The wolves complete the final leg of their journey as they brave a perilous ice floe and reach the city surrounding Jagala’s keep. Splitting up to look for Cheza, Hige enters a state of painful paranoia, Tsume and Toboe are captured while Kiba runs on to set Cheza free. Meanwhile Hubb, Cher, Blue and Quent also converge on the city as secrets are revealed and the final confrontation begins.
Because this was supposed to be the series’ final volume the events that take place here all feel very final yet the last episode on offer here glosses over some details towards the end; presumably this is because of the recap episodes squeezed into the schedule earlier on. Fortunately the effects of this are lessened by the amount of new information that is contained in this disc, making it essential viewing for those of us who have followed the cast so far.
For one thing we learn why Hige wears that strange collar of his – the truth behind his past is filled out a great deal as he and the others search the city for a way to the keep. The city is a very strange and surreal place – the people are apathetic and reserved and there is a constant presence of a tough military force that is armed with weapons that intended for use against wolves yet claim that they have died out. There is even an appearance of an old face at Jagala’s stronghold that reveals more about the Nobles and their plans for Cheza.
Quent’s aimless and drunken wandering through the streets leads him to an emotionally powerful and touching reunion with Blue when she recounts the truth behind the deaths of his family – seeing him pursue wolves with such blind hate only to find out the reality of his situation has become one of the series highlights. Even Toboe is portrayed as a much stronger character in this volume: a terrifying danger during the journey across the ice floe leads him to finally overcome his fears and protects his friends in spectacular fashion.
The latter is an example of how brutal and violent Wolf’s Rain can be: these are hard times and several of the protagonists are wild animals so it is inevitable that blood, both wolf and human, is spilled. Even at this late stage in the series the animation and music still maintain their quality though: the gritty darkness contrasts with the vibrancy of the more fantastical settings and the character designs, as well as the music, are superb.
For all this there are still many unanswered questions and unresolved issues – had the series ended here as it was intended to at first, I for one would have been very disappointed. As it is, the penultimate volume brings the main characters together once more and sets them up for the real finale.
Toboe’s brave fight on the ice floe and the revelations surrounding Hige have rekindled my interest in the wolves’ situation while there are yet more moments of drama and tragedy surrounding the human characters. Because this was the final part of the TV run it feels a little rushed in places but this volume ends in a way that promises a dramatic conclusion to the series.