Episodes seen: 1-4 of ?
Hundreds of years from now, most of the Earth is a ruined wasteland and people live in a few domed cities. Legends speak of how wolves know where Paradise lies at the end of the world. But wolves, along with most wild animals, have been extinct for 200 years...or so everyone believes. In fact, a few wolves still survive, disguised as humans, eking out a living in the alleyways and gutters of human cities. All this changes when a strange new wolf named Kiba arrives from the wilderness, drawn by the scent of the Flower Daughter, a mysterious girl held captive by the human scientists.
Herself the Elf sez: I'm sure a lot of people have been waiting impatiently for Yoko Kanno's new project, and judging from the first 4 episodes of Wolf's Rain, they won't be disappointed.
Wolf's Rain deals very delicately with the issues of human-animal relations as well as the very real issue of environmental destruction. It's not pounded into our heads, though--it's just the reality of the world these characters live in. The wolves have nowhere left to go--they can scavenge for food in the city, or leave it to face an empty wasteland and only a vague hope of freedom and happiness.
The art is excellent, with subtle, mostly monochromatic colours and beautiful sweeping vistas adding to the sense of gloom and melancholy. The animation isn't fancy with jaw-dropping CGI or anything, but it's clean and smooth and quite sufficient for the needs of the show. As for the music, Yoko Kanno works her usual magic, creating a score both beautiful and mournful. There's one track in particular that sounds eerily like wolves howling (even though it's not), and will send chills up your spine. The voice acting is also good, especially the seiyuu for Tsume, who has a definitely 'wolf'-like timbre to his voice.
The characterisation is truly excellent for humans and wolves alike. Best of all, the wolves act like wolves, not like some anthropomorphic furry creatures. They may look like humans much of the time, but it's clear they're not human. Fangirls will be pleased by the cool bishounen wolf characters, but thankfully the writers have avoided resorting to excessive cheese or angst. It's certainly a nice change as far as bishounen are concerned.
The pacing is good--there are occasional slow moments but it's never boring, and the introspection is nicely balanced with exciting action sequences. It's a bit reminiscent in style to the darker episodes of Cowboy Bebop--melancholy, dark, understated, and very powerful. There are a few questionable plot elements that come up with the problem of wolves-that-look-like-people, such as when they are required to do something that would obviously require fingers (like use a key), but it's a small gripe and doesn't really detract from the rest of the show.
Wolf's Rain is absorbing and fascinating, with interesting characters, a novel plot and brilliant music, and will undoubtedly get picked up by somebody very soon. Definitely recommended.