Wolf's Rain is simply one of the most eloquently written, well paced, atmospheric, intelligent anime ever created. From its cinematic scenes to its thought provoking themes, Wolf's Rain will have you hooked from the first moment.
The opening scene captures a violent storm raging on across a deserted snowy plain. A small shadow appears in the distance. A wolf, dragging its worn body across the snow, leaving behind trails of blood. He collapses, and as the light fades from his eyes, he utters in his mind:
“They say there's no such place… as Paradise. Even if you search to the ends of the Earth, there's nothing there. No matter how far you walk, it's always the same road. It just goes on and on. But, in spite of that… Why am I so driven to find it? A voice calls to me… It says, ‘Search… for Paradise’.”
Wolf's Rain's plot has an interesting premise: Kiba is one of the last of a dying race, the wolves, mythical creatures feared by humans. In a dying post-apocolyptic world, he rises as the white wolf, the chosen one that will lead his race to ‘Paradise’ with the help of the moon flower.
What drew me to this anime is that it made no attempt to make the protagonist righteous, or have an overwhelming sense of justice arise from their journey. There is no “good overcomes evil” theme; no idealistic views. It forces you to accept the anime for what it is. It's real, it's harsh and it's cruel.
The main characters are extremely human, each with a back story that is revealed as the anime progresses. Every character is likable. Antagonists also have their share of human qualities. The relationships that develop between characters is heartwarming and bitter-sweet at times. I have to admit though, that, the romance is a bit weak. Although Cheza and Kiba make a good couple, their relationship never develops and they rarely exchange words with each other (maybe it has something to do with them being a flower and a wolf, maybe they can communicate telepathically or something.)
The music itself is reason enough to watch this anime. Once again, Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell) lends her skills to create a masterful soundtrack. The opening theme “Stray” is sung by Steve Conte, well known in the anime world for his work in Cowboy Bebop, Rahxephon and Ghost in the Shell. Maya Sakamoto also adds to the mood of the anime with her singing in the ending theme “Gravity”. Unlike other anime, where the openings and endings have little to do with the anime itself, all Wolf's Rain's lyrics are purposefully written in careful consistency with the story. For example, the lyrics for Gravity talks about being drawn to a destination, and treading with aching feet towards the road ahead. One of my favourites, “Heaven's Not Enough”, tells of the fleeting nature of paradise, ‘when you think you found it, it loses you’. These songs, and many others, constantly alludes to the wolves' journey. It should also be added that about half of the songs are sung in English, and done well too, which is a treat to listen to. French, Latin, Japanese, and Italian are among some of the other languages used.
The animation is not amazing compared to what some of the recent anime have achieved, but its faded colours and dark hues suit the atmosphere well. Fighting scenes are depicted well and fast-paced. From the fluid and convincing movements of the wolves, it's evident that the animators really did their research before going ahead with the project. On occasion, vibrant colours would burst from the watered down environments, in an abstract style, often to depict a character's emotional growth. In the end, Wolf's Rain might not have the most impressive graphics technically, but it is very suited to the atmosphere, pacing and style of the anime.
The anime is relatively short (26 episodes, 4 recaps) compared to recent anime on the market. Nevertheless, it manages to deliver a story full of feeling, avoiding nearly all of the common anime cliches. Its ending is one of the most bittersweet moments in anime. Many find the ending to be unconclusive and open to interpretation. While this does add alot of thought-provoking quality to the anime and depth, it can be very frustrating not to have a definitive ending.
If I were to compare the anime to something else, I'd compare it to other masterpieces like Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion. Even so, Wolf's Rain stands in a class of its own with its imaginative fantasy elements, atmosphere and surrealism, allusions and themes. Every episode will captivate you, hold you and leave you speechless.