30 CommentsFavourite and Forgotten / By Scamp /

2003 Anime: Wolf’s Rain

Wolf's Rain 10.mkv_snapshot_06.39_[2013.09.27_16.31.06]It used to be the case that if you wanted to start a fight in an anime clubroom, all you had to do was stand up and proclaim “Wolf’s Rain is pretentious” and watch the chaos unfold. Fandom has since moved on. Now they get fights about whether Madoka Magica is a deconstruction or not. I’m going to see if I can rekindle a few of those old flames by calling Wolf’s Rain a load of pretentious old twaddle. Also Madoka Magica is a deconstruction. Also also Lelouch is not the cart driver.

Wolf’s Rain is set in the pre-apocalypse where the world is being slowly destroyed by oppressive grey screen filters. The story follows a bunch of boys as they track from city to wilderness in search of a nebulous concept called ‘Paradise’. The boys are actually Wonderful Outstanding Lovely Fellows, or W.O.L.F’s, who have  deceived humanity into believing the W.O.L.F’s all look like humans because otherwise humans are just too jealous of the W.O.L.F’s so they try to wipe them out. Along the way each of the W.O.L.F’s go on a voyage of self-discovery while meeting a variety of interesting characters trying to work out why the world is ending.

Despite my snarky tone, there is a lot of good things to say about Wolf’s Rain. The characters are well-rounded and flawed in interesting ways. My favourite characters were normally the humans because the four main W.O.L.Fs didn’t act very human. Which might be intentional, but in particular with the poster boy Kiba it was very hard to get invested in his story when he felt so inhuman with his actions. It was more like he was a robot following a programme in his brain than someone governed by emotions. The humans were way more interesting because you actually understood why it was they were going to the great lengths they did. Some of my favourite episodes were when it was just two of the humans chilling out, chatting with each other. One that sticks out in my mind was when the alcoholic wolf-hunter and the divorced husband spent an entire episode driving across the wasteland. It allowed the anime to show a rare sense of humour while also giving us plenty of time to get deep into these character’s minds.

vlcsnap-2013-10-04-09h12m41s136

On a slightly less positive note, while the animation is certainly impressive, the grey landscape on grey buildings on grey characters makes the show very repetitive and dull. 2003 was around the period TV animation started to get to grips with fully digital animation and no longer look universally awful, and Wolf’s Rain is one of the most technically proficient anime from that year. But it’s so grim and grimy and endlessly grey that it’s boring to look at. There’s no stylised decay in the style of Casshern Sins. This is the realistic concrete building apocalypse. It may be intentional, but that doesn’t stop it from being boring. Similarly with the W.O.L.F characters. They are supposed to not feel quite human in their actions and thoughts. It’s a plot point that they act like there’s a radar in their mind governing their actions rather than logical or emotional thought. But that still means they are difficult to have any emotional attachment to. It makes their actions feel like tools to move the plot along rather than that of people.

The tone of the overall story is…I’m not sure if there’s a word in English for it. Full of itself? Head jammed firmly up its own arse? Chuunibyou? Imagine a man wearing a trenchcoat indoors just hiding an Iron Maiden t-shirt with sideburns and a neckbeard. Or a lady with badly dyed purple hair, trousers with 50 million chains and pockets on them and wearing black eyeliner. Or just imagine the early-mid 00′s emo culture. Imagine someone like that watching this show and explaining to you:

“You just don’t understand man. The wolves are, like, misunderstood by society just like me. Other humans just don’t understand them so they have to isolate themselves from the scum. But that’s OK because they are the ones that will achieve paradise when everyone else succumbs the capitalist materialist apocalypse. It will be the noble wolves that reach paradise. I identify with the wolves because society doesn’t understand me so I deceive everyone into thinking I’m human but actually I’m a wild beast who is just searching for paradise. Oh please take me away wolves where I can’t be persecuted hey listen to my poetry about how I became a wolf and got a sexy wolf wife and then we hey wait where are you going pah just another person afraid of my inner wolf.”

Wolf's Rain 23.mkv_snapshot_06.26_[2013.10.14_13.08.59]

The story is supposed to be about the world being reborn to wipe away sin, but humanity doesn’t appear to have committed any sins. The biggest sin they appear to have committed is not have the luck to be born as a W.O.L.F. There’s this over-arching story about how this noble tried to become a wolf, which is far and away the stupidest part of the whole story with the most embarrassingly awful dialogue and dumbest plot twists, who again seems to be only punished because he’s not a W.O.L.F. My snarky W.O.L.F. thing is because there’s no reason as to why wolves are the creatures that open paradise, beyond idk wolves are cool animals. While I thought the anime was generally serviceable throughout the airing run, by the time it reached the end I was starting to realise the whole thing barely had a purpose. The final episodes were just ‘everyone dies in melodramatic fashion’, but I got no sense as to why they had to die so the whole thing felt pointless.

Which leads me to my big final point: Wolf’s Rain is pretentious. It’s plenty ambitious and got loads of highfalutin but no over-arching theme to back it up. ‘Everyone must die for their sins for the world to be reborn and also wolves are cool’ appear to be the extent of the themes. Elfen Lied was also really big around the same time, so I’m just going to blame Wolf’s Rain’s popularity on the emo culture that was hip with nerds at the time.

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30 Comments

  1. mwp
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, I never really thought about why I loved this anime so much, and looking at your review I really don’t want to, either. I simply didn’t care ‘why’ back when I watched it. It didn’t matter.

    Whatever, I enjoyed it, that’s all that matters.
    I’M SHUTTING OUT YOUR VOICE OF REASON, I CANNOT HEAR A THING. WOLVES ARE COOL ALALA LOOK AT HOW COOL THEY ARE ISN’T THIS FANCY.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      FACE THE TRUTH

      I DID IT FOR CHOBITS

      SO EVERYONE ELSE MUST SUFFER

  2. Posted October 17, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I prefer to think of Wolf’s Rain less as pretentious and more as “Welp, Bones fucked up a great premise again. What else is new?” And someone please rein Dai Sato in, because the guy’s dialogue can be really dumb sometimes.

    • Gunslinger
      Posted October 17, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Ya and the pinnacle of this was that god damned Bonen no Xamd

      Never again will i expect any decent ending from them

      • Posted October 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        I like the ending to Un-Go and I loved the ones to both Darker than Black series, even though people hated the one for S2. If the Bebop movie counts, I loved the ending to that.

        Everything else, even the stuff I enjoy, I thought had some pretty lame endings. Both Eureka Sevens. Blast of Tempest. Both FMA series (I prefer the former’s). Haven’t seen Xam’d or Ouran Host Club.

        And yeah, I didn’t like the endings of the Bones stuff I don’t enjoy either.

      • kai
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 1:04 am | Permalink

        Probably a good idea for you to avoid X’amd then.
        The Bones ending I enjoyed the most was RahXephon. It made you think but you could figure it all out eventually.

      • Scamp
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Oh Xam’d. Every now and then I stay up at night and cry that about how poorly Xam’d turned out.

  3. gedata
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I never really got a couple things about this show, like how the wolves were God-modded to the point were they can outrun bullets.

    It also bugged me how the wolves were able to keep up with Darcia’s cool aircaft in spite of all the random pit-stops they made.

    I did quite dig the soundtrack though. STRAY-YAY, STRAY-YAYAYAYAY

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      The wolves were kinda god-moded in everything. They could bite through iron bars and take out entire armies of armed bars

  4. Raiphin
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh thank god someone else found Wolf’s Rain boring to look at. I’m not saying I watch anime only for pretty colors (hell, I liked Witch Hunter Robin for reasons I don’t fully remember right now) but damn, I don’t think I got through two episodes of that show before I saw something shiny and got distracted. And wasn’t sorry.

    • Cirith
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      I liked WHR too. I like Witch hunter robin for the fact that it contains a good example of people not knowing how glasses work! (If I remember right they gave her glasses for her visions problems when using her ability, without figuring out how exactly her eye sight is influenced. Which is quite stupid. Though I might misremember.)
      Okay actually I don’t remember why I like it either.

  5. ANON
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    THE CART DRIVER IS LELOUCH! C.C. IS TALKING TO HIM! HE’S ALIVE! HE HAS A GEASS SO HE CAN’T DIE!

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      OH NO DON’T YOU START THAT

  6. Posted October 17, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Wolf’s Rain was 2/3rds a good show that butt-fumbled the ball away in its closing act. The two dudes driving through the land, the wolves’ first meeting with Cheza, the false paradise dream, Wakamoto owl; loaded with such great imagery and mature writing I thought this show really would be able to pull it together at the end. But putting the recaps aside because they had no control over that, the ending was crushingly disappointing.

    It’s not just the FPS-style gritty brown and grey palette, but the devolution of staleness in the landscapes and character that hurt it. The last 8 or so episodes occur in large, empty rooms, streets, and tundras that lack visual pop and imagination. THIS IS THE END OF THE WORLD! IT SHOULDN’T LOOK THIS BORING! The wolf characters also regressed to the same monotonous shtick of angst and brooding they expressed all along instead of showing any change over the course of their “life-changing” journey. And then there’s the astoundingly poor flurry of plot twists thrown in at the end that evaporated any reserves of trust I had that the narrative knew what it was doing all along. The last half of the last episode in the OVA finale did show me a conclusion I believe was Wolf’s Rain’s aim all along, but it came far too late after far too many bad episodes.

    tl;dr I may not be able to love ever again D:

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Welp, there’s always Space Dandy

  7. Nagisa33
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Why would people argue against Madoka Magica being a deconstruction? What’s the big dillio?

    What are some other anime hot topics that got people’s panties in a twist?

    People arguning for the meaning behind endless 8 in relation to the story?
    What others?

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Oh man, a list of things that anime fans get annoyed about. How long do you have?

      • Kioku from Laptop
        Posted October 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        One of the cart drivers could write a post about it? I’d read it.

  8. Hogart
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Sure it was pretentious, but bendy lasers and retro domed cities are always cool, the old dude with his “dog” were pretty badass, the OST had it’s share of magnificence, and that scene where Darcia loses whats-her-name and smashes his head a bunch of times was one of the few bits of melodrama that actually hit me in a year that was with the stuff.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Really? Anything involving Darcia I thought was pretty universally awful, including that scene. There were plenty of parts I liked about the show, but definitely nothing involving the nobles

  9. Aethelwulf
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:02 am | Permalink

    I saw a Cheza cosplayer at the last con I attended. There are still hardcore fans out there, I guess. *shrug*

    As for myself, I watched the show so long ago I can barely remember it. I do recollect that the divorced couple were my favorite characters, since – as you said – the wolf boys were lacking in the personality department. They were a pretty bunch (and their wolf forms were amazingly well drawn and animated) but that was about it.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      I’m cosplaying as Kiba now. You just can’t tell because I’ve deceived you all

  10. strukingfourd
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Lulu isn’t the cart driver and deconstruction is overvalued.

    • Scamp
      Posted October 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      I agree on both counts

  11. DarkEnergy
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Everyone knows Scamp is the cart driver.

  12. gw_kimmy
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    i got something slightly different out of the show, but that may be my emo inner 13-year-old talking 8D

    i dunno, call me boring, but i actually appreciated that the apocalypse looked so dull and grey. if we’re gonna go out one of these days, it’ll totes be something along those lines! maybe im just used to all the apocalyptic stuff i’ve read being along the lines of flames and explosions. *shrug* ROBERT FROST YO

    my favorite characters were the humans as well. i havent watched the anime in awhile, but i felt like the aim was for the wolf dudes to learn what makes humans human and stuff like that. as for why humans hate wolves, havent you seen x-men and any vampire story or anything fantastical? humans hate everything that isnt themmm!!! /end lame excuse

    as for the ending, i’ll go ahead and say i enjoyed it. shut up! i played journey and cried my eyes out!

  13. Billish
    Posted October 18, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Judging a work of art – or opinion, or taste, or whatever – is pretentious. The use of the word pretentious is pretentious. I’ve never seen this show, but your post is pretentious.

    Makes me sick!

    • Cirith
      Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      So by calling his post pretentious you are being pretentious since his post is his opinion? Or does that not count for some arcane reason?
      (On the other hand I guess you must be making a joke. Saying “The use of the word pretentious is pretentious” and then using it yourself in the next sentence is a bit to hypocritical to be genuine.)

      • Billish
        Posted October 19, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        It’s just a stupid word to use; creates a paradox. There are better ways to say the same sort of thing without sounding like a douchebag.

  14. sqa
    Posted October 19, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Ah, Wolf’s Rain. I was watching it at the time, so there’s a few details to backfill, that might help explain part of it.

    1) Looked really good for the seasons it was running (captures worked better with all grey colors, go figure).
    2) Good voice work.
    3) It works better when watched week over week, as you get to reflect with the characters.
    4) Watched slowly, the atmosphere is very good, but not oppressive.
    5) It “ended” at ep 26 and the 4 recap episodes actually backfill part of the wolves character via song lyrics.
    6) It’s based on one of the Creation Myths from a tribe that may or may not have existed in Siberia in the past.
    7) Wonderful soundtrack. And Steve Conte being Steve Conte.

    I don’t think it’s too full of itself, but it gets lost too much in the “World is going to ENDN!!!!!!” stuff in the OVA part, Darcia suddenly doesn’t make any sense and we still don’t know if the OP was a troll or foreshadowing.

    I think it helps to think of it as Russian in story idea origin, so they were attempting to make it less depressing before it went “full Russian fiction”. Your mileage will vary.

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