Can you carry her?
"Can you carry her? ... I'm asking you, do you think you can carry Cheza?" - Kiba to Toboe
Wolf's Rain was not a particularly well-recevied anime at first, and with good reason. The biggest names in anime (at least in the States) composed the creative team that helmed the project, and from what they said, this was going to be big. Advertisements agreed, and so did every visual cue that viewers received from trailers leading up to the release. Then it aired, and the forum traffic began to flare up.
"This isn't what I expected," and "I'm not sure I like this," were common viewer comments. It certainly wasn't another Cowboy Bebop. The characters, while engaging and developed, did not grow to the extent that the Bebop crew did. In fact, to a certain degree the four wolves remained stagnant, always single-mindedly pursuing "Paradise" (Rakuen - my romanization of the Japanese, not sure if it's technically correct). That was the mistake, assuming that Wolf's Rain would somehow be a sort of continuation of what Cowboy Bebop started.
The quintessential difference between the two shows was that Cowboy Bebop was character driven, while Wolf's Rain was plot driven. The first episode of each show demonstrates this perfectly. "Asteroid Blues" is our first introduction to Spike, and rather than starting, or even hinting, at some sort of grand adventure it simply shows us what sort of person Spike is - laid back, smooth, like water. "City of Howls," in contrast, begins with the statement of a goal, which is the pursuit of Paradise. Staying true to their storytelling style, these opening episodes set the tone and theme that the creators intend for the series.
So that's all well and good, but where does that quote fit into all this? To me, that quote wraps up the whole point of Wolf's Rain. The story is one of will, the will to find "Paradise." We see many examples of people who do not have that requisite will, such as the majority of mankind and the pack of wolves in the southern city. But we also see many who do possess that will. Our primary contact with that strength is through Kiba, but other characters, most notably Darcia, give us a glimpse at what can drive someone to seek "Paradise." The story is about the drive, and what happens to those who possess it, and those who do not - which is why Kiba's question is so important. It is more of an accusation, demanding: "Do you have what it takes?" That is a question that we as people must deal with all the time, in everything we do. And many are found wanting.
Why did I choose to start this blog off with a post about Wolf's Rain, considering it's been three years since its release in Japan, and two since it came to the US? From what I've seen, too many people dismissed the show out of hand, simply saying, "well, it had a good plot and some cool concepts, but really didn't have all that much to take away." I really want to set the record straight - this show is amazing, and I'm not talking about the production values. Wolf's Rain brings something to the table that no other show has, and that's saying something in this day of copycat Shonen and Shoujo TV series. It's hard to boil down to a single phrase, or even one blog post, but if I had to pick one, I'd go with Kiba. "Can you carry her?"