Wolf's Rain Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, August 26, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2004
What They Say
The perilous journey continues as Kiba remains unwavering in his belief in paradise, but the others are not so convinced. Once outside the city, the wolves find themselves in a dense forest with Darcia's airship looming above them. Little do they know that they will soon meet with the Flower Maiden Cheza, a mysterious figure who has escaped her captors aboard the airship.
Evading the humans, Cheza and the wolf pack will encounter Blue, the dog who belongs to the wolf-hunter Quent ? A meeting that will change all of their lives forever.
Charging right along from plot point to plot point, a lot of ground is covered in this set of five episodes that keeps the show very loose and mysterious.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a very solid stereo mix that has some subtle motions to it. As it's a late night show for us, we managed to have a very quiet set of surroundings while watching it and were able to really take in how well done the sound is. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout while the music fills up both channels beautifully. We spot checked the English track as it's done in 5.1 and found a nice enhancement over the stereo mix, though I still think the original blended mix works better.
Originally airing in 2003, Wolf's Rain is presented in its original full frame format and just looks stunning. With so much attention paid to the little details as well as such elaborately defined color palettes for the various places the characters go, this transfer just really absorbs you into it as it goes along. The only area where we had the slightest bit of problem is during the opening scene with the white wolf on the white snow where the LCD factor of our set gave it a bit of an extra twinkle that isn't in the print itself. Other than that, this looks almost flawless. Colors are great, cross coloration is virtually absent and aliasing was barely noticeable. The only change in the transfer that's different from previous releases from Bandai is that the usual Japanese text in the opening and ending sequences are replaced with English text instead.
Juxtaposing the imagery of the various characters in stylized colors against the backdrop of the moon and a white background, the cover is hard to pin down at first with the amount of characters and hard to discern pieces to it. To some extent, I'm not entirely sure what the mechanical piece is in the center. There are some nice aspects to it, such as Kiba's meshing with the moon and I like the white wolf in the dead center, but this feels like a weak cover that doesn't really capture the eye. The back cover provides a collage of shots from the show that highlight various characters and some of the wolves in action while the bulk of the background is an off-white that makes it very easy to read the summary paragraphs. The discs features and extras are all clear and easy to read and since there's no volume information anywhere, we get episode numbers and titles just above the usual batch of production information and technical details. The insert replicates the front cover artwork with a bit less text and opens to a two panel spread that has various forms of Tsume.
In a real change of pace for Bandai, they've got a nicely animated menu that has the image of a closed book on a table that opens up as the camera pans around and over it. When it opens, it shifts to the more standard static screen of the book itself while the open pages plays bits of animation from the show. Selections are ringed around it and are quick and easy to access and navigate. As usual, there's a number of front-loaded credit screens but they're all still fully skippable or menu takes you directly to the main menu animation. The disc also correctly read our players language presets and proceeded without issue.
This volume mirrors some of the first and has some solid extras on it for Japanese language fans. There's a second cast interview piece that has them actually performing together and some dialogue about the show. There's also a good staff interview section that talks about the shows origins and how it's changed since they first started conceiving it back while working on Cowboy Bebop. My favorite extra for this release is the multiple ending sequences where you can see the changes they put through on a weekly basis. I really liked the imagery of the last one best..
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second set of five episodes moves the show along at a very brisk pace and brings a lot of things into play, enough so that you're left wondering just how things are going to move forward next. While there are usually some small predictables to go into every series, Wolf's Rain has left us guessing at every turn outside of the basic idea of finding Paradise.
A good portion of this volume is interested in solidifying the relationships up between the wolves we're following, to essentially get them into more of a real pack form than just the loose one they're in now. This does let us see a lot of different sides of the various four leads, particularly through the intervention of one character. We also get a fair bit of background on the world itself through some of the Noble families and more and more of how things are ordered in this place start to make sense. The biggest change for me with regards to this show is to shift my perception of it away from a science fiction alternate future type show to a fantasy world removed from our own but with many similarities.
The pack's troubles on the island town are resolved fairly quickly once they get down to the real problem of the town which is that the wolf pack that lives there is dealing with its own leadership crisis and our pack simply gets caught up in it at the wrong time. The bulk of the five episodes on this volume have things moving forward to an interesting mountain based city where at the top of a fallen noble's house lies, one from a several years earlier it seems. The wolf pack ends up coming across this particular region after watching an aerial battle that resulted in their picking up a strong scent of the flower again. The mix of excitement from the pack as they realize it and follow it is just as interesting as the excitement on board the two ships as they sense that Cheza has awakened once more and is now taking an active role in her own life.
A lot of the four episodes revolve around covert movement and chase scenes as well as some really tender moments as the wolves come to understand Cheza better and she them. Much of her remains a mystery but the little nuggets we get to learn are intriguing as are the ways she's able to see things about the wolves that nobody else can. Her addition to the pack, at least for now as I can't imagine her being there for too long, provides some lighter moments for the wolves and some telling moments. Tsume of course comes off the hardest as he doesn't really believe what she is but the way he ends up under her sway is the most amusing at the same time.
It's the little moments throughout a lot of this that really works well. There's a great moment where Cheza is kneeling before Blue, the wolf-hunters dog, and she's able to soothe him and go on about how he's forgotten his own heritage as a wolf as a dog like him does have some ancient wolf blood running through him. It's a strong moment as she's able to tame him briefly while Kiba is standing right there, never mind that the good doctor and the wolf hunter are just on the other side of the door getting drunk.
These episodes continue to be rather violent, which isn't surprising in a lot of ways since we are dealing with a supposedly extinct set of creatures who are fighting for survival, but they do manage to show that it's not only the wolves who act violent. Some of the soldiers that run around in these episodes are brutal but it's also telling at times with the viewer. When one of them kicks a young boy across a street and into a wall, there's barely a reaction. Do it to a dog and you get cringes and averted looks. This disparity is something I always find interesting and poke at people with when they do it.
Wolf's Rain continues to be a difficult show to describe, particularly when a set of episodes like this covers so much ground and reveals so many bits about itself that it's restrictive in what you can talk about without spoiling huge areas. The series continues to be visually a real treat with the character designs and the well detailed backgrounds. I've also really gotten into the varied performances by the leads in the show as their personalities are really shining through here. This is a show that's quite engaging and fascinating to watch but I'm still hard pressed to say exactly what it is that's got me so wrapped up in it at this stage.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Cast Interview #2,Staff Interview,Textless Endings (3)
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Wolf's Rain