Wolf's Rain
Episodes 23-24

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 23 of
Wolf's Rain ?

How would you rate episode 24 of
Wolf's Rain ?

“Heartbeat of the Black City” and “Scent of a Trap” see our various heroes making their way to the city in which lies Jaguara's Keep, and between the two episodes I'd say that 75% of what we get consists of the various characters wandering around. Kiba and Tsume wander around together in search of a way into the keep; Hige and Toboe wander in search of food, only to end up finding much more than they bargained for; Blue and Cher wander in search of answers to why Jaguara's city feels so uncanny and threatening, despite its clean and peaceful façade; Quent wanders around drinking and failing at literally the only thing he has professed any interest in all season: Hunting Wolves.

So, narratively speaking, Episodes 23-24 of Wolf's Rain are just as scattershot as most of what has preceded them, which means I'm long past expecting the show to suddenly change its ways now. As far as the concrete details of the story are concerned, we are given just enough to keep the show's momentum going, though not quite enough to say that anything really happened in these episodes; rather, we remain on the verge of things that will happen, sometime, in the indefinite future, presumably before the show ends. Lady Jaguara is still decked out in her best Final Fantasy Bad Guy getup, whirling like a dervish and proclaiming her plans to have the wolves lead her to Paradise…somehow…for some reason. Hige's knowledge of the city's layout foreshadows the reveal that he has some connection to the Lady and other now-taxidermized wolves that are presumably under her control. Kiba gets to an extended (and well animated) scrap with Jaguara's guards that leads him right to where Cheza is being held — and then we immediately cut to the credits, because we can't make two much progress in one of these two-parters, now can we?

Thankfully, my prediction about the fruits of Cher and Blue's pairing won out, because the stuff we get with these two is the best traditional storytelling that Wolf's Rain has done in ages. The two share a genuine friendly chemistry with one another that they don't with any other characters; they have meaningful dialogue about Blue's relationship with her wolfen instincts and Cher's goals that feels like more than idle, repetitive filler (I'm looking at you Quent); their exploration of the city's weird, dystopian vibes with the local bookseller even hearkens back to the Wolf's Rain's early episodes, where its blend of stark science-fiction elements and gothic fantasy felt so electric and fresh. Sure, the actual dialogue that Cher and the bookman share about willfully submitting to the city's culture of blissful ignorance is rather groanworthy, as is the incredibly clunky reveal of how it was Jaguara's men who burned down Blue and Quent's village of Kyrios, but Wolf's Rain isn't exactly out to win any awards for the quality of its scripts, now is it?

No, Wolf's Rain's secret weapon remains its command of mood and instinctual emotion. You buy Cher and Blue's fast forming friendship, you understand the sterile inhumanity of Jaguara's city, and you recognize the dark madness in Jaguara's intent when she so gleefully twirls about her occultic chambers, bathed in unnatural light that is as red as the wolf's blood she sips from her ornate goblets. On one level, Hige's unhinged terror comes too fast and late in the story to work very well, but the raw panic of his aimless flight away from the city still resonates.

Here's what I felt the most powerfully when these episodes end, and what keeps them working in spite of their flaw: The story is clearly stepping into its final and darkest hours. The pack is as divided as they've ever been, and there's no clear way out of the labyrinth of the city for any of them. The path ahead of us may be just as rocky as what came before it, but it is impossible to deny the alluring power of the mythic shadows that surround our wayward heroes. Lady Jaguara is out for blood, her trap has been sprung, and the only place left to go is deeper into dark.

Rating:

Odds and Ends

Who's a Good Cat!? That's right, the winner of the coveted award this week is the bookkeeper's cat, who offers the ladies some sage advice and is an all-around credit to his species. Cats are very good in general, and deserve as much screen time as possible.

• Hubb gets described as a “dandy” by some soldiers while Quent is getting sloshed, and I'm honestly wondering…why? Especially compared to all of the incredibly well-off looking people in the city.

• Also, I'm sorry, but why does Quent think that wolves were responsible for killing his family anyway? I know, I know, he saw the silhouettes when Kyrios burned, but really: Are wolves known for their fire-starting habits? Did he think they had some sort of motivation to destroy an entire village, or does he believe that they're just homicidal agents of chaos that go around murdering whole towns just for fun on a regular basis? (Have I mentioned, yet, that Quent's presence has added nothing of value to this show across so far?).

• Speaking of good boys: Toboe was happy to see that Quent survived the frozen wilderness, which is more gracious than I would have been. Keep on setting a good example for the rest of us, you silly pup.

Wolf's Rain is currently streaming on Funimation.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.


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