Wolf’s Rain Volume 1

In a bleak and harsh future world, wolves roam free among human beings who are struggling to survive. Few know they still exist; disguising their true appearance and living among ordinary members of society or hiding in the mountains, they have avoided contact with people for over two hundred years and are now little more than a folk legend. In these four opening episodes we are introduced to four such wolves that cross paths in the dilapidated streets of Freeze City; this town is also home to a strange being named Cheza, who appears to have a bond with the legendary wolves and may hold the key to the fabled paradise of Rakuen. However, a member of the mysterious Nobles shares their interest in Cheza and Rakuen, and the wolves must set out on a long and dangerous journey to find their paradise.

Partly because of the announcement of an airing on the satellite channel Rapture and also due to some famous names involved in its production, Wolf’s Rain has been one of the most highly-anticipated new releases of the year. Just as well then that behind the hype it shows every sign of being a truly outstanding series – something quite out of the ordinary and all the more refreshing as a result.

Firstly there’s the soundtrack: the mere mention of the name Yoko Kanno is enough to tell fans that it is going to be good. The surprisingly guitar-driven score is enough to make the viewer sit up and take notice while fitting the mood of the scenes perfectly: from the uplifting rock opener Stray to the knee-trembling ending theme Gravity, her ability to create varied and compelling songs that heighten the impact of the events onscreen once again does not disappoint and supports her enviable reputation.

A great deal of care has gone into the characters, too. Kiba is the most wild of the bunch; a true “lone wolf’ who has made the search for Rakuen his lifelong mission, and seems to know more about Cheza than he lets on. Tsume hides a strong and caring personality behind his gruff exterior, and there is certainly more to Toboe’s past than meets the eye. At this point Hige is something of a comical character but the interplay between them even at this early stage is fascinating to watch, with plenty of action, humour and drama.

Their behaviour in wolf form may be a shock for those expecting any cute cuddly animals though: wolves are wild animals, and their struggle for survival is portrayed accordingly. The animation quality is of suitably high quality for depicting both their savagery and dignity, with the gore and violence being both exhilarating and in context with the story. Intentionally or not, their existence is that of kill-or-be-killed and their sometimes-human appearance does not detract from the fact that they are powerful hunters who would be scorned and hunted down by society if their true appearance were apparent.

In Summary

Wolf’s Rain has made an impressive start as an original, thoughtfully written and well animated series. With excellent production from Studio Bones, the soundtrack being another Yoko Kanno triumph and some really inventive ideas behind the storytelling, I find it hard to find fault in it at all. If it keeps up the standard of these introductory episodes Wolf’s Rain could well be another classic in the making.

9 / 10