Mania Grade: B+
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- 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
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 125
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Wolf's Rain
Wolf's Rain Vol. #1
By Chris Beveridge
May 12, 2004
Release Date: June 22, 2004
Wolf's Rain Vol. #1
What They Say
© Bandai Entertainment
There is an old legend that speaks of a hidden paradise on Earth - A paradise in which only wolves can find. And while thought to have been extinct for hundreds of years, wolves indeed still walk the Earth... hidden among mankind. Now, a group of outcast wolves set out to find Paradise: Kiba, Hige, Toboe, and Tsume.
Each wolf is driven by their own personality and desires, but together they are pursued by humans seeking to quench their own thirst for power. A difficult and long journey lies ahead, with Paradise waiting to be found.The Review!
Due to this being an advance copy, only episodes one through three were included. The final release will have five episodes. The rest of this copy we have is otherwise the finished product.Audio:
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.Video:
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. Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, we get a very nicely stylized image of the Noble we meet in this volume as well as varying wolf images done in an illustrative style instead of the usual full color pieces. This is an eye-catching cover and one that really gets you to look at all the little details of it once it's got you. The minimal color scheme helps a lot as well to draw you in. 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 some introspective images of Kiba.Menu:
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.Extras:
The first volume has a couple of good extras included in it. The cast interview runs about six minutes and has the four wolf actors talking together and their thoughts on the series and their characters. The opening and ending sequences are done up in textless form here as well. There's three promotional films, and if you watch them in order you'll see how things from the long three minute piece were later adapted and used in the shorter promotional films and had dialogue added to them. They're interesting to watch but I'm not sure any of them really grabbed me enough to say "you have got to see this". There's also a set of four 15 second promo's which Bandai smartly lets you play separately but also included a play-all feature for it.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Wolf's Rain is the latest series that gained rather sizeable exposure when it was airing, both due to the shows nature and the creative forces behind it. After the attention garnered from working on RahXephon, BONES became one of the go-to studios for some of the more intricate and lavish productions. Their attention to detail is both a plus and a minus. The plus side is obvious when you watch the show and you realize just how absorbing it is in story, characters and artwork. The minus side showed up more heavily for Japanese fans who had to deal with a series of four recap episodes occurring in the late teen section of the series. At this time, Bandai hasn't stated where those will go, but they have said they've got them and all the regular episodes. So by that count, Wolf's Rain is thirty episodes long, but is still really just a twenty-six episode series.
Based on the first three episodes here, it's definitely an intriguing series but one that looks to take on the journey formula to some extent. The setting is some time in mankind's future and things simply are not going well at all. Humanity seems to be regressing in some ways, the bulk of the populace is holed up in worn out domed cities that are falling apart but there's still some semblance to life as we know it. Out on the train lines that connect these pockets of civilization you've got raiders that try to disable and steal the goods contained within them but both sides are pretty heavily armed so there's lots of violence going on there.
One of the things that seems to stick with a lot of people is the extinction of the wolves some 200 years ago from the planet. The reason for their being driven to the ground isn't given, but there's a reverence and a hatred for the creatures that most people say no longer exist. But there's a legend that has persisted over time that when the end of the world comes, a Paradise will be revealed and the wolves shall lead the way to it. So depending on your perspective, you could see the wolves as the saviors as they'll lead the way to this Paradise. Or, if you believe them to be extinct but they start showing up again, it means the end is near for mankind and it's all doom from here on out.
In the opening part of the series, the main thrust is to bring together the people who will make this journey. Four very different wolves, who see each other as both wolves and humans much as most humans see them as just humans but occasionally as wolves (often mistaking them for dogs), come together in one of the domed cities. The eldest of them all, Tsume, is still something of a young man but he's hardened against the world and uses humans for his own purposes. He leads a small group of humans to raid the trains and to cause trouble in general, but mostly just to amuse himself as there really isn't much to look forward to in life. But his life changes as three other wolves slowly make their way into his life and the city. The first is Kiba, a young white wolf who has "come down from the mountains" and into the city in search of the Lunar Flowers, a woman who will supposedly be important to the wolves in achieving Paradise. He's had her scent for some time and has found himself drawn to this city where she is.
His time in the city and after a brawl with Tsume leads him to be captured by the police and kept in the same place where the Flower Maiden actually is, though she's fairly sedated and not aware of her surroundings. Kiba's not revealed himself in human form and is considered just a wild dog to be checked out after the incident. But Kiba's time is short in his jail as another wolf, Hige, a more happy go-lucky type, has been searching throughout the compound for the Flower Maiden as well and stumbled across a fellow wolf. The two of them end up pairing up for awhile and try to decide the best course of action for finding her and figuring out what's drawing them to her.
Along the way, they end up getting caught up in a hunting session that's the lifelong mission of a grizzly old man named Quent and his vicious dog. The two have spent years hunting down wolves and he comes across as something of a fanatic since he talks of wolves looking like humans and being among them and stealing their lives. He spends some time initially tracking Kiba but then comes across another younger wolf named Toboe, a wolf that's grown up in the city with an elderly woman who looked after him. Quent ends up driving him underground and he meets up with Tsume, who can't stand a wolf like him since he's basically been domesticated to some extent.
The various forces that have been at play bring things to a head when the woman who could lead them to Paradise is abducted by a Noble, someone who lives above the rest of humanity and seems to have amazing powers and technology at their disposal. The Noble's arrival in the compound sets into motion the events that finally brings all the wolves together and the realization that they are indeed in search of this woman and that the city offers them nothing else anymore. There are some great fight and escape sequences that lead up through this as they all come together and then try to figure out how to get back into the real world and out of this small tomb of humanity so that they can find their way to Paradise.
Wolf's Rain introduces a fairly sizeable cast early on in these three episodes and gives us four distinct lead characters in the wolves that we meet. Each of them is very unique in their look and the way they act as well as bringing their own baggage to the plate. From the loner elder to the trusting youngling, there's a fair element of archetype used here. But it's their setting and everything around them that brings things to such enjoyment. The amount of detail paid to the backgrounds that give the city its strange life, the way there's a mysticism about the wolves that is reverent until they're real and the way the wolves have their own fables that they find themselves being drawn to.
The character designs are also quite well done, though Tsume really harkens back to a feeling of the early 90's style with his outfit and hair, never mind the sunglasses. There's some noticeable pieces of other characters here and there, particularly in how Hige looks like a younger red-haired Spike, but it all works well with their personalities. Another piece that fits well is the music score; the incidental pieces throughout the show help add to the overall atmosphere quite well and the show is bookended nicely, first with a piece by Steve Conte set to Yoko Kanno's music while Maaya Sakamoto manages a really nicely haunting piece at the end in English. I really do wish that they had subtitled the songs even though they're in English. It's not hard folks, and it does help for those hard of hearing or deaf, or losing their hearing like myself.In Summary:
Wolves have always been a fascination for me, so this series has certainly piqued our interest just from the beautiful designs of the wolves themselves as well as the brutal portrayal of their violence. This isn't a kids show for sure and it doesn't pretend to be, though there are younglings in it. Wolf's Rain has set itself to tell an interesting journey with the characters we've met so far and it has also set up a world where there is much mystery to it and many things that need to be learned to help flesh it out. It's all done quite well, each little bit they give leads to more you want to know about and so on. The series starts of strong here for the clichés it does have to deal with and we're looking forward to seeing how it shakes those off as it moves into the meatier episodes.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Cast Interview #1,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Pilot Film,Promo Film Collection,On Air Film Collection
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.