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Why Was Wolf's Rain So Bad?
September 24th, 2003


I've just finished watching Wolf's Rain. That was and is still called one of the hits of the season, and, honesty, it totally sucked. I wonder what do you think about it? Why is it that bad when it's produced by Bones? And what's the deal with episodes 27-30?

Based on its average Japanese television ratings it could be said that Wolf's Rain was a moderate success. The show apparently brought in more viewers than other competing late night shows including Texhnolyze, Maho Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto, and Last Exile, but was outperformed by the late night basketball show Dear Boys. And Air Master consistently pulled in roughly double the number of viewers that watched Wolf's Rain. When it was first announced, and while it was on the air, the show received the average amount of coverage in Japanese anime magazines that most shows tailored toward die-hard anime fans receive. The show got a relatively inordinate amount of buzz in the American fan community because it was the first new anime after Cowboy Bebop to feature character designs by Cowboy Bebop character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto, and it was a new production by Studio Bones, the animators behind Angelic Layer, RahXephon and the Cowboy Bebop movie.

But no studio consistently creates one masterpiece after another. Even Studio Ghibli's output can be divided into top tier works like Nausicaa, Laputa and Spirited Away, and second string titles like Only Yesterday and I Can Hear the Ocean. While Wolf's Rain is by no means a "bad" show, it's also arguably not very good. There will be fans who defend it, and fans that love it. But from an objective sense, while Wolf's Rain did display handsome animation quality, appealing character designs, evocative music and some degree of atmosphere, the show also suffered from poor pacing, an undeveloped story, massive, unexplained plot holes, and a general lack of intensity. As though the production had an original and inventive concept but no idea what to do with it, the show meanders through 26 episodes at a languid pace, never developing any sense of commitment to the audience- never clearly establishing a point or purpose.

As a purely atmospheric anime, Wolf's Rain works as eye candy. It's pretty to look at, and its enigmatic mysticism hints at revelations to come, thereby capturing the viewer's aesthetic sense and intriguing the viewer's sense of curiosity. On that level, Wolf's Rain is successful. Unfortunately, on a technical level there's simply no substance to the show and never any fulfillment of its veiled promises. Perhaps the animation staff came up with a promising idea and couldn't figure out what to do with it. Perhaps the show was given a low priority because it was aired at 2:30 in the morning and the animators knew that it would only be watched by a relative handful of people. Whatever the case may be, the series juggled timeslot (some weeks at 2:10 AM, some weeks at 2:30 AM), occasionally delayed episodes, and four consecutive re-cap episodes all suggest that Wolf's Rain was something of an orphen child treated to whatever attention and effort was left over from the Bones Studio staff and TV networks' greater priorities on other anime titles.

Since four consecutive episodes from the middle of the TV broadcast (an entire month's worth of episodes on Japanese television) consisted of summary of the previous episodes and no forward moving story development, there's been a lot of speculation that the series will see an additional 4 episodes of original animation added to the end of its Japanese DVD release. Bandai of America representative Jerry Chu has even seemingly confirmed that there are plans for Wolf's Rain episodes 27-30. The official Wolf's Rain homepage has not published any mention of forthcoming animation. However, the official Wolf's Rain homepage presently lists only 5 DVD volumes containing episodes 1-16. The first 4 DVDs contain 3 episodes each. Disc 5 will include 4 episodes. From this point on it becomes confusing. DVDeliver states that Wolf's Rain DVD volume 6 will include 4 episodes, and volume 7 will contain 3 episodes, compiling the series up to episode 23. The EntermeParadise site states that the series will have a total of 9 DVDs. Yahoo Japan's DVD Direct claims that there will be 10 Wolf's Rain DVDs. Either way, it seems safe to assume that the home video version of Wolf's Rain will indeed consist of more than 26 episodes.

Since these rumored additional episodes won't be released in Japan until at least next year, it's impossible to predict whether they will miraculously redeem the entire series and suddenly clarify everything. My instincts tell me that such a revelation isn't likely. So until we see these additional episodes, if indeed we ever will, my opinion of Wolf's Rain is that it's an interesting concept that deserves credit for being original, but should be best considered as only a partially successful experiment.

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