Before I begin I should say that this review will cover the 26 episode series and the four episode OVA. So just be aware of that fact. The reason I don’t review them separately is because they only tell a complete story together. And unlike most anime, neither one has an even semi-complete narrative by itself.
Wolf’s Rain has a fairly simple premise. Four wolves who can disguise themselves as humans in an apocalyptic future search for the flower maiden so that they can reach Paradise. It seems simple enough, but the story has a lot of layers. Throughout most of the series there are three or four sub-plots running at the same time and it isn’t until the end that they all converge. The story is actually pretty spectacular. Nobumoto Keiko is a very talented writer. The use of symbolism throughout is very subtle and well done. That being said there are a few story problems.
The first is that the way the wolves’ disguise works is never clear. The viewer is told that it’s an illusion but there are several times when the wolves have to have actually become humans because they couldn’t do what they’re doing as wolves since wolves lack opposable thumbs or the ability to make fists. A few examples would be Hige pulling a key out of his hair and using it to unlock a jail cell or Blue roughing up a guy who’s clearly shown to have a bunch of bruises afterwards in contrast to the bite marks he should have if he’s just been roughed up by a wolf. There are also several scenes where one wolf drags another by the hand. Then there are moments where they could use human hands, but don’t have them because they’re just wolves. Like when Blue tries to get Hige’s collar off or when Tsume is trying to save a human from falling to his death. The disguises basically work by the principle of dramatic convenience and it’s just lazy. The other story problem that comes up in the anime is that there are four review episodes consecutively, episodes 15-18. Now I can understand why you might want an occasional review episode, but four in a row is just excessive, and a good way of bringing the story to a grinding halt. Why is it even necessary for a thirty episode series to have four review episodes?
The story deals with themes of merit, animism, rebirth and pack, I could have just as easily called it camaraderie but since the story is about wolves… All of these themes are handled pretty well. I especially like the way that each one is a natural part of the story so you don’t get a bunch of forced speeches about friendship helping win card games or some such nonsense. The characters are also very well done. The wolves especially, but the humans too. Part of the reason that Wolf’s Rain gets so depressing toward the end is that you care about these characters and you want them to be okay. The only problem with the characters is that they spend most of their time running around in their human disguises, even when they’re alone, with other wolves or with humans who know what they are. Even Kiba who expresses discomfort at taking on a human guise. My guess is that the reason for this is that they thought people wouldn’t be as interested in watching wolves run around but it still doesn’t make sense from a character perspective.
The art is excellent. The wolves are especially well done and you can really see that the artists worked at portraying them accurately. There is one problem. There’s a crucifixion scene where the character in question is shown with the nails through their palms. This happens all the time in media and it isn’t accurate. You couldn’t hold up a human body by the palms. It would cause the nail to rip through their hands. Usually crucifixions were done by tying rope around the wrist or driving nails through the wrist. The only way you could do it with the nails through the palms would be if their feet were on the ground or a stool or something to keep them supported, but since the character in question is hanging off the ground this is just inaccurate.
The voice acting and music are both great. Miyano Mamoru, Miyake Kenta, Ogasawara Arisa, Mayumi Asano, etc… they all do a great job. The music helps contribute to the atmosphere and is really well put together.
There’s a little yuri potential since Cher’s obsession with Cheza borders on the homoerotic but there’s not a whole lot. So I’ll give it a yuri factor of 2.5/10.
In the end all of the problems with Wolf’s Rain are pretty minor and the art, story, music, voice acting, and characters are all excellent. I give Wolf’s Rain a 9/10. You should definitely watch it, just skip the review episodes since they contribute absolutely nothing. Who would have thought that having four episodes covering the same information wouldn’t be conducive to a strong narrative?