Searching for paradise.
It’s time for another Studio BONES retrospective, something I’ve ignored since the FMA writeup which was ages ago. What spurred me to write today was listening to the OST again. More on that later, let’s begin with one of BONE’s best work to date.
As usual, I won’t go into too much detail about the story except the basics. In a post apocalyptic world where wolves have been hunted down to near extinction, one lone wolf continues his search for Paradise. Legend has it that only wolves can enter once Paradise appears, thus the search.
While the basic story of this adventure is very interesting, the episodes themselves play out in a thoughtful process, if a bit painfully slow sometimes. The animation quality was mind blowing for 2003, and even six years after it’s release, the anime still holds it’s own against the current crop of high tier productions. The music here is one of Yoko Kanno’s best. Let’s get one thing out of the way first, this anime is quite emotional and sadness is lurking around every corner, but in a way that you will like. Kanno’s music will really accentuate your emotions during many such scenes, pulling at your heartstrings and leaving you deeply moved, if not a bit teary eyed.
With that, let’s get to the meat of Wolf’s Rain: the characters. There are many ways to lead into, but let’s start where the anime did. A lone wolf that is badly wounded seems to be staggering it’s way to some place. The white wolfs falls over as snow starts to fall down, barely visible on the ground where it’s last breath steaming up is the only sign that he’s still alive. Thinking to himself, the wolf starts to wonder what his whole journey was for, a search for Paradise. But he hasn’t found it.
In the dangerous future, survival of the fittest is required, and the wolves have taken into human shapes to live in society. Don’t ask me how this happens, whether it’s something scientific or some other mystical reasoning behind this transformation. Just know that wolves can shape shift into humans (reflecting their personality). In the slums of one such post apocalyptic city, we find our main characters. These are four wolves named Kiba (fang) our always-serious protagonist, Tsume (claw) our rebel without a cause, Toboe (howling) our trap and Hige (whisker) the ladykiller. Yes, the play on their names was a nice touch. These four at first meet each other under suspicion and go off on the wrong paw foot. Soon however, they realise that each of them is going for the same goal subconsciously, to seek out Paradise. Before you all start scratching your head over such a vague idea, let me tell you of the old legend. It is said (by I don’t know whom) that when the world ends, the Flower Maiden of the Lunar Flowers will bring Paradise, which like I said earlier, will only be accessible to wolves. Was this the reason wolves were hunted down? I can’t remember now, but I think so.
So yeah, these four are actually in search of the Flower Maiden called Cheza, a girl artificially created from Lunar Flowers by Lord Darcia the first. That dood is dead now, and the thrown to douchebaggery and all around villainy is taken by his grandson Lord Darci the Third. Think of him as Seymour from FFX. The bitch just won’t die, and every encounter with him is an epic Boss fight. Also, the homo vibes.
Those were our heroes and the main villain. Now onto the side characters without whom this anime wouldn’t be half of what it is. Almost half the anime is spent with the four wolves trying to find Cheza, and the other half trying to get away from the bad guys. Along this epic journey throughout the dystopian landscape, we are joined by an ex-sheriff called Quent Yaiden and his faithful dog Blue, who are hunting down our heroes. Cher Degre, a scientist who is sort of taking care of and following Cheza, and her ex-husband Hubb Lebowski who is searching for Cher in the wake of destruction and chaos left behind by our main guys from city to city.
Throughout the story, each of these characters cross paths and their perspective on things seems to change. Some will join the main pack (of our heroes and whenever Cheza is not being kidnapped) and some will leave them for reasons of their own. Each one of them is connected in some way to the other. Whether it be love, jealousy, hatred or friendship, they all are trying to confront each other over something.
I saw this anime during my final year of higher ed when I was about to leave London and come back home. I really felt, at some basic level, connected to Kiba. The journey was long and arduous, but it was about to come to an end. Like a lone wolf the only thing on my mind was the goal, and not much care for anyone else around me. Yet there were friends who helped along the adventure to whom I’m ever greatful. Many beautiful and wonderful things happened during our adventure, many tragedies also occurred. The end result was bittersweet and memorable for life.
And like that, the anime comes to an end with a cast so great you’ll regret watching it to the very end. Seeing how these people we have become so attached to come to the end of their journey was very…heartbreaking. This is where BONES exercised their self-indulgence in killing off people we like to the extreme. I hated them for this, but also loved them for making such a unique story, beautiful in every way. I mean, how else could one see Paradise?
So go out and watch this epic adventure that will leave you a bit confused, a bit angry, but overwhelmingly happy and sad. Also, skip episodes 15 to 18. Recap episodes of this redundantly epic nature have never been seen in anime before or since.
I was trying to find more images but this video perfectly encapsulates the whole anime. The powerful vocals of Steve Conte make this my favourite ost tracks of Wolf’s Rain. Heaven’s Not Enough
The next retrospective on BONES will be out this time next month ;)