Whether you're into anime or not chances are very good that you have at least heard about Wolf's Rain. This series was plastered all over Cartoon Network a while ago and it developed quite the following during this period. The show's popularity mirrored its success in Japan, and even on DVD the series has done well for itself. Bandai Entertainment still holds the rights and though we've already seen a complete boxed set, and an Anime Legends release before, they've done it again for the third time with a Perfect Collection.
Made up of seven DVDs, the Wolf's Rain Perfect Collection includes all 26 original episodes from the 2003 series, as well as the four OVA episodes from 2004. With a full individual volume release on top of two prior complete collections, the Perfect Collection of Wolf's Rain feels a little redundant, but this is what anime companies do. The re-price, re-package, and attempt to get new viewers or those who simply were holding out for a more cost efficient release. Whatever demographic you fall into it's worth noting that this show is worth every damn penny you pay to see it.
Wolf's Rain has a fairly impressive pedigree as it comes under the direction of Tensai Okamura, who worked on stuff like Full Metal Panic!, Cowboy Bebop, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The show itself stands out as remarkably unique and quite frankly it's one of the most original anime shows I have ever seen. From concept to screen, everything about Wolf's Rain is impressive and will leave you wanting more. The art direction, the character development, and the story itself all come together to present a nice little package that is unlike anything you have seen before.
Set far into the future and 200 years after a series of events, Wolf's Rain features a very different world than the one we know. Humans are clinging to life amidst barren wastelands of death and destruction. Food is scarce, quality of life is nil, and throughout it all you get the sense that extinction is looming just beyond the horizon. But then again, this story isn't really about the humans living in this world, it's about the wolves. Through the story it is revealed that humans believe wolves became extinct 200 years ago, but that's not entirely the case.
It is believed that wolves are bringers of death and this is all because of their quest for some place known as Paradise. There is a wolf bible of sorts that depicts a story about a quest for Paradise, talks about the moon, Lunar Flowers, and all manner of other thing that simply have to be seen to be understood. Truth be told, wolves didn't vanish from the world, they concealed themselves from the eyes of humans. Call it magic if you will, but wolves can appear to humans as either a wolf or a man. It's a bit of visual trickery, and in the case of the anime it allows us to know exactly which wolf is which. This element also creates some interesting dynamics as we see wolves frequently living and interacting with humans.
Being wolves such as they are, they naturally travel in packs. At the start of Wolf's Rain we are introduced to many of the main characters. Kiba is on a quest to find Paradise because he has nowhere else to turn to. The scent of a Lunar Flower and a feeling he can't quite explain have drawn him to a decrepit domed city. There he bumps into Tsume, who is leading a pack of humans who steal food from Nobles to survive. He also meets up with Hige, who is a goofball, and the group picks up Toboe, who is a big-eyed kid. Together these four wolves set out looking for Paradise and as they travel we get to learn a lot about them and see them grow. At the beginning each of the wolves fits a stereotype of some sort, but eventually as they spend time together you can see some real development. You get to know these guys and care for them, and it's quite evident that they are rubbing off on each other. In this case it's the case that sells the story and makes you care about what's going on.
With the main pack in place, the story sets off by introducing a human-flower hybrid known as Cheza. She's the one who has drawn Kiba to the city and more or less has instigated the events we see unfolding. Unfortunately for her there is a group of humans trying to track her down, and a crazy guy named Darcia wants to use her to bring back his lover. It's a complex plot that only gets more involved as the show progresses, but I can honestly they say that under Okamura the show pulls it off quite deftly. The only point where the narrative slips is during some recap episodes about midway through. Even so, they don't detract from this engrossing tale that will stick with you for a long, long time.
If you missed Wolf's Rain when it was on Cartoon Network, or simply never checked out Bandai's other releases, you're missing out on one of the better shows of the past decade. Every single component comes together flawlessly as it creates an experience that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. I simply can't praise this show's creativity, originality, and entertainment value enough. The Perfect Collection comes highly recommended.
Wolf's Rain is presented on DVD with a 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio. That's not necessarily surprising considering the show was produced about six years ago, but even back then series were coming out with anamorphic widescreen. Considering how striking this show is, it would have benefited greatly from a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, but at alas that's not the case. As it stands the picture quality here is good with very little grain, no compression, and only a slight amount of aliasing at times to take the image down a notch. Otherwise it's a perfectly fine looking show with vibrant colors, sharp resolution, and some nice levels of detail.
The audio tracks for Wolf's Rain come in the form of 5.1 English and 2.0 English and Japanese. For what it's worth the 5.1 surround and the 2.0 stereo tracks sound virtually identical. There's a slight increase in the presence on the soundstage with the 5.1, but the rear channels are used infrequently and they seem to be dedicated more for the bombastic score rather than on screen action. The overall quality of both the 5.1 and 2.0 is generally solid though and there really were no problems with either. The dubbing quality for both English and Japanese is good as well and I felt both crews did an admirable job with the material.
Clean animations and trailers are presented in this set as bonus features. There are a few original interviews with the Japanese cast as well. Commentaries and more extensive features would have been appreciated, but sadly we don't receive any here. Then again, considering these features were the ones found on the original Wolf's Rain DVDs I suppose that shouldn't be so surprising.
Wolf's Rain is an instant classic. The background is fascinating, the story is engaging, the characters are very likable, the artwork is stunning, and all around the atmosphere of this show is its own entity. There simply hasn't been a show like Wolf's Rain before and because of that it stands out in so many ways. Sure it could be boiled down to the basics as a quest for the Promised Land with some traveling buddies, but it's so, so much more than that. This is a series that should be on everyone's play list and even though this is the third time the collection has been release, this Perfect Collection comes highly recommended.
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