Wolf's Rain: The Complete Series
FUNimation // Unrated // $64.98 // February 7, 2017
Review by Chris Zimmerman | posted April 19, 2017
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Wolf's Rain: the Complete Series:

Confession time; I love Wolf's Rain. From my first time viewing the series late night on Cartoon Network's Toonami Block found myself entranced by the unique character story, intricately detailed landscapes, and complex characters. It soared above most other shows of the medium and left me wanting more.

Perhaps the best way to describe Wolf's Rain. would be to compare it a dystopian fantasy romp that feels almost like a Disney cartoon for adults. With the inclusion of talking animals, wicked aristocrats, and heroic quests, it would be difficult to fault anyone for thinking the series sprung from the house of mouse.

Wolf's Rain tells the story of what comes after the world that has fallen into ruin. The world has already hit rock bottom and those left spend their days doing their best to find a reason to carry on some semblance of life.

Spread across a melancholy landscape of inhospitable wastelands and windswept deserts, civilization is scattered across territories ruled over by ruthless aristocrats known as Nobles. The bitter atmosphere and degradation of the planet acts as a catalyst to the extinction of all wolves. Wolf sightings are equated to delusions though a myth persists that they still exist. Unbeknownst to most, a handful of wolves remain, living amongst humans, having learned to take on human forms.

The central hub of Wolf's Rain follows a headstrong wolf named Kiba, and his quest to find paradise, a shangri-la that can only be opened by wolves but is viewed as a fable. To do so, he must first locate the lunar flower, which is said to be the key to unlocking the doors of paradise and rebirthing the world anew.

On his travels, Kiba crosses paths with various other lone wolves he meets who are drawn in by the allure of Paradise. Tsume is a cynical alpha male, Hige is a smooth-talking wolf always sniffing for a bite, and Toboe is an innocent and na´ve pup determined to be the rock that holds the foundation together. Later the group is joined by a wolf-dog hybrid named Blue whose adopted family was murdered by wolves.

Having tracked the scent of located the lunar flower to a Noble's laboratory, Kiba finds an odd-looking girl named Cheza. Bred using alchemy by the Nobles, Cheza is the living embodiment of the lunar flower. After a heated pursuit, the pack with flower maiden in tow set out on their journey to locate Paradise. With the world falling further into decay, Kiba and company find themselves in a critical race against time to locate Paradise while evading a contingent of scientists, soldiers, and Nobles set upon claiming paradise for themselves.

Unfortunately, there is one minor hiccup in the form of a four-episode recap that brings the series momentum to a grinding halt. Even more aggravating is the point in which these episodes are shuffled into the series, coming right after a climatic confrontation with the Nobles.

The evocative visuals of Wolf's Rain play to the strengths of Studio Bones, featuring distinct character designs supplied by Toshihiro Kawamoto, blending contemporary fashion with medieval gothic. Each character's design echoes their personalities perfectly, from the wolves' urban clothing to the noble's stylized and elegant wardrobes. The quality in animation is smooth, with convincingly natural movements for the wolves.

The score is composed by the brilliant Yoko Kanno of Cowboy Bebop fame, blending jazz and orchestral to convey the emotional journey the show's characters undertake. The main theme "Stray" evokes touches of folk and pop that reflects the diversity of the series and Kanno's talents as a whole.

Wolf's Rain makes use of the adage "anything that can happen will," as on more than one occasion, all rules are thrown out the window in favor of yielding unique and original ideas that ignite the imagination and leaves the viewers in a state of awe and intrigue.

The Bluray

Video and Audio:

Funimation's rerelease of Wolf's Rain is a solid effort. The series has never been released on blu-ray, even in its native Japan. The company claims this is not a simple upconversion and that it worked with Bones in using the masters. Despite mild instances of blur and static animation, this is the best the series has looked. The English dub succeeds largely on the merits of its cast, featuring alumni from Cowboy Bebop, putting it on the same pedestal with a dub as strong as its Japanese counterpart.

Extras:

Funimation's blu-ray release ports over all the on-disc extras that accompanied the Bandai releases, preserved in standard definition. We get the usual clean opening and closings along with a bevy of trailers, and the Japanese promo used to pitch the series. Sadly, the release did not merit a special edition in the vein of Escaflowne or Cowboy Bebop, but the fact that it was released after all these years is a blessing in itself.

Final Thoughts:

Wolf's Rain, is a modern anime classic that belongs on every animation enthusiasts shelf. Its emotionally driven story blended with beautiful visual elements and layered in complex folklore make it worth the rewatch. The series departs with reckless abandon, racing toward a tragic yet memorable conclusion that dares its audience to hope and believe in something greater.



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