Upon opening up the first disk I noticed that it had somehow come adrift from its position in its case with the result that it had been rolling around loose while various postal services had played rugby with the parcel, as they do, and the underside of the disk had ended up somewhat scratched as it rattled against the clip sort of thing that was supposed to keep it in. Luckily it plays all right for the most part (it stops for a fraction of a second once during the first episode, but no more noticeably than happens when doing a layer transition) so I don't have to send it back for a replacement.
I watched the first episode both in Japanese and in
The story itself is proving very interesting so far. A good number of major characters have shown up so far and the writer has wasted no time in giving them real personality, even the villains - antagonists, really; even Quent, the wolf-hunter, is no more obsessed than Kiba and no more vicious than Tsume. Even a warlike robot guarding a dead city is given a personality.
Although apparently set on Earth, albeit in the future - wolves are claimed by one character to have been extinct for two hundred years - for the average person little has altered, technologically, indicating that some sort of societal breakdown seems to have taken place. A comparison could be made with the background detail in "Trigun", although often details are the opposite: instead of the relentless suns and desert landscape of the planet "Trigun" is set on, the landscape of future Earth shown in "Wolf's Rain" is cold and mountainous; one recurring image so far in this series is wolf tracks in snow. Whereabouts on Earth this is hasn't been stated so far, but if I had to guess anywhere I'd guess far eastern Siberia, perhaps Russia's Pacific coast. Any writing seen so far is Cyrillic; it flashes over the screen too quickly for me to read it (and in any case I don't know any Russian) and in the first episode, when a man goes into a bar he orders vodka.
Nothing is explained so far of how the wolves are able to project an illusion of being human, although it is obviously just an illusion: when they walk they leave wolf tracks, and when Tsume tries to save a boy from falling to his death, his hand seems to reach for the boy but his jaws close on the boy's shoulder.
One thing I have noticed in what little other anime I have watched is that when major characters are introduced they are described fairly simply and their characters are explored as the series progresses. This seems to be happening here as well. Of the main characters, Kiba is first shown as a dreamer, with his distaste for carrying a human illusion and obsession with finding Paradise (obviously nobody told him to turn right at Glenorchy, then right again before he gets to Kinloch or the Routeburn turn-off); later the viewer learns of his uncertainty. Tsume doesn't want to be involved, has no wish for friendship, but despite his attitude a bond seems to be developing between him and Toboe. Toboe is young and idealistic with no knowledge of how to live in the wild, but takes to it better than Hige; and while Hige starts off as the comic relief he's also beginning to act as a reality check for Kiba.
The story itself, so far, has already got well under way. Mysteries have been planted which may or may not be important later on: who or what is Blue? who or what is Cheza? why does Quent hate wolves? Rather annoyingly, this first disk ends at a point apparently half way through a storyline. Even more so than other anime I have watched, it is hard for me to pigeonhole this story in any one genre. It's mostly action-adventure, but there's a decent amount of detective story / mystery involved as well, and perhaps a bit of romance being foreshadowed as well (although in a somewhat warped manner: two of the most interesting human characters go out to dinner to celebrate the anniversary... of their divorce...)
The animation varies between good and superb. Not just the backgrounds either: most of the time the moving characters are carefully and realistically drawn. The incidental music is very good as well: subtle and varied. Oddly both the opening and closing theme tunes of the show are sung in English. I don't know whether this is just for the international release.
The production and presentation of the DVD is excellent as well. The menus are as intricately designed as the backgrounds of the show itself. There are a number of "special features", the most interesting of which is a (thankfully subtitled) interview with the voice cast, where the voice actors describe how they envisage the characters they play.
So all in all it's shaping up to be something really good. At the moment I'm deciding whether to watch the second disk (or at least the first part thereof) tonight or to wait until next weekend.