Anime Review: Wolf's Rain

Kiba staring off into space.

It has been a while has it not?

For the first time in a while, I could get my three or so day break, which had been taken up by making sure I do not fall behind on the stuff I cover here regularly, and now I am ready to get to work again.

Since reading, especially the prose stuff, has gotten monotonous and takes so much concentration, I thought that I would focus on something that did not have as much focus as before for a while.

Recently, I looked around at the services that I am subscribed to and found a series that I thought that I would give a try.

Today, I will be reviewing that series, which is called Wolf's Rain.

Darcia appearing before Blue and Hige.

There is a mythical place called Paradise that is supposedly a true heaven for all, and many people have dreamed of it, though most of them have given up or failed to reach it.

However, the quest for Paradise begins again when four wolves meet each other in a world where wolves are considered extinct and Kiba, the leader of the recently formed pack, is determined to go all the way to the ends of the Earth to find the key to paradise.

Hige looking through bars with smile.

When I first heard about this series, I was thinking that this would be just as much of a letdown as Cowboy Bebop, which was one of the first anime I saw after subscribing to FUNimation, and I was prepared for the worst with this one when I finally took the plunge.

However, after watching this series, I must say that I really liked it.

Upon starting this series and watching a few episodes, I did not want to stop watching for any reason, though I need to satisfy the same needs as everyone else.

Even though it did not really hook me quite as quickly as the Pandora Hearts manga, or even some of my other favorite anime out there, it still did a nice job of providing the things necessary to pull off such a feat.

Regardless of the medium used to tell a story, the audience needs to be pulled in quickly and held there, which differs depending on both the medium and the kind of story presented.

Since this series focuses on a journey, these necessary parts include a cast of characters that are interesting and complex, at least enough so that they gain a human-like feel about, as well as a number of questions to keep the audience interested.

One of the reasons that I tend to like anime so much over the sitcoms and other things plaguing American television is that these elements are much more noticeable in anime and there is usually an overall plot, though there are some anime, like Cowboy Bebop, that either lack an overall story or, like much of the prose fiction written where I live, characters that are not interesting.

Likewise, this series actually had an overall story and provided me with characters that actually seemed like humans, as opposed to all of the one-dimensional characters found in many of the popular works coming out from where I live or in the UK, seeing as the plots in such works tend to be much more interesting than the character.

If either one of these elements were lacking, which might have been the case if I only watched the 26 episodes that were aired on television in Japan a little over a decade ago, I would have thrown this in the same trash heap that I tossed Cowboy Bebop into, since it would not have had the charm that it does.

Fortunately, the staff at Bones that worked on this series seemed to understand the importance of this aspect of any decent series or story, and it made the series look a bit better than I thought it was going to be, which makes me want to give them a good round of applause.

Hopefully, they can deliver something this good in the future, but considering that most of the anime they make now are adaptations of existing work, instead of originals, like this one, I do not think that they can pull this off today.

I also how many of the characters actually grew over the course of the show.

While it is not unheard of for characters in either anime or manga to grow and change over the course of the series, seeing as Edward and Alphonse Elric from FMA learned that they could not accomplish everything through alchemy because they were only human, which lead to Edward sacrificing his ability to use alchemy to get Alphonse back, and Ledo fron Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet went from somebody that blindly followed orders to an actual human, it still does not seem to happen in too many anime today because many characters end up feeling like the same people that they were in the beginning.

True, the fact that the characters in many anime do not learn and grow does not mean that they are absolutely terrible, though it is a reason why American sitcoms feel so dull, but this series focuses on a journey or adventure, much like Spice & Wolf, and characters in such a series are not going to be the same after the adventure as they were before, much like how we change over the course of the journey we call life.

For example, Tsume did not really care about anyone in the beginning of the series, as he only cared about getting what he needed to survive, though he was not completely heartless, but towards the end, he shed tears over a fallen comrade and was not too willing to leave anyone behind.

This is what makes stories of adventures and journeys so exciting, and if the staff at Bones that worked on this series had not made sure that the characters grew, I would have been very disappointed in them, as they were able to deliver great series like the 2009 adaption of FMA, known as Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood where I live, and made the studio look like nothing more than a joke, even though this series originally came out a little over a decade ago. After all, I doubt that anybody would be praising this series if there were no growth in the characters.

Of course, the growth was not limited to only the protagonists of the series, the four wolves, but minor characters as well.

It is one thing for the protagonist or protagonists to grow, but seeing how the world in this series seems to be pretty much like our own, though quite a bit more advanced, things would not have felt realistic or believable if only the protagonists change, as we all have our own struggles in life that nobody can really see and those struggles change us.

Even though this aspect of the series would not have been affected much if the minor characters did not experience some growth, the fact that it is present makes the series that much more realistic and believable and makes the growth of the characters stand out more than in other series, like Barakamon, which makes me feel like giving them some major applause, as it makes me feel like actually supporting them.

Hopefully, Bones will be able to deliver something this good in the realm of character development in future works, if they ever decide to do more original titles, instead of mostly adaptations, but since things change quite a bit within a decade, I am not too sure that I would ever see anything like this again.

Another nice thing about this series was that I was able to get in some nice chuckles.

While the humor found in Wolf's Rain is not that unique, when compared to other anime and manga in general, the staff at Bones was able to execute things well enough that that things felt funny.

This series might be serious and sad overall, but things become a little boring when there is not really to laugh about along the journey, not to mention that the characters would end up feeling less like actual human beings.

Fortunately, Bones was able to pull this off so well that the audience can get a break from the everything going on, and was able to do it with little to no fan service.

Readers and anime fans like it when they have characters that feel realistic and interesting, and without having these little moments of humor, we do not get to know the characters better, in terms of how well they along, or get any sense of whether we like them or hate them, other than the fact that they are not quite as well fleshed out as a good fictional character.

However, the fact that this could all be done without the fan service moments of either a beach episode or hot spring trip is what really impresses me about how the humor found here is pretty much better than most anime today.

If anime and manga had less fan service, people would probably not be viewing anime fans as perverts and such, because there probably would be a bit more substance in a show and it would not be so weird to many people, not to mention that the comedic moments would not appear to be as low on the totem pole as literary experts find slapstick to be.

Unfortunately, just like American entertainment seems to need its eye candy of explosions and other common things found in American movies and television that are not really necessary, the Japanese entertainment industry will also keep on including fan service until people get tired of it, and this will not change until people over in Japan finally get tired of it.

Still, Bones was able to deliver something a bit different from the usual, and it makes me feel like giving them another round of applause. Nice job, Bones.

The thing that I liked the most though was how death seemed to mean something and actually felt sad.

While death in anime can get fairly sad and emotional, such as the deaths that occur in many of the anime adaptations of Key's visual novels from Kyoto Animation, many series today seem to lack any feeling behind the deaths that occur, which can be caused by a wide variety of reasons.

For example, in Attack on Titan, a series that a ton of people seem to like, though I am not too certain if it will become another Sword Art Online or DBZ, where people realize how the series is so flawed in all the wrong departments that they will throw it in the trash, there are characters dying right and left that are supposed to have some impact on the other characters in the series, but death happens so frequently and there is nothing there for the audience to feel the same feelings as any of the characters left behind that there is literally no sting.

Yes, Attack on Titan is a series where people are fighting to live against some giant monsters who would otherwise eat them, but it still does not change the fact that it was next to impossible to care about anybody because the characters meant nothing and there was too much death.

Here, however, when somebody died, I felt like I was on the verge on tears, because the relationship between the characters were given almost as much focus as the characters themselves and none of the characters themselves were truly awful, with maybe only a few exceptions.

Just because somebody dies in a series or story, it does not mean that the reader or viewer will be able to feel it, as we need to know why something is sad beyond being made to put ourselves in the character's shoes because it would only reflect our current level of consciousness, instead of leading us to understand the characters better. This is why many of the saddest moments in anime adaptations of Key's work and the original visual novels are actually sad, even though people complain about how Key seems to do things in a manner that is similar to my annoyance with the narrator of The Book Thief.

The audience wants to care about the characters and what they are going through, and the staff at Bones understood this fairly well, though Bandai should be given some credit too, since their dub was vastly superior to the dub Central Park Media delivered when they dubbed the Yu Yu Hakusho movie and were able to actually bring out the emotion when it counted.

If I did not feel even once ounce of sadness for the characters, I would not have liked the series as much as I did, because the staff behind this series at Bones, like staff at Wit responsible for the adaptation of Attack on Titan, would have failed to deliver any feelings when they were necessary.

Thankfully, that did not happen, and I can at least walk away having enjoyed this series quite a bit, though maybe not enough to where I would want to buy it, and I feel like Bones deserves a decent amount of applause.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least without spoiling things too much.

Because the show was able to capture and hold my attention quite well, many of the characters all grew, regardless of whether they were main players or not, the was humor with little to no fan service, and the deaths all seemed to matter, this anime was fairly decently.

Cher Degre drinking in a bar with a disappointed look.

Although I did like the series, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, only one thing really bothered me.

This series had way too many recap episodes.

For some reason, anime studios today seem to think that every anime needs to have a recap episode, and even though some of them, like the one in The Legend of the Legendary Heroes that I did not bother watching when I first saw the series, do not feel pointless, many recap episodes really are pointless, especially when a series is only twelve or thirteen episodes long.

Fortunately, most series tend to have only one recap episode and the series finally continues on as usually, making it only a minor annoyance at best, though I would prefer there to be more than 30 episodes before a recap is ever considered.

However, with this series, Bones made not only one recap episode but four back to back.

Human memory might not be perfect, but do people really need to see to four recaps, with little to no difference from the rest of the series, Bones?

By having four recap episodes in a row, the studio is not only insulting the capability of the viewers memory, but it also gives the viewer a good reason to just drop a show, and that is something that no anime studio wants to see, because they need to get enough exposure to be able to get their money back and/or profit, especially since I almost considered forgetting this show through each of the recaps after the first.

After being able to impress me quite a bit, Bones seems to have sunken quite low by doing things to the point where I cannot accept the additional four episodes released after the original 26 as an apology, though they did make the series much better than ending right at episode 26.

After all, if these four episodes were erased from existence, I would have been willing to give this series a near perfect rating, though I do not usually use a rating scale when I review anything, but these four episodes really ruined my enjoyment and I am jealous of those that watched this series on Adult Swim because they supposedly never aired the recap episodes.

Hopefully, there when will be a day when anime studios stop the ridiculousness of these unnecessary recap episodes, because these recaps have always been unnecessary overall, even if they can be fun to watch.

Thankfully, nothing else bothered me too much, so Bones can get off somewhat easily.

While there was only one thing wrong with this series, the fact that the issue was bad enough to affect my enjoyment ended up hurting the series quite a bit.

Despite the fact there was one thing that annoyed me, the good balanced things out enough to make this worth watching.

I recommend this to those that want an anime with character grow or like anime that have a journey, as they will like this the most, though I recommend skipping episodes 15-18 to get the best experience possible.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, since it was better than most of the anime people think are good enough to use to introduce others to anime.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or buy the reviewed title from either Amazon or iTunes, so that I can find more worthwhile anime for you guys to watch, and do whatever you do when you find something that impresses you.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.