A relatively young production company made up of a bunch of inarguably experienced — and talented — people from another little studio called Sunrise, Bones Inc has in the last 6 years since its inception, become a name synonymous with quality. Of course, it wasn’t until the cinematic release of an OAV subtitled Knocking on Heaven’s Door that people really started to sit up and take notice, but once Bones was on the map, it was on the map to stay.
And one of the few pleasures about work from this studio is not the expectation of quality (since that’s almost a given); it’s that they are seemingly unwilling to find their narrative niche. Alchemy one day, rocket powered surf boards the next, and this series – possibly considered a classic considering it aired in 2001 – is no exception to that rule. After the elaborate Grecian future of RahXephon, a dystopian fairy tale of wolves in search of paradise seems like a sharp right turn, but Wolf’s Rain is indelibly a Bones production, and naturally inherited all its best traits.
Great characterisation first and foremost, inseparable as it is from the solid story. From the main quartet – whose dynamic easily reflects both the group of outcasts they appear, as much as the wolves they actually are – to each and every borderline antagonist, characterisation is fascinating and fleshed out and most of all, evolving. People who you think you have tagged at the beginning of the series change, and change realistically. Wolf’s Rain, like any good fairy tale, is not there just for the thrills; it’s designed to teach you something by hearing it, hopefully about yourself, but if not then at least about the world. The investment in characterisation and story is possibly the biggest part of this show, and it doesn’t fail to pay off.
And from that strength, to the strength of production – mature, slick animation, gorgeous character designs by Toshihiro Kawamoto (Cowboy Bebop) and another brilliant soundtrack by the unbelievably talented Yoko Kanno – this series in its own right is something of a wonder, or something almost wondrous. It’s a little slow paced, yes, and the relationships between the characters take a little while to build. It’s not exactly instant gratification stuff. Flashy fight scenes aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, and there’s an equal amount of screen time spent on introspection as there is on just simply travelling, but when everything looks this good, when even the antagonists are fascinating, fleshed-out entities, when four wolves (who are also sometimes men) are basically on a road trip to who knows where and you’re still watching, you know you’re watching a show that has something that makes it stand out from the pack.