At the end of volume 4 we were in the midst of an unnecessary recap section which derailed the storytelling of the series. The first two episodes of this volume do nothing to rectify the situation but instead deliver two more: unless you want reminding for the best part of forty-five minutes about what has already transpired I’d recommend you skip to episode 19, because this is where Wolf’s Rain is back on form and in spectacular style too.
In the aftermath of the attack on Darcia’s keep the main characters are split up and scattered: Kiba is missing after going after Cheza with his three companions trying in vain to find him; Darcia is nowhere to be found; Quent is alone in a freezing wilderness; and Hubb, Cher, Cheza and Blue are prisoners of rival Noble Jagala.
The wolf pack are once again travelling separately from the humans but soon find themselves amongst a tribe of people who not only acknowledge their existence and respect them but have some interesting pieces of information to share. According to the legends passed down the generations, the wolves’ search for Rakuen will have serious and far-reaching consequences that support the authenticity of the events mentioned in the Book of the Moon.
Blue is gradually coming to terms with her life and origins, and during a conversation with Cheza while in captivity it becomes clear that she feels regret about being unable to help Quent, both in the present and in the past. Hubb and Cher also take the opportunity to discuss a few things while imprisoned which highlights Hubb’s desire to rekindle their relationship. Whether or not Cher has made a decision about this is not so clear-cut; however, she is happy to accompany her former husband to see the mission through.
With all this going on it is easy to become less interested with the wolves’ journey but Toboe in particular is under the spotlight, including a flashback that reveals the full tragedy of his past and why he has mixed feelings about his relationships with people. There have been a few hints about his early life dropped in before but now we have a much better picture of his character and why he is so anxious to be of more help to his companions; this includes a surprising encounter with Quent. Similarly Kiba’s recollections go somewhere to explaining his wild nature, and show how he had more ties with human beings in the past than he does now. As the wolves’ journey continues their characters develop and grow and continue to interact with the lives of the humans.
Character-driven aspects aside the series proves to be an action-packed thriller as well. The struggle to capture Cheza brings about infighting between the Nobles, with some visceral and exhilarating battle scenes that show how ordinary people are being dragged into a conflict without even knowing what hey are fighting for. The soundtrack seems to be more varied this time around, with the subtleties of orchestral arrangements melding with harsher rock melodies where the situation requires it; a couple of vocal numbers shine through during the more sedate moments too.
Ignoring the first two episodes of re-used footage that does nothing to further the plot this volume is a great return to the quality that made me so enthused about this series in the first place. The higher episode count on this disc allows for three full episodes of character introspection, revelations and breathtaking visuals; as the wolves’ journey resumes we are getting a much clearer idea of the far-reaching significance of their quest as well as presenting us with a fascinating supporting cast.