Wolf’s Rain (Urufuzu Rein)

Wolf’s Rain (Urufuzu Rein) 2004

With so much of the Cowboy Bebop team involved here I felt exactly zero seconds of doubt in terms of whether I’d enjoy Wolf’s Rain.

Of course, that shouldn’t be enough by itself – execution matters, right? But Wolf’s Rain definitely works and it’s a great series despite the inclusion of four recap episodes.

And while recaps can obviously be useful both from a production standpoint and for the viewers, I was thrilled to be able to skip them 😀 (Supposedly the recap episodes had to happen due to production delays re: the SARS scare or perhaps more likely(?), just a temporary budget problem and Bones didn’t want to ‘waste’ the slots they’d already lined up during broadcast).

Well, whatever the reason – you can safely skip the recap episodes and still enjoy a pretty ace show. It covers a lot of ground, dystopian science-fiction, fantasy, action and romance, and looks great, though viewers raised on modern anime might consider the animation dated – though to my eye, it’s pretty much as great as Bebop.

To sum up the story in an incredibly short (and not at all uanced) way, Wolf’s Rain follows a small pack of wolves (and the humans who help and hinder them) as they search for a legendary Paradise.

It’s a nice simple premise that allows the ‘quest’ element to shine through, as the wolves slowly come together and learn to trust and work with each other, hounded at times by human hunter Quent, or the menacing all-powerful Nobles, or even their own internal conflicts.

If you’re familiar with Keiko Nobumoto’s writing style then you can expect a certain amount of sacrifice and tragedy even, so get ready for the heart strings to be manipulated throughout – especially toward the end, though the epilogue should please some viewers at least. You can also probably expect a few surprises about your favourite characters or even the villains, some of which are foreshadowed really nicely too… but I don’t want to spoil any of them here!

Another aspect I really enjoyed was Yoko Kanno’s OST – which is overall really quite lush and orchestral, and one of the recurring themes I especially liked:

Opener Stray shows her ability to once again work with typically western pop sounds, with that 1980s-era Genesis feel to the song, and where the chameleon that is Steve Conte provides another great vocal (with more Tim Jensen lyrics, to reunite the classic Cowboy Bebop musical team).

I know some folks do consider this series ‘slow’ (and even at times dismissive of some its background plot-threads) but I didn’t have that problem myself, nor did I really focus much on the allegorical aspects re: Christianity, they didn’t add to the series nor distract me, as they’re pretty subtle – it’s not like Neon Genesis for example, where it’s very upfront.

With a series like Wolf’s Rain I think the main aspect I really appreciated, aside from the characters and mythology it built (and everything I’ve mentioned above of course) was the fact that Wolf’s Rain was an original idea. Now maybe that word is a misnomer here, but I mean, as opposed to being an adaptation, or being set in a school or having only teen leads, which is a nice change compared to a lot of anime.

5 Stars  

(If you’ve never seen this and you do give it a shot, you’ll probably recognise Mamoru Miyano’s vocie (who plays lead wolf Kiba) as ‘Light’ from Death Note or ‘Ling Yao’ in FMA: Brotherhood or maybe where I realised I’d heard him before, as ‘Rintarō Okabe’ in Steins;Gate.)

(I especially love this version of the artwork for the physical release)

Green Legend Ran (Gurīn Rejendo Ran)

For me, this OVA series was in no way terrible… but it just seemed like it included a pretty wide range of ideas that didn’t quite come together by the end, and so missed the mark a little for me.

Green Legend Ran (Gurīn Rejendo Ran) 1992

A lot of folks mention the influence of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind here and it’s definitely clear, though Green Legend Ran is both more violent and less assured in its storytelling, I reckon.

There were some haunting moments and some sharp action sequences in the series but even with a reasonably sympathetic hero and heroine, I still wasn’t enthralled.

I did like the character design from Yoshimitsu Ohashi (who has worked on Millennium Actress and Trigun among others) some of it was really memorable – especially the Bishops, who were both bizarre and creepy, that aspect was pretty great.

Other characters appear bold in a way that maybe evokes something common to kids animation, but this maybe clashes a little with the tone of the story for me.

Not the best example I could find actually, still somewhat illustrative despite the true size of the thing not quite being fully clear.

(In terms of more ‘cross-overs’ from other 1990s series, a minor character is also voiced by Kōichi Yamadera who is easily recognisable as the voice of Spike from Cowboy Bebop.)

Even though it’s not super-detailed, I did enjoy the setting – it had a good mix of dystopian desert and unnerving greenery, though I don’t want to talk too much about those scenes so as to avoid spoilers.

It was nice to be unsure as to who exactly was the bigger threat in this series, as nearly everyone poor Ran and Aira encounter have their own hidden motives.

Still, despite some big themes and some fun connections with other shows, I’d only recommend Green Legend Ran if you had always been curious about the series and perhaps can find it reasonably cheap/can stream it.

3 Stars