Wolf's Rain Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, February 17, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, January 04, 2005
What They Say
Kiba seems to have found paradise. It's just him and the enigmatic girl known as Mew. He's happy, but he's sure he was supposed to be doing something. If only he could remember. The rest of the pack is still looking for him. Along the way, they meet the Mon, a tribe who believes that humans are descended from wolves. They work together to try to save Kiba.
Their search for Cheza leads them to another battle between humans. Meanwhile, Cheza and Blue are held prisoner by Jaguara's forces until they are rescued by Hubb and Cher. But their freedom is short-lived. Now, the pieces for the endgame have been put into play, as everyone converges on Jaguara's keep, where the future of the world will be decided!
Recovering from the last major encounter, the wolves must find the inner strength to continue and then decide on their ultimate target.
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 vibrant set of black colors in the background, the artwork here is very attractive and has a slick look to it. 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 Blue.
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 are 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.
Similar to the previous volume, there are textless ending sequences for episodes nineteen through twenty-one here but nothing else beyond that.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a bit of a break with the series due to the recap volume, Wolf's Rain picks up relatively close to where it left off in the aftermath of Jaguara's onslaught at the keep and the kidnapping of Cheza and Blue. Destruction lay all around the wolves and the group is actually split up now that Kiba was thrown quite far from everything. Dispirited and unsure of how to actually proceed, the four work towards finding their way.
This phase of the storyline is one of the more interesting parts since it starts to reveal more of what's going on in the world, especially as the wolve's get further away from the places they've known already, but also in that the challenges of continuing on with this journey are brought to the forefront and they have to deal with whether they really believe in Paradise since it's all been something that Kiba has been pushing since they all met him. The realization at one point by the three that none of them had the real impetus for this if it wasn’t for Kiba really hits them. The separation from Kiba and their inability to find him has them continuing on the journey but their doubts are now worn on their sleeves, particularly when they come to one nomadic encampment of locals who believe in wolves and trust them as spirit guides. Toboe in particular is the one with the hardest time because he's spent so much of his life around people that all this time alone with just wolves and living that kind of far ranging life just isn't normal to him.
Kiba's journey is equally as interesting since it becomes so very personal for him. Surviving the attack on the keep, he finds himself wandering until he comes across a wide open field where there's a beautiful blue oasis of water in the middle of it. As he laps it up, he realizes that there's a girl sitting across the water from him, a wolf as well. As he slowly starts to talk and trust her, he finds that this place feels ever so much like Paradise and it starts calming his soul and his instincts, especially as the two get closer and closer. Getting Kiba to be relaxed and comfortable, to almost smile in fact, is such a change for the character and it's a slow but subtle subplot that I think does a good job of showing another facet of the character beyond the continually driven wolf.
The human cast also gets some interesting material here. One of my favorite moments is early on when Toboe comes across the barely alive Quent and decides that he'll try to help him survive a bit longer but sharing his body heat with him while the others go on searching for Kiba. Quent's reaction to it is minimal since he thinks it's Blue, but eventually he learns of the wolves trying to ensure that he stays alive but takes it as pity instead which only reinforces his hatred of them. Hubb and Cher also get some time to figure themselves out after everything that's gone on now that they've both been captured and are being transported along with Cheza and Blue. The regrets of their past seem so insignificant now, though Hubb does amusingly get to tell her that all records of their marriage were destroyed, including the divorce, so depending on how they look at it they're still married. Always trust the man to come up with thoughts like this at a time like this.
The one character that needs more attention but isn't getting too much other than through the mouths of others is Jaguara. With her troops razing the cities left and right and eliminating all the opposition that they can get their hands on, she's becoming the terrible new force to deal with. Even as bad as she is like this, the wolves have even more reason to fear her as they learn that she supposedly collects wolves and has a group of soldiers specifically to just that. She does get some more face time in this volume and we see more of her keep once Cheza arrives there but she's still really wrapped up in mystery as to what her real plans are.
While the series took a bit of a hit in its tension due to the four episode recap period, this volume slowly starts building up the suspense again and brings in some good action to accompany it while expanding on the world and the myths of the wolves and Paradise. The challenges for the characters this time around are more personal and less physical or logical which is much more interesting since they do react like you'd expect and not do the safe thing. The series continues to tempt us by keeping some bits of information just beyond reach but I'm continuing to enjoy the journey, the mood and the overall atmosphere of it all.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending Collection
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 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: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Wolf's Rain