Anime Amnesia and the Werewolves of the 2000’s

In the early 2000’s, back when I was still just a new and fresh beginner level otaku, I found most of my anime treasures at the local library. They didn’t have a great selection of anime, but at least they had some. And they were free! The best price when you’re a student. One of the many anime I tried was the first volume of Wolf’s Rain. I kind of remember it being fine. There were some likable characters and I kind of remember that it was about going on a cross country trip. I also kind of remember that the characters were werewolves, or maybe they weren’t? And that’s about all I remember from the series. Browsing through the new selections on the streaming service CrunchyRoll, I happened to notice the familiar title, Wolf’s Rain. And I thought, “Oh that’s nostalgic! I should totally watch that again!” And I was expecting a fairly mundane anime series about some sorta werewolf guys going on a road trip. What I got was a trip to a completely unique and amazing world! A fascinating world that I had already been to, but somehow didn’t remember.

cast of wolf's rain
They don’t always get along, but they’re sticking together to find the Flower Maiden!

Well for one thing, the main characters aren’t actually werewolves. At least not the kind of werewolves that are seen in classic Western media. They aren’t people that transform into these scary wolf monsters via mutating bone and muscle. Rather the characters are wolves that use a kind of mind control or illusion to make the humans around believe that they are seeing other humans. The wolves themselves never really change physical form, there is only a change in how they are seen by others. It’s a wonderfully unique twist on the classic werewolf trope that comes with an entire treasure trove of complications, conflicts, and conveniences. And the subtle switch from human to wolf and back again works so well for the fantasy noir story and the post apocalyptic world the story takes place in. Seriously, how could I forget how cool the werewolves were?!

That’s another thing. The dark and desolate world that the story is set in. Though there have been quite a few anime that take place in a ravaged world devoid of nearly all life outside of human settlements, there is something so much more fantastical about the landscape of Wolf’s Rain. It’s not just filled with ruins and broken down vehicles. It’s also interwoven with abandoned palaces, vast open expanses of nothingness, and dense cursed forests. There’s odd little mud hovels like out of a fairy tale and sweeping urban industrial complexes. The world of Wolf’s Rain is so varied, and layered, and intricate. Not to mention the artwork to create this world is stunning! Really some of the scenery is so breath taking, even with nearly 20 year old animation, that it would have not looked out of place in much higher budget anime films. Honestly, with such an exceptional backdrop, how did I not remember this cool world?!

And of course, there’s the story! While so many stories that feature werewolves rarely have these creatures as main characters, even fewer have such a deep, multifaceted adventures. Likewise the style of werewolf media is usually chaotic and action packed, while Wolf’s Rain is definitely a more subdued fantasy noir story.

The anime begins with Kiva, a starving, injured, and lost white wolf that wanders into a run down crime laden city that surrounds a large industrial complex. His human illusion looks like a rather rough young adult in a leather jacket and torn jeans. He’s looking for the “Flower Maiden”, a person from a wolf legend that is supposed to know the way to paradise. Kiva isn’t sure what the Flower Maiden looks like or where she is, but he can smell her and that scent lead him to the city.

a Flower Maiden and her wolf

In this world wolves are supposed to be extremely dangerous monsters connected to an outlawed religion and all wolves have been extinct for hundreds of years. So when Kiva becomes too weak from his injures and he can no longer maintain his human illusion, it creates quite a stir in the city! Along the way to finding the Flower Maiden, he meets Tsume, Tomoe, and Hige, other wolves that were living in the city. Though they don’t always get along with each other, the wolves decide to band together to try to find the Flower Maiden (Cheza) and make their way to paradise.

Unfortunately, they have a crazed old wolf hunter on their tails, that’s hell bent on making sure all wolves are extinct and stay that way. Along with a evil noble that’s trying to cure his dying wife at any cost (even abducting the Flower Maiden and the scientist that raised her). And a detective that is trying to find his ex-wife (the abducted scientist) that he kind of still has a crush on. With this unique story line with subplots layered on top of subplots, the biggest mystery is how I managed to not remember any of it!

A crazy old wolf hunter and his hunting wolf!

So, even with an interesting spin on the classic werewolf story, a well developed and fascinating fantasy noir world, and a multifaceted story with layers of subplots, I somehow still managed to forget almost everything about this anime. Is it a wolf’s illusion to blame? Or is it that I have a memory not so much like a steal trap and more like a leaky bucket?

cast of wolf's rain falling through a snowy sky
falling down a rabbit hole of a complex story!