Wolf’s Rain is one of those shows that defies summation. Plot-wise, it’s about the the wolves’ quest for paradise in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of a frozen world. Thematically, it’s a dense text rich with emotion and symbolism. Much like Revolutionary Girl Utena, I admire it greatly.
The animation is a treat to look at; with Studio BONES there’s rarely a line or expression out of place. Character designs range from standard to gorgeous, much like the backgrounds. However, the latter has to do with thematics rather than laziness. In a frozen, corrupted world, the wolves travel from place to place, often finding desiccation and despair. The show is a visual treat of a different variety, more melancholic than what one thinks of when the term ‘beauty’ arises.
The dub is particular is a masterpiece. Yes, the work here is deserving of such a trite word. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (the same ADR director for Cowboy Bebop, a landmark dub for quality) both wrote the adapted script and directed ADR, and it shows. Not one line is out of place, not one phrase uttered without conviction. it’s a seamless experience, and one well worth watching.
Wolf’s Rain is heavily laden with symbolism of all kinds. Working with different mythologies , religions, and motifs, writer Keiko Nobumoto (write of Cowboy Bebop and frequent collaborator of Shinichiro Watanabe) crafts a dense, elegantly plotted story about the struggle for purpose and (therefore) survival. And much, much more. To try and distill the show is a fool’s errand, and to attempt to ferret out all the symbolism is almost to take on the role of Sisyphus. The writing is exceptional within the series, with barely any exposition, leaving much of the important plot details up to the careful and observant listener. But this could easily eschew into obtuseness if approaching the series without a keen eye for implicit world building.
The story and setting of Wolf’s Rain can leave one cold. The world in which the character eek out an existence is desolate and uninviting. The main characters themselves are wolves to the core (they act like animals, not anthropomorphized creatures.) The series refuses to spoon-feed anything to it’s audience, instead coating its story with the roots of other stories and symbols for subliminal effect. But even if you don’t want to think deeply, the show’s emotional resonance is perhaps its easiest vocabulary. Yoko Kanno’s luscious music, from Latin American influences (in folk and percussion) to heart wrenching orchestral scores, further illuminate the stakes at play within the story, and not just because some of the songs have lyrics. There’s a strong beating heart underneath Wolf’s Rain cold exterior, and anyone willing to venture into its fantastical world will find the journey well worth it.