Paradise...Lost? Understanding the Ending to Wolf's Rain

You may not know this, but Wolf’s Rain is my favourite anime series. I say that having minimal understanding of the show’s symbolism, and I take issue with certain facets of its execution, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it before. However, what I’ve never gotten behind was the closing scene, literally the last 15 seconds of the final episode. At least, until recently. And let me explain why.

By the way, this contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the show yet…please do so first.

Anyway, the show follows the journey of four wolves, Kiba, Tsume, Hige and Toboe, and their journey to find “Paradise”. Paradise, according to the show, is a realm where the world, now corrupt and dying, begins anew, with everything being in perfect balance. Paradise also has a catch, as only wolves can open this world with the help of a gatekeeper named Cheza, who’s made of moonflowers. But all of that’s revealed over 30 episodes, so in the meantime it’s a race between the four wolves, three nobles and a group of humans to seek out this legendary, and possibly even mythical, Paradise and reap the rewards.

To keep a long story short, the wolves make their way to the mountaintop where Paradise is said to be opened, all the while most of them dying, until it’s only Kiba, a badly-injured Cheza and the series’s prime antagonist, Lord Darcia, struggling inside the mountain for the fate of the world. Darcia dies, Cheza wilts, Kiba is reborn and Paradise is opened. And then we see Darcia’s cursed eye poison a nearby flower and…we get a scene with Kiba running along the city streets like nothing happened.

End show.

My reaction in a nutshell. (Courtesy of Nick Zhukov.)

Yeah…words can’t express how pissed off I was by this. After thirty episodes, four of them pointless recaps, and an emotionally devastating finale, we arrived at the destination point and achieved our overall goal. We watched our favourite characters die at the hands of the villains. And now that we’re there, it was all a lie? What’s wrong with this show, jerking us around for nothing? What a rip!

Alas, I could find no resolution for this unsatisfactory conclusion. But the show had ended, so I was forced to come to terms with my disappointment; h*ll, in an unpublished collaboration with a fellow g1, I had this to say:
“That said, my final complaint with this show IS with the OVA, particularly with its final scene. Not because it's bad, it isn't, or because it's unnecessary, it isn't, but because it felt redundant. There was no need for the modern day setting to reinforce that Paradise doesn't really exist, the previous shot in the garden with that corrupted flower was more than enough to do the trick. I appreciate what they were getting at with it, but…meh.”
So yeah, not a happy camper. But then I went to hear a world-famous, Jewish speaker give a lecture at my synagogue. In his speech, he talked about the tragedy of living, and how it can be hard to handle the cruelty while maintaining love and optimism. And it hit me. After years of confusion and anger, the ending to Wolf’s Rain finally made sense:

Paradise doesn’t actually exist…at least, not in the conventional sense.

You might be thinking, “Well, you already acknowledged that, so why are you repeating yourself?” Think about it this way: Wolf’s Rain is a meta-textual series. This means that everything about it, be it characters’ names, the setting, in-show easter-eggs, lines of dialogue, the likes, is alluding to other works of art. In some cases, the events are even metaphors for something grander, like how Paradise is a metaphor for a state of being. A rather obscure, non-concrete metaphor, but a metaphor regardless.

So when a show mired in cold, detached subtlety, not unlike this one, decides to take its key idea, finding Paradise, and flip it on its head, it’s trying to establish something for the viewer. You might not get it right away, but that’s why it’s called “allusion”. Allusions are meant to be thought over and reflected upon, whereupon you better appreciate it in its proper context. In other words, the ending, like the show itself, means something.

Here’s my take: the ending is a reality check for how we view our own little utopias. You know how we always say, “In a perfect world, this would happen”? Well, that’s our projection of utopia on a less-than-perfect reality. Because, let’s face it, life sucks. It’s filled with hardships, bad stuff happens to good people, evil thrives, you get the gist. And we have to learn to accept that. But it’s hard, so we don’t.

And this is why, once we get glimmers of our utopian ideal, we’re disappointed. True, the element of expectation is important, overhype is always problematic, but disappointment is life getting in the way. It’s interesting that the show about hope in dark times would tackle something so harsh and sad as disappointment, as it spits in the face of Kiba’s ultimate desire. Remember, he has the first and final piece of dialogue in the entire show. Everything, essentially, revolves around him. And that dialogue is the most important piece of the puzzle:
“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.’”
It sounds bizarre saying this, but of the four wolves, Kiba really has the most depth. Tsume’s arc, while interesting, is really “lone wolf learns the value of camaraderie”. Toboe reaffirms what he already was: a loyal companion. Hige is the “traitor turned friend,” except that he doesn’t really develop until much later on. But Kiba has the biggest turn-around, going from a loner with a strong desire for wolf’s pride, to a mellow pack leader, to the saviour of the world. He lives the longest, dies last and is the most active part of the final scene, running in the streets while his friends sit on the sidelines. He’s also the anchor of the show’s theme of finding a better world than the current one.

So how fitting it is that reality gets the final say, not him, no? Yes, he has the closing monologue, and yes, it’s his story. But reality doesn’t care. You may think you’re in control of everything you do, but are you really? Can you control your birth gender? Who your parents are? Your birth name? Even the exact second at which you’re going to die?

The real fallacy of living, I think, is believing that everything that happens to you is in your control. It’s not. And while our hopes and dreams for a perfect, utopian world can’t be met, it’s to be expected. That’s why it’s a utopia. You can fight and die for it, but it’s your own, unrealistic utopia. And reality has no time for that.

But the beauty of the ending, I think, is arguing that that’s okay. So your perfect world can’t happen, so what? Does that mean you can’t have hope anyway? Does that mean you can’t find a glimmer of utopia? I think you can. And given that wolves are revered as a sign of hope in Japan, that wolves are the only ones allowed to open Paradise, let-alone survive in it, is indicative of that.

Besides, Paradise isn’t only an entity. It’s a concept. It’s a concept that signifies that hope never dies, even in times of despair. Because if you can find something hopeful in this world, even in times of disarray, to cling onto, then you know something? That’s Paradise. And I think that’s what Wolf’s Rain was trying to say with its closing scene…

Either that, or I’m reading too much into this ending and it legitimately sucks. You be the judge.


  1. I truly like your interpretation. While getting consumed by this series, I was rather shocked about the ending. Since the start, I believed that they will all end up in paradise. And within the last 3 episodes, everyone died. What irony. If I compare it with my initial ending, my "utopia", I feel almost naive. After such a long journey, I am shocked about Darcia´s eye, turning world to hell. I, like you, believe that the blossoming flower in the city has something to do with feeding us some hope, creating a parallel universe in which paradise can be found this time. Something like an alternative ending, setting it to zero. The disbelief you gained after watching the series about getting a happy ending, however, is enormous. After what Kiba said, that there is nothing but the long path that has no end, I do not think that there will be paradise waiting for them. But, still, there is always the small voice in my head that says "maybe it will though". Is this the reason why some people keep going? Although they experienced so much sorrow? I really wonder

    1. It's interesting because the concept of "Paradise" as a literal manifestation may be impossible, but the metaphorical component is tangible. And even then, the struggle of finding paradise is what really matters, even if it's achieved through pain and grief.

      It's almost comparable to, assuming you don't mind me going Biblical, the reason why Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. That would've been the ideal place for them to live, but their very existence would've been meaningless had they stayed. They had to appreciate struggle to experience joy, and that meant exposing them to the harsh realities of the world. I think Wolf's Rain's ending is similar to that...

  2. there's a lot of future talk in this show too... First (and most important I think) is when Kiba meets Darcia for the first time, Darcia asks Kiba what dose he hope to find in Paradise. Kiba says a future, not hope or despair. just a future. and then in one of the lasts episode Darcias talks about his vision of paradise "it has neither perfect happiness nor joy nor life. This is because it also does not contain perfect sadness nor misery nor death."

    1. Interesting. I'll have to keep that in mind when I rewatch the show for the fourth time...

  3. I know what the Anime try too say me, but the Message is not so deep. I know it before, so it was simple for me too understand his Meaning.
    I want too say what I dont like the Charakters, and the Story. I heard good things about it and I accepted the Seting and Charakterdesign, because Streampunk isnt my thing.
    But in the End, this Anime gives me nothing too remember. The Villian starts as a Guy what want too save his Girlfriend. But why he dont cooperate, and why he still try too reach his Goal after his big lost. All Maincharakters are 2Dimensional and dont evolv in the Story. Tsume had Problems, because he cant go good whit Humans, but this its. We dont see much Backstory and the Charakters dont evolve much. The Flowermaiden. The Maiden is one of the Worst Charakters in the Show. A Mairy Sue+Damsel in Distress. She is captured multible Times, and some Parts of the Story about her arent necressary. Then shes caughted again Instantly dont free her in the first Place.
    The Charakterdeads are also very inconsistent. How often Shoot someone at the Wolfs, ore Humans? they put all important Deads in the last couple of Episodes. And Kiba survive a Headshot, so why died some of the Charakters so easly. And why use the Group allways her Human Form, even when no one is around?
    Oh and the 4 Pointless Recapepisodes. For me, as a Watcher what goes too the Show and hadnt any prejudice it was just noting. It was boring, not logical and try to be deap.

    1. I'm sorry to hear that the show didn't click, but I still think it's excellent. Except for the recaps, although they only exist because of behind-the-scenes complications...

    2. Actually, it's because the BONES studio was put on a hiatus, for weeks because of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.

  4. Just finished my 4th rewatch too, so we're in the same boat. This time though, I'm a bit older than the three previous times, and its renewed impact on me was a pleasant surprise. The points you make in your analysis of the ending definitely resonate with the feeling I've gotten this time watching the show. I use the word “feeling” purposely here, because it seems to me that the channel for Wolf's Rain's message is decidedly not intellectual but emotional.

    The abundance of symbolism, reinforced by the mythology based around wolfs, moon, flowers, transformation and spirit, all make sense in the show's setting as long as a detail revealed by an unknown speaker at the beginning of OVA1 is accepted: “The world has been destroyed and reborn countless times, always resurrecting from the ashes as Paradise” (2017 BD english dub, from a voice that suspiciously sounds like the Owl Spirit). Cheza reiterates the same idea to Hubb in OVA2: “[The world] will not end. It will simply begin again. It is so that it can be reborn”.

    Paradise is the rebirth of the world, and with it the hope that the next will be better. In Wolf's Rain, the world is a living entity about to die from all the evil that has been inflicted to it, and Cheza implies that it has happened before. Before the world dies, the flower and the wolf are drawn to each other and, channeling the moon's power as allies, make the world reborn by returning it to a blank slate and avoid its definite destruction.

    After Darcia's death, Cheza knows that Kiba and her have failed to prepare a Paradise without evil, but they still managed to prevent the world from dying: life and flowers will bloom again. She tells Kiba, before returning to flowers: “So when the world is reborn, when Paradise opens, we will meet again. This one will be waiting for you, find this one.”, and finally, not able to finish her sentence: “And next time, the Paradise you hoped for will be...”, implying she still hopes they will be able to open a world where evil does not exist anymore.

    Then as Paradise opens, a pure world unfolds over the ruins of the previous one. Cheza's fear comes true as it is instantly corrupted by the evil contained in Darcia's wolf eye, foreshadowing a path for the next world similar in essence to the one that led their current one to its end. The epilogue's world, which we've seen in the opening sequence since the first episode, is most likely also coming to an end, and the wolf and flower are drawn to another once again. This might have happened several times before, according to the Own Spirit.

    The ending brilliantly succeeds at conveying the single most important theme of the show: hope. Wolf's Rain was a story about death and grief as much as it was about purpose and hope. The wolves, Cheza, Quentin, Cher, Hubb and even Darcia are all coping with the grief of their world dying and their imminent death in whatever way they can. They have nothing left behind, and nothing ahead but the hope of new possibilities. When Kiba starts running, at the end of the series, the new voyage begins, and with it, hope that this time, Paradise will really be paradise.

    1. This was amazing. Thank you .

    2. I totally agree!
      I would only add that the speaker at the beginning of OVA1 is Darcia the First and according to some interpretations, the owl is his spirit of a sort.

  5. I just want to say after reading everyone else's responses, I
    That for whatever reason am reminded of the Gaia theory. That's all I have to say about this show, and that on my 5th rewatch, I'm still learning new things about Wolf's Rain.

    Keep it alive!

  6. I really didn't understand what was Darcia's deal. He lost his love, so he goes and destroys her murderer, so far I follow. Now he's got really nothing left, so why does he become the villain then? He's got no reason to desire "paradise" at this point. His love is lost, he had his revenge, he's got no drive, no reason to live. Even less reasons to turn into a wolf and fuck up the day. He knows Kiba will open paradise anyways, why does he insist on doing it himself? Why does he care?
    Then he implies that he manipulated Kiba's life for this very moment, that he burned his pack and made him what he is... but why? And how does that fit with the original plan he had to save his love?
    This character just made no sense at all in the last few episodes, maybe he just completely lost his marbles.

    1. My best guess is that he was always evil, but the death of Lady Homina just made him even more evil...


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