If M. Night Ever Made an Anime – A Review of Wolf’s Rain (2003)

Wew. That title itself is a signal that ‘Wolf’s Rain’ is most likely an anime I may not have enjoyed much. It’s also a clever tactic that is the bane of all intellectual writing: clickbait. Have I finally stooped so low? Anyway, those who have read my past reviews should know enough about me to be able to tell that I’m not the kind of person to appreciate or growl at a work in a generalized fashion nor one to simply write off a project due to it belonging to a specific niche. Truth be told, sometimes M. Night actually does make good movies. The twists and turns he so worships are sometimes kind to him. 2016’s ‘Split’ is a good example. Although I haven’t seen it myself, others have told me the man has gotten his wish coins’ worth. Of his movies that I have seen, I found ‘Devil’ to be a pretty fun watch and ‘Stuart Little’ is a fond childhood memory.

Speaking of times gone by, Wolf’s Rain started airing around the time the west started being more open to the cartoons from the east. It’s safe to say that this anime might have been the one to introduce a significant number of teenagers to anime back then. A lot of these same viewers still look back with gleaming eyes with the thought that Wolf’s Rain was and probably still is one hell of a show. Well, I’m going to pull a quick ‘M. Nightie’ here and announce beforehand that I would not recommend Wolf’s Rain to anyone.

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I wish I could do this when finding an anime to watch.

The story starts off with a train-jacking led by one of the leads, the brooding Tsume. The next day, he encounters a white wolf near his gang’s hideout and he and the wolf duke it out. Turns out Tsume is also a wolf but in the guise of a 70’s biker. Their fight is interrupted and soon the white wolf, Kiba, is captured by the dystopian animal-control services. Kiba then meets the energetic golden-brown Hige in jail and they both make a run for it. Wondering what Tsume was up to? Well, he was saving the mudblooded wolf pup Toboe from a sheriff hellbent on revenge against their kind. An episode or two later, in a mix of desperation and wonder, our main wolves together and anyone else important to the plot leaves the city to find the Paradise that Kiba and apparently all other wolves are obsessed with from birth.

The plot is driven mostly by Kiba’s intense elusive longing for the Paradise that the wolves seek and the knowledgeable humans dread. Wolf’s Rain is an anime that relies on the journey itself to bring the story home. The destination does not matter. Literally – but that is a clarification for later. There are hints to a hidden overarching plot early on but it doesn’t really take shape until far too late for you to actually care. Well, maybe not you. I know I didn’t care. Sometimes it felt like a chore trying to connect all the dots because Wolf’s Rain deliberately obfuscates crucial plot points in order to emphasize its narrative as an enigma. Sadly, this poor handling of the writing does not work at all. Obscurity works just fine in a well defined world. Wolf’s Rain’s world-building could be compared to setting up a porta-potty and then kicking it over. Like a Minecraft server hosted on an 80’s PC, the world is barren and very little effort has been made to fill it with necessary information. Many questions pop up during the journey and almost none of them are answered at the end of the line. Why had the world gone to shit before the beginning of the anime? Just how can the wolves take up human form? What exactly is ‘alchemy’? Just what is the background of the power of the Nobles? And so on and so forth. It almost seems like the writers simply forgot what makes a sci-fi world work and still went forward with what they had for ‘intellectual’ shits and giggles.

While Wolf’s Rain gets the fundamentals wrong, it still manages to do some things right. The pacing, for one, is actually quite airtight (until the repetition point comes up). The dialogue is quite solid most of the time. Most importantly, though, the character interactions are on point. Unfortunately, the most important characters are not up to par with the supporting cast which is a mighty shame.

Kiba’s character is more or less just a personification of the act of finding oneself. Ironically, Kiba is the one who gets the least development. He’s a hard-boiled wolf at first and at the last episode he’s still the same wolf just with a smile. Alright. Next we have the main villain who goes by Lord Darcia. He’s a character template stir fried and served with a bowl of sour cliches. He’s a living Desu XD Machine (which is just an advanced Deus Ex Machina). His actions make no sense and his personality can be easily bested by Ash Ketchum in a contest. Finally, we have Cheza. She is literally a flower brought to life. She is shown to be the wisest of them all and yet this vegan reincarnate goes jumping off into situations that could have wiped out the four main wolves in the blink of an eye – but they don’t, thanks to the Desu XD Machine working at full force.

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This’ll be me when the elitists read this review and come-a-knockin’.

Bah! I was supposed to talk about the good points of the anime. I should do it quick in this paragraph before I find myself jumping to ranting about the conclusion. As I said earlier, the supporting cast is actually pretty nice. They all get decent development and you even get to feel for a few of them. It was fun to follow Toboe. The twist with Hige’s past was the only twist that was actually done properly. We discover that Tsume isn’t just a Kiba from the 70’s. There’s also Sheriff Quent and his dog, Blue, whose backgrounds and interactions not only with the existential-crisis-couple of Detective Lebowski and scientist Cher Degre but with the wolves as well make for a good base for the overarching mess of plot to work on. The relationship between Quent and Blue is handled quite nicely, I must say.

I don’t really discuss the endings of the shows I review unless I absolutely have to. Considering the anime’s age and the fact that I don’t recommend it to anyone, I might as well talk about it. The last six of episodes of Wolf’s Rain is a strange mixed bag of good and over-bad. It becomes quite clear before the start of the sixth from last episode that everyone is going to die and they do. I would applaud this ballsy move had it not been for the last episode which just resets the world and therefore making the deaths meaningless. This is also when Lord Darcia just goes full wolf shit in both mind and body and we keep getting hit by these nonsensical twists. Lord Darcia wants to cure his waifu with the advent of Paradise. His waifu is killed by another villain. He’s like ‘oh well lol’ and then resurfaces later to meet the other villain who turns out to be the sister of his waifu. There are absolutely no indications towards this twist. This bitch is responsible for throwing an already fucked world into even more chaos just so she could get a chance at getting her clams appraised by Lord Darcia. It’s just… a mess.

Onto the technical messes now. The animation is standard for the time. I watched the BluRay version and I can honestly say that there is nothing impressive about the animation. The character designs are alright. The fights are meh.

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See? Nothing impressive. Not only was this show so boring that I didn’t take more than three screenshots, but there was nothing in the animation or background designs that I thought would be worth saving – even for review purposes.

I wish I could at least be happy with the soundtrack. Yoko Kanno was involved with the anime. She has made fantastic music for many anime which include ‘Cowboy Bebop’, ‘Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex’, and ‘Zankyou no Terror’. I am quite disappointed with the soundtrack. The background music did not leave any impression on me. The opening song, while fitting, did not strike my chords. I only ended up liking the ending song ‘Gravity’ which was performed by Mayaa Sakamoto.

Sigh, what wasted potential. I was originally going to score Wolf’s Rain a 6/10 but it took me two days to write this review and over the course of the days I thought a lot about the ending and the setting itself. I then decided to go for a 5/10. That’s the fairest I could go for considering the many flaws. BUT WAIT! There are a lot of high profile names attached to Wolf’s Rain, like Dai Sato, so it’s quite evident that it could have been better. So, I will give a 4/10 out of pure spite.

NOW AIN’T THAT A SPICY TWIST

 

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