Alright so this one is a bit of a double-header, mostly because it’s less about each individual series per se, but rather that particular time period itself, at the peak of my freelancing during graduate school.
I’d settled in college into a comfortable routine of work, school, going to punk shows, going to the movies, and occasionally a party, but I still spent a lot of time at home at night watching TV, and by this point, [adult swim] had turned into the first iteration of the cultural juggernaut it would become in my 20’s. The gut-punch of intense drama (to the point of being almost overwrought) and bizarre fantasy/sci-fi of Wolf’s Rain, and the soft perpetually-rainy goth of Witch Hunter Robin were both in my brain and on my TV at night.
Wolf’s Rain, portraying a depressing futuristic world wracked by some sort of environmental failure and bereft of wolves due to some misguided supernatural belief that wolves (literally, the animal) were to blame for it was both confusing but also excellent. To this day I don’t completely understand the plot other than it’s about wolves that look like people (but not werewolves) searching for Heaven, but not the metaphysical Christian Heaven, it’s a real place (or is it?), and there’s like, other stuff going on. Some form of semi-feudalistic fantasy elements in this bleak post-apocalyptic vaguely-sci-fi world.
Witch Hunter Robin is a pretty standard cliche of the medium and the time, involving a semi-covert governmental task force using a combination of technology and supernatural weaponry to battle a hidden world of supernatural threats, in this case, a subspecies of human known as “witches” who have genetically-latent super abilities. Of course there’s a precocious “witch” protagonist who is pitted to hunting “her own” and of course there’s romance, intrigue, double-crossing, pseudo-science, and pseudo-mysticism.
I absolutely ate both of these up, as I wasn’t really attuned to anything going on in terms of sci-fi and fantasy literature that felt that fresh and insane to me, and being the genre glutton I am, felt that they were cutting-edge as examples of genre, further cementing my love of this type of material (anime). I felt inspired, and I think back on the early works of writing I did then, how they tried to incorporate what I’d loved as a kid and what I was consuming as a young man.
Then I started grad school and things started to change for me. I was out a lot more, I was drinking a lot more, and I started writing for others outside myself (that terrible fantasy novella I did and deleted eventually because I couldn’t bear it existing in its cliche shittiness) and my own blog at the time (thankfully gone from the face of the Internet). I tried a few times to do more fiction, but I couldn’t. At the peak of my freelancing, grad school and working on my master’s thesis was taking over my life, there just never felt like there was enough time. I felt like shit constantly, I was tired and writing and researching until 12 or 1 am before I’d go to bed and repeat over again. It drained me, as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t summon the brainpower to engage in fiction on my own.
And even though I haven’t watched either of those two in a long time, I still think of how they broke my brain in terms of being “peak anime” to me, with almost-but-not-quite-incomprehensible plots and lore, high drama and angst, obscure theological and faux-scientific language to dress it all up, and something indescribable that hooked a the brain of someone at a transitionary point in his life, craving something more when it came to his fictional genre, something extra, something just a bit more weird.
I’ve been half-thinking it, but maybe I’ll revisit one of these again soon.