I don’t know when I expected Cheza the Flower Maiden to fully enter Wolf’s Rain’s story—I think a part of me figured she’d be cooped up in a tank for the majority of the series—but the “Flower Maiden” surprised me a good deal by having the titular test tube tulip literally fall out of the sky from Darcia’s airship and right into the Good Boy Pack’s laps. It’s not the cleanest way I’ve ever seen a plot kick into its rising action phase, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t efficient! To be honest, between this seventh episode and its followup, “Song of Sleep,” the narrative scope and rhythm of Wolf’s Rain is finally starting to fall into place. Not only do the Good Boys have a destination in Paradise, they have a tangible connection to the place in Cheza, who is also something of a waif in need of protecting, which ups the stakes for the journey overall. Cheza’s addition to the pack also more tangibly ties the plots of Darcia, Cher, and Hubb into the wolves’ quest, though the human element still remains the most glaring weak point of the series. “The Flower Maiden” opens with an extended flashback to Darcia’s life with Hamona, the comatose woman he seems hellbent on protecting. It’s the kind of soapy fantasy drama that doesn’t really feel too far removed from the wolves’ fairy tale, but the execution is so broad and abstract that it’s hard to take it seriously as human drama, and it still only barely works as functional plot work. Darcia also gets the indignity of suffering through the single worst action scene the series has offered yet, an abomination of a CG animated airship fight that I imagine must have looked silly back in 2004. In 2020, it’s downright embarrassing. Thankfully, Darcia and his crappy CG animation are only around for a few minutes to establish why Cheza took a flying leap out into the woods the Good Boys have been wandering, and the rest of the following two episodes is primarily about the wolves figuring out just who, or what, the hell Cheza is, and how she relates to Paradise. She’s a strange girl, and Hige has heard rumors to the effect she is actually some kind of hybrid human-flower science experiment made by those enigmatic Nobles. She speaks exclusively in the third person, she mourns the ruins of her “withered and dead” kin of the forest, and she can magically sing the wolves to sleep with mysterious lullaby powers. Whatever she is, she certainly has some kind of connection to our canine heroes, and a mystical one at that. Ominous portent is, in fact, just about all there is to the Wolf’s Rain’s story so far, which isn’t nearly so bad as it sounds, but it bears repeating that we still know so very little about this world, its rules, its history, and so on. I am beginning to wonder, how much longer can we be expected to subsist purely on fantastical mystery and the propulsion of the wolves’ current existential crises? Darcia, Hubb, and Quent are moving their own plotlines along at a positively glacial pace, so they aren’t any help, and while Cher gets a bit more to do in these episodes as she comes around to the notion that the wolves are, in fact, real, I still couldn’t tell you what she’s doing in this story. We get to see that clip of the running wolf from the ED in a more full context as the dream of hunting that Tsume has when Cheza lulls him to sleep, and that one image feels like the thesis for the whole show so far: There are wolves, and they run. Sometimes its because they’re being chased, and sometimes its because they’re doing the chasing. I am sure we will get to pull away those black bars that obscure the wolf’s origin and destination eventually, but Cheza’s proper introduction to this story feels like yet another serving of an appetizer, and I’m more than ready for the main course to arrive. Rating:
Odds and Ends • Who’s a Good Boy!?: Look, Kiba is far from the most interesting of the wolves at this point, since his entire personality can be boiled down to “I want to find Paradise,” but I *definitely* squealed in delight when he got those good pats from Cheza. Also, Toboe and Hige competing for the best Cheza gift was absolutely precious, and my heart broke a little when Cheza chose Hige’s boots over Toboe’s coat. • Interestingly, we don’t really see what Kiba dreams of when Cheza puts all the wolves to sleep. Toboe dreams of his days with the old woman who cared for him, naturally, while Hige’s is all about getting swamped and licked by a mob of presumably female wolves. You live your best life, Hige, you unrepentant pervert. • I gripe about the bad animation we get from time to time, but there’s still lots of great stuff going on, visually, especially in little cuts of character animation. My favorite of this set was probably Cheza’s precarious cliffside dance, and Toboe’s freaked out reaction.
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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.