Wolf’s Rain (ウルフズレイン) is a seinen, dark fantasy, dystopian anime series that I absolutely love, and feel is supremely underrated, mostly due to how old it is. The original anime was created and produced by studio Bones in 2003, with direction from Tensai Okamura and music production from Yōko Kanno. The thirty-episode series was one of the first dark fantasy anime that I had ever seen and it became a sort of quintessential comparison for me with respect to the genre. It is also one of the first shows that really piqued my interest in the anime medium as well.
Wolf’s Rain follows a group of four ragtag wolves that end up coming together due to various circumstances and embarking on a very long and arduous journey in the search for a place called Paradise, which is foretold to appear when the world approaches its end. In the anime, wolves have been hunted practically to extinction and are nothing more than a grand legend. In order to protect themselves from the many different perceptions that people have about them, the four wolves disguise themselves as humans in order to survive their lengthy adventure.
Since this is a series that is so very much near-and-dear to my heart, I wanted to give y’all five main reasons to pick up Wolf’s Rain if you haven’t yet done so, especially since the series was semi-recently remastered in high definition.
05. The Dub is Rather Decent
I’m not someone who typically watches dubbed anime. It’s simply not my cup of chai. However, the very first time I watched this show, it was airing in English. That was the only available language. I was a newbie otaku and didn’t know much about sub versus dub. Recently, I re-watched the series with Madame Gabs, and we watched it in English just for kicks. I was impressed by how well it held up, even almost twelve to thirteen years later.
The acting never felt over-exaggerated or outlandishly comical and out-of-place. The voice actors did a great job of really capturing the individualistic nature of each character, from the idealistic youngster to the pessimistic crank of the crew, to the laid-back and take it easy dude to the gung-ho never-going-to-stop me alpha male. The voices also really matched the faces and the expressions of the characters, which also came as a big surprise during my re-visit. So, if you’re one who prefers dubbed anime or are looking to experience some decent dubbed shows, this one has it down pretty great.
04. Magnificent Musical Score
Yōko Kanno is a household name amid the otaku community. She is absolutely brilliant and just about anything she creates tends to be an impeccable masterpiece of creativity and composition. The musical score for Wolf’s Rain is definitely no exception to this, by far. My favourite element of the soundtrack is how it focuses quite heavily on woodwind instruments, such as the flute, oboe, and clarinet. There’s also wonderful uses of pianoforte and other eclectic sounds that aren’t typical in the anime medium, such as the saxophone, and all of these are brought together in a way that really complements the environments, the sombre and uncertain moods, the action sequences, and so much more in a breath-takingly cinematic manner.
A few of my favourite musical and vocal pieces from the series include “Requiem,” “Pilgrim Snow,” “Valse De La Lune,” “Strangers,” “Hot Dog Wolf,” “Cloud 9,” and “Paradiso.”
03. Awesomely Atmospheric Post-Apocalyptic Setting
As the wolves embark on their journey, the background and foregrounds that surround them work greatly in wrapping the watcher in a total apocalyptic universe. The ruins, rubble, and hopeless humans that the pack encounters along the way, the suffering and the longing they feel for even an ounce of hope amid their despair, is incredibly evocative. It truly feels like the bleak and miserable end of the world that is depicted.
One of my favourite scenes happens early on in the series when the wolves stumble into a wasteland that has been completely decimated by weaponised robots who were trained to hunt very specific things. The only thing left in the wasteland is a single, solitary robot. It is quite emotionally powerful to see chunks of concrete and devastated buildings with withering weeds that are barely able to sprout up through the cracks. The eeriness puts into perspective how the end of the world was caused by humans themselves, which is a key ingredient in most dystopian narratives.
In another instance, a city is rampaged by horrible, oppressive conditions that are made to be the pinnacle of “comfort living” as the alternative are places like the wasteland mentioned above. Another portrayal of dystopia and how people with power take advantage of those in need. It’s breath-takingly beautiful yet heart-breaking.
02. Super Flawed Yet Charming Characters
If you’re someone that enjoys character-centric stories, then Wolf’s Rain is definitely for you as the anime focuses on each of the wolves and what this long and uncertain trek means to them as individuals. Each character is a representation of a different perspective or experience of living in a post-apocalyptic environment.
There is the prideful and self-righteously determined boy whose idealism inspires others around him. There’s the rough, self-reliant, and vehemently sceptical older person who looks to Paradise’s existence as a cosmic joke as much as a tiny beacon of hope. Then there is the person that is comfortable with the way things are because he has learned how to endure with the hand he’s been dealt. He keeps his head low and tries to fit in rather than standing out or being too ambitious, the ultimate form of survival in his eyes. The young boy that is too naïve and immature to truly grasp the horrors of the world, his idealism making each new reality-based revelation that much more of a blow to his compassionate heart. Lastly, there is the person who has been lied to their whole lives and has no idea how to face those lies and find their own sense of identity, especially in a world where it seems like having an identity is utterly pointless.
Because they all represent the many different ways that people think and react to tough situations, there is something here for everyone to relate to on some intimate level, which makes it very easy to formulate a rapport with the respective character(s). The ones I related to the most were Kiba and Tsume, which is a bit funny considering they are quite opposite to one another in many ways.
01. Stunning Story About the Profound Nature of Hope
Last, but definitely not least, Wolf’s Rain is about having hope even when everything seems absolutely hopeless. This is something that definitely hits close to home during an era such as 2020 when the world feels like it’s going to Hell in many different ways. At its core, the anime represents the immaculate strength that even the tiniest speck of hope can have in a wholly devastated and dismal situation or future.
The wolves each had to have an ounce of faith in Paradise in order to begin their search for it. Whether they truly believed it existed or not, there is something that drives them onwards and keeps them going, especially after witnessing one horrendous horror after another. This is such a vital message, to keep moving forward even when confronted with the greatest and most terrifying adversities. While it can be unbelievably depressing, it’s also wondrously inspiring.
In addition to hope, the story showcases the powers of selfishness and ruthless ambition as well and how far it’s destructive prowess can go, which is something else that’s extremely relevant to today’s climate. The systemic oppression it births, its contribution towards an irreparable demise, how it corrupts the humane spirit of compassion from the inside out, and much more. The duality and parallels of hope and poisonous self-interest are presented here in exceptionally thought-provoking ways and are some of the best parts of the series, making it one of the best anime out there.
As you can see there are some fantastic reasons to watch Wolf’s Rain if you haven’t yet. These are merely five out of the plethora of them. While I absolutely respect and adore this series, I don’t think it will be for everyone, at least not at certain given times.
For example, if you’re wanting something that is warm and comforting, you won’t find that here. Wolf’s Rain is dark and dreary, even amid the handful of cosy moments that it does contain. I definitely don’t recommend this is if you’re not in the mindset or emotional state for watching something that can be heavily gloomy. Nevertheless, I do recommend that you give it a try at some point as it’s truly quite remarkable.