Wolf's Rain Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 14, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 22, 2005
What They Say
Lady Jaguara has everything she needs to achieve her goal to open paradise. As groups of humans and wolves arrive at Jaguara’s city, they discover that they must find a way to get in.
Kiba is now obsessed with saving Cheza from her fate. Tsume, too, is resigned to help and even Toboe is showing fighting spirit. But Hige is behaving strangely and the others start to worry.
Meanwhile, Lady Jaguara prepares for her ritual which will open Paradise. But despite all of her power and influence, there are still those who would stand against her. And when the final battle lines are drawn, she will have to face a betrayed noble, a furious pack of wolves, and some very confused humans. The world will end or perhaps begin on this night!
Bringing the story fully into Jagura's keep and the Lost City, a time of final thought and exploration of ones self becomes the main theme before everything goes to hell.
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 four main characters in human form 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 shots of the shows human characters such as Quent, Hubb and Cher.
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 several textless ending sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Wolf's Rain continues to be a frustratingly enjoyable series in that it's so very slow paced for much of the show but then has these flashes of brilliance that so completely engage that you can't help but revel in it. This sixth installment in the series brings just about every character of importance back into contact with each other after going their separate ways and then proceeds to separate them even more before bringing most of them back together again. While that's been done numerous times over the series and it does get old (and overly coincidental in everyone coming back together each time), it's done with great effect this time around.
What started in the last volume with most of the cast making their way towards Jagura's Keep has resulted in their sporadic arrival there. The Keep is actually located in the heart of the Lost City, a place with an immense amount of power coursing throughout it, more than any other city by all signs and appearances. The entrance into the city is a curious one and is based on connections. Those who have a particular ID tag that looks like a necklace are sent in through the green lit corridor and into the upper city. Following Quent through this as he has one of these tags, we get to see just how strange this place is with its tall white buildings and its citizens who are seemingly oblivious to the outside world and are just living their lives and thinking of nothing else.
The bulk of those arriving through the snowy wilderness from other cities find themselves without ID tags though and go through a separate corridor that's hued in reds and leads to the lower section of the city where they're able to eke out whatever kind of life they can. Since it's relatively clean though in shambles, people are able to set up small nooks and crannies in which to live, are kept in a comfortable temperature especially in comparison to the outside and are able to simply survive, something that wasn't a certainty until they got there. Cher and Blue end up following this route into the city and get to explore its lower regions while trying to figure out how to get on high. Their finding of a seller of such ID tags allows them to take advantage of him and gain access to the upper city where they have much the same experiences as Quent, though they have the extra goal of trying to get to the Keep which turns into an impossible task as they soon learn.
The wolves also make their way into the city though a bit less seen than anyone else. With the same goal of reaching the Keep to free Cheza, they split up to search for both food and a way in but their goals are achieved in different ways. While Tsume and Kiba have little problem eventually finding their way in after some interesting discoveries, Toboe has more trouble than he can handle due to the way Hige seems to know every corner of this place but claims he doesn't as he's led throughout the lower city and into the upper city via a hidden location. The two end up separated as Hige starts to unravel with his feelings about the place and the numerous cameras he feels are watching him completely, never mind the feeling of being guided by unseen voices.
All paths lead to Cheza though and with some smaller stories told within, particularly the one that means a lot to both Blue and Quent, we only get to feel closer to most of these characters as they come to meet up with Jagura as she reveals all and lays the stage for her conquest into Paradise itself. The meeting of all the characters in this situation, particularly after Kiba's sacrifice, is just so visually engaging that I couldn't pull my gaze from the TV. The revelations about Jagura and her relation to someone else wasn't surprising but it wasn't obvious either, but just an interesting way to play out the reasoning behind her hunting of the wolves, her collections and her reasons for all that she's been doing. In a way, so much of the show gets wrapped up in these episodes that you wonder what they'll do in the remaining four episodes but there is still so much more to do.
Visually, this series only gets more fascinating as we get into Jagura's realm. While the city itself isn't all that much, though much more than most of the other cities since it's pretty much fully intact, the Keep itself and all that's inside, from the costumes to the cages, is distinctive and has such a draw to it. It's a combination of all the elements of the show at this point that holds it all together, from the lush backgrounds to the detailed and active character animation that has some great fight sequences here. Everything has come together so well for this big moment in episode twenty-six that the payoff is just perfect and I think they could have ended most of it there.
Sometimes atmosphere alone can carry a series and I think Wolf's Rain could get away with it but they also have plenty more to offer within it and these episodes show just that. With the simple premise of finding Cheza and opening their way to Paradise, the story has run all over and through larger storylines about the Nobles and their attempts to live as they want. The core story is still there though and with so many little moments due to all four of the wolves and the secondary characters, that plot is advancing nicely and hits some real high marks here as it crosses into the Noble's story once more. As good as it is it is just as frustrating at the end since you want to see how it all really ends and the next volume can't be out fast enough. This series continues to be one of the shows that goes to the top of the pile due to my wife's enjoyment of it. With as much as she sees, there's very few series that she insists get watched fast and that's usually the best indicator I have as to how a show is doing. Wolf's Rain is scoring high in that department to be sure.
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: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Wolf's Rain