The world is bare and desolate with most people living in dome-like cities that dot the landscape. It is in one such domed structure that we encounter Kiba, a young and very proud member of species long thought extinct, namely wolves. However, these wolves appear to be human to most onlookers. Along with his companions Tsume, Hige, and Toboe, Kiba searches tirelessly for Cheza the Flower Maiden and paradise.
It is a rare anime indeed that leaves you wondering whether or not you enjoyed it a ton or didn't like it much at all. Enter Wolf's Rain, a title that looks like it could have been a real winner and yet manages to lose its finesse in the details.
Superficially Wolf's Rain seems as if it should be stellar. Made by Studio Bones, the same studio responsible for the excellent RahXephon and current fan-favorite Scrapped Princess, this show has no excuse for being anything save for awe-inspiring. And in all honesty the animation (both primary and background) is brilliant. This viewer is always treated to consistently strong, fluid animation with rich, evocative coloring. The action scenes are also powerful here. The settings are especially effective, very realistically emulating the feel of post-apocalyptic desolation. I was particularly impressed with the animation of the wolves themselves. The animation of these majestic creatures was rendered very realistically and beautifully. Similarly the music, crafted by the incessantly flawless Kanno Yoko, is worthy of the highest deities of anime. However, as is often the case, the quality of these surface features doesn't necessarily translate to the greater portions of this title.
My disenchantment with Wolf's Rain began with its characterization. The characters start out interestingly enough but then quickly slump off into mediocrity. And though the characters do grow during the course of the anime, their evolution is often uneven, marked by sharp protrusions in development that don't bode well in terms of pacing. However, the characters still have enough episodes left that they can become more fully fleshed and well rounded before series end.
More uneven than even the characterization is the storyline. This is an exceptionally tragic flaw as Wolf's Rain began with an immensely intriguing and well-formed back story in which the world is mostly barren and in which wolves have been thought extinct for two hundred years. Working from this basis, the first several episodes do a good enough job of creating a sense of tension and directing the motion of story. However, the plotting quickly loses its feet and begins wandering about somewhat aimlessly, grasping at plot elements that never culminate in anything substantial when not slowly and steadily moving into the banal depths of boredom. The lack of punch in plotting reaches it lowest point when the viewer is dragged through four, yes four, recap episodes in a row. This is really annoying for someone, like myself, that doesn't usually have much use for even one recap episode, much less four times that amount. After the afore mentioned drudgery, the story picks up substantially, but not enough to save this tale, at least not yet. There is still enough of this show that I have yet to view, 4 TV episodes (and 4 OVA episodes) in total, that it has more than enough room to develop a robust and satisfying ending. Though fascinating in some aspects, the story needs a bit more pizzaz and a lot more continuity to be fully gratifying.
In the end, I am left with very mixed feelings on Wolf's Rain. On one hand I want to give it a great deal of credit for its admittedly inspiring look and sound and for its potential in plot and characterization, as well as its very intriguing background history. On the other hand, though, I feel a bit slighted by such a great start devolving into the utterly average product that this anime's storyline and personas have become. I feel it prudent to note that, given what I saw, Wolf's Rain ended on the upswing with momentum that may hoist its rank appreciably. With more than a little reservation, I appraise this show's value to be somewhat above-average, as long as it doesn't drop the ball it's currently running with. Optimism in tow, Wolf's Rain is a decent title that could be bound for moderate anime greatness.
This is a truly open-ended rating that will very likely change upon the viewing of more episodes. If you can live off the visuals and music alone though, bump this rating up to four stars. — Derrick L Tucker
Recommended Audience: Though mostly stylized, there is some moderately graphic violence. As a consequence of the mild carnage, this title should only be viewed by those thirteen years old or greater.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (22/30)
Wolf's Rain © 2003 Bandai Visual / Bones
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