there is a beautiful tale being told. It is also worth mentioning that I watched the subbed version, perhaps the dubbed version would explain more.
How would I rate Wolf’s Rain? At the moment I’d give it a 4/10. If I ever watch it in English, that score might change. 🙂