Zachary's 5 Favorite Anime Pt.5

(For info on what this is, please click here. Don’t worry, it won’t take long.) Before beginning the final entry, let’s recap again:

Number 5 was Mahou Shoujo Puella Magi Madoka Magica, aka a dark subversion of the magical girls genre.

Number 4 was Digimon Tamers, aka a dark subversion of a toy marketing franchise.

Number 3 was Cowboy Bebop, aka one of the greatest space westerns ever made.

And, lastly, number 2 was Fullmetal Alchemist, aka one of the greatest Shonen shows ever made.

Which leaves us with number 1, which also happens to be Wolf’s Rain. And since it’s hard to discuss this show without going all fanboy, I’ll drop the pretence and speak mostly from personal experience.

Wolf’s Rain takes place in a post-apocalyptic world on the verge of extinction. The land is covered in snow, the population is under the control of corrupt nobles and wolves, rumoured by legend to be the ultimate saviours, have long since been extinct. Except they’re not, they've taken on human disguises. Amidst the chaos, four young wolves, Kiba, Hige, Tsume and Toboe, discover the rumoured flower maiden, named Cheza, that’s been touted as the key to opening paradise. But they’re not alone, as a noble named Darcia, a human couple named Hubb and Cher, a former deputy named Quent and his dog Blue and the various noble factions are also after Cheza, each for their own, selfishly-motivated reasons. So the race is on to find paradise, assuming it even exists…

My history with Wolf’s Rain is complicated. I initially discovered it through JesuOtaku, and while it was interesting, it didn’t fully grab me. Still, the ideas presented in it lingered, such that I eventually bought the DVD boxset about three years ago. I re-watched it in the Summer of 2013, and it immediately clicked. It’s now my favourite anime show.

There’s so much about it that resonates, but discussing it all would take forever. I’ll cover the basics, the most-obvious being its animation. Like Jaws, Wolf’s Rain went through a truckload of behind-the-scenes production issues, but, also like that movie, it came around and looks fantastic. Yes, the limitations are more and more obvious the further along you progress, with many action scenes being implied and not fully shown, but that doesn’t distract from how polished it looks. I’d even argue that, with a few tweaks, you could make this into a movie trilogy, as everything is crisp, clear and, surprisingly, filmic.

The soundtrack is also amazing. It’s Yoko Kanno again, but this time she’s upped the ante. Where as Cowboy Bebop’s tracks were atmospheric and, therefore, worked best in-show, Kanno doesn’t hold back here. The show’s wide variety, from classical, to jazz, to even indie pop, really work as its own beast, thanks in-part to the help of long-time singer/collaborators Steve Conte and Maaya Sakamoto; in fact, it’s for that reason that “Stray”, the show’s intro, and “Gravity”, the show’s outro, are my favourites from anime in both categories. They’re simply that good!

On that note, the dub acting is superb! It’s Mary Elizabeth McGlynn again, and this, in my opinion, is her best work. Every voice, right down to the most minor detail, is perfectly matched, and each line read is expertly spoken. It’s a little quiet, true, but when you have voices like Crispin Freeman, Johnny Yong Bosch, Joshua Seth and Mona Marshall as the leads, it doesn’t matter. I even look forward to the sneak previews at the end of each episode, and I normally don’t!

Of course, the writing’s also impeccable, if not sometimes blunt thanks to the frequent handprints of Dai Sato. Still, it’s Keiko Nobumoto heading the show, and while Cowboy Bebop’s characters suffered from detachment, this show makes you feel for these ones. It’s especially true in the 4-episode finale, which I consider the modern-day equivalent of a Shakespearean tragedy. The tears flow, the heart is ripped out, and yet it’s 100% satisfying. Even the final shot, which originally bothered me, is amazing, and is the cleverest conclusion to any show I’ve ever watched.

The action scenes are also great. Like Fullmetal Alchemist, they’re not list-worthy, save the awesome battle in Episode 22, but they’re weighty and real. You get a sense of suspense, stakes and danger from each one, a fact complimented by the recurring tune that plays throughout. And true, they’re often short and implied, like I said before, but that doesn’t mean they’re aren’t still wonderful eye candy. If you don’t believe me, have a watch for yourselves.

Still, what makes Wolf’s Rain work is its themes and meta-textual references. Unlike many dark stories, which are edgy without bite, and stories that incorporate allusions because “they look cool”, nothing in Wolf’s Rain’s accidental. Every violent moment, bit of imagery, even meta-textual reference, has a purpose, regardless of whether or not it makes sense initially. It’s clear that the production committee at Studio BONES cared about what they were including, and while certain theological references will fly by your head the first or second time, it’s the more obvious references, like those from 1984 and Dante’s Inferno, that’ll click immediately. Besides, the fact that you’re forced to re-watch the show several times to get everything further strengthens its long-term value.

Besides, Wolf’s Rain’s about finding utopia and humanity amidst chaos and destruction. Does it matter if it’s seemingly impossible? No. Does it matter if the world around it is mired in mystery? No. Does it even matter that you won’t understand it right away? Of course not, because what’s important, the basic structure, is enough to compensate for any confusion.

Sadly, the show suffers from two flaws, a minor and a major, that hold it back from being a favourite in everyone’s eyes. The minor one is the recap disc in the middle of the show’s boxset. For numerous reasons that I won’t divulge, the production of Wolf’s Rain was four weeks behind schedule, so four recaps in a row were made to keep up with demands. They’re painful, and they forced the show to end its broadcast without a finale. Fortunately, the recaps are skippable, and there’s a 96-minute, conclusive OVA at the end to make up for that.

The major flaw, however, is subjective, but still needs addressing: this show is divisive. Because of its content and subject matter, there’s a good chance you’ll either love it, or hate it, with little room for impartiality. The show is like a really good Poker player whom appears indecipherable at first glance, making it hard to like and appreciate unless you’re patient enough to study its moves. It’s much like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask in that regard, except more obscure due to not being part of a bigger-name franchise.

Still, again, I can’t fault the show for what it does. Is it for everyone? No, but it’s absolutely my favourite anime series. And it’s well-deserving of a…

Thanks so much for persevering through this series of reviews. Will I do this again? I’m not sure, but at least it’ll tide me over until my Christmas review…assuming I do one.


  1. Wolfs Rain is boring

  2. I'm aware of this particular anime's divisiveness. I expect I'll watch it eventually to make up my own mind. I'll probably stay away from reading any more reviews of it after this one, though, as I'm wary of getting my expectations either too high or too low; I want as naturally formed an opinion as I can get.

    Your deep passion for "Wolf's Rain" is reminding me of my own deep love for "When Marnie Was There". As you know, I consider that film a masterpiece, one that I also happened to connect with very deeply. Yet I'm also aware that some people just aren't going to "get" it regardless; it won't be everyone's cup of tea. So even though I haven't seen "Wolf's Rain", I may have some small level of comprehension of your viewpoint on it. Maybe.

    1. My thoughts on When Marnie Was There have changed somewhat since I first saw it. Recent re-watch has me liking it a lot more.

      As for Wolf's Rain, I now have more respect for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask after seeing it, as I consider them very similar as far as divisiveness goes. Doesn't mean I suddenly like the latter, it's way too frustrating for that, but I can definitely appreciate it...

    2. To be clear, while I knew I liked "When Marnie Was There" after my first viewing, it didn't hit me how good it truly was until several days of thinking about it, and a subsequent viewing, later. Further re-viewings have only cemented my deep love for it, and while I won't call it Studio Ghibli's best film [its a little bit rough around the edges in a couple of spots], I do think it at least merits a spot in their top ten. Certainly, its one of my top five personal favorites from them.

      At any rate, I'm very happy to hear that you like it more now. I'd be curious to know more about how your thoughts have changed, but I'll leave to you if you want to share more or not.

      I've never been a big gamer, so I've never played Majora's Mask. But I'm well aware of its premise, central game mechanic, and divided reception.

    3. My thoughts on the film are about the same as before, but I do think it's at about an 8 now and not my original. On-par with Yonebayashi's previous work for Studio Ghibli, but that twist still raises a few too many questions for it to be any higher.

      As for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, let's put it this way: I hate deadlines, of which the entire game mechanic serves as one. And even with its in-game cheats, it's still not enough to shake off the feeling of being obnoxiously crunched for time. I'm not even 1/4 of the way done, and the game's not very long to begin with...

  3. So, higher than your original rating, but still not as high as mine? Fair enough. After four viewings, I maintain more than ever that the movie either implicitly answers the vast majority of your questions, or else provides enough information to intuit a logical answer, but we already argued that out last June. No need to rehash.

    Mostly, I'm still a little bit frustrated with how many people seem to think that Anna was seeing an actual ghost, when literally every single clue the audience needs to intuit that "Marnie" is an imaginary friend created from her suppressed memories of her grandmother's stories [with an appearance modeled not just on Marnie, but also on a childhood toy- remember the doll Anna has in the flashbacks?]is right there in the film . I suppose I shouldn't be, though. After all, the film not only trusted viewers to realize that without having to state it outright, it also deliberately used the narrative and visual tropes of a conventional ghost story in order to mislead the audience prior to the reveal. When a film uses the conventions of one genre to tell a story that's really in another genre entirely, I can see how it might be confusing for some. Not for everyone, though. I recently showed the film to some friends and it clicked for them almost immediately.


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