Anime loves its anthropomorphic creatures. Neko people and kitsune spirits are extremely popular and are a great way to grab someone’s attention. Who doesn’t have a favorite boy or girl who dons animal ears? Anime also has a rich history with horror, and so monsters, ghouls, and vampires have long been weaved into narratives. Now, what do you get when you mix animals with horror? You get the ultimate badass shapeshifter, the werewolf. Surprisingly, there aren’t many anime with a focus on werewolves. Apparently, people are content with keep their furry loves separate from nightmare fuel. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any shows with this specific creature of the full moon. In fact, each show that decides to take on the world or narrative of such a character is usually a hit. So let’s get on to the top 5 werewolf hits that you definitely need to see.
5. Cuticle Detective Inaba
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan. 2013 – Mar. 2013
Cuticle Detective Inaba takes its viewers into a world where humans and half-human, half animal beings live in a pretty unique harmony. Sadly, it’s not a perfect utopia, and there is still quite a bit of crime. Making some cases almost impossible to solve is the fact that some half-human criminals don’t leave certain human clues. That’s where our hero of the series comes in. Detective Hiroshi Inaba, being a werewolf, has honed his senses of taste and smell to an incredible degree. In fact he’s able to extract essential information for an investigation.
This anime is one ridiculous romp through a mad world of chibi characters and ridiculous circumstances. Not only does our main guy have a hair fetish (partially developed to all the hair he’s examined for mysteries), but the arch nemesis is an impossibly cute goat. A lot of the scenes in this anime are wacky, but likely to steal a few laughs. Nonetheless, it does have its moments of seriousness as we get little tidbits of Inaba’s past and why he became a private eye in the first place.
What this show really does best is provide a world full of magical creatures who are just trying to live their lives. In this world, anything is practically the norm, and it’s nice to see a society where unique characteristics are used in a multitude of ways. As an audience, we are lucky to have the spotlight shining on a werewolf who walks a thin line between genius and fool, showing us how his abilities can better society.
4. Dance in the Vampire Bund
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan. 2010 – Apr. 2010
Dance in the Vampire Bund explores the difficulties in setting up an asylum right outside of Tokyo. See, vampires and werewolves have been around since the beginning of time, but have had to keep to themselves for the most part. Well, the current princess of all the vampires, Mina Tepes, negotiated with the Japanese government a type of special district deal. She would pay off Japan’s national debt (her family is incredibly rich) and in return, vampires and werewolves will be able to live freely on a man-made island just off the coast of Tokyo.
Seems fair, but sadly, there are some characters on both sides who are opposed to this tenuous peace. There are extreme vampires who believe their supernatural powers give them the right to conquer the human race, werewolves who hate their subservient place beneath the vampires and want to take down the royal family, and there are human extremists who are terrified at the budding monster colony. Thus, the stage is set.
Yes, the anime’s central protagonist is a vampire. However, the monster world revolves around both werewolves and vampires, and the werewolves play quite the important role. Though, as I mentioned above, werewolves are born and trained to primarily serve the royal family of vampires, their roles are highly regarded. The Earth Clan of werewolves are particularly well-regarded as they act as the primary guards and agents for the princess. In fact, the main male protagonist is a werewolf who takes quite a lot of pride in his duties.
3. Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: Jul. 2012
Another masterpiece by Mamoru Hosoda, Wolf Children follows the emotional trip of maternity for one young woman. A diligent college student, Hana finds herself falling in love with a mysterious man who attends classes at her university without being an actual student. He’s aloof, handsome, and extremely hard working, which spells a winner in any anime. However, he does have a certain condition, he turns into a wolf. Love knows no bounds though, and Hana and her werewolf lover happily start a family. They have two adorable children, Ame and Yuki, who both have inherited the father’s ability to morph into a wolf. However, this family must completely restructure itself when the loving werewolf dad gets killed while in his wolf form.
All of that happens, basically, within the first 15 minutes of the movie. From there, things become more difficult as Hana tries to keep her life and family together in a massive city that looms over her. The threat of exposure is a major concern and Mamoru paints a strong portrait of alienation for the struggling family. Between the fear of discrimination and possibility of losing her children, Hana takes matter into her own hands and moves into the countryside.
From this Wolf Children really focuses on character development as Hana and her two werewolf children begin to discover new parts of their identities out in the wilderness. Yuki’s fun-loving and comfortable in her wolf skin to the point that she has no qualms about integrating into human society. She’s at peace with what she is, and doesn’t see it as any reason why she can’t make friends. Yuki, on the other hand is a bit more quiet and reserved about his wolf-like nature. However, this introspection leads to a desire for independence and appreciation for the solitude of nature. Making sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible for her children and overcoming countless obstacles is the amazing Hana. Its her love and steadfast nature that really tie everything together. Overall, this is one heartwarming movie that everyone should watch.
2. Ookami to Koushinryou (Spice and Wolf)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Jan. 2008 – Sep. 2009
Strangely enough, the last two entries are more of a reversal of the werewolf myth. Instead of a human being able to shape shift into a wolf, these two deal with wolves able to appear human. In Spice and Wolf, the character able to perform such a feat is Holo, a wolf deity who had been worshipped in a small town for bringing good harvests. However, technology is advancing and the people of the town no longer rely on Holo’s assistance. In fact, they either view her as a complete myth or resent her for not always brining in a good harvest. Thus, when Kraft, a travelling merchant, is making his way through town, Holo ends up hitching a ride with him in hopes that he can take her to her homeland up North.
Surprisingly, Spice and Wolf is able to take two very different subjects (economics and romance) and mash them up into an extremely enjoyable show. Lighthearted and witty are definitely two of the best words to describe the nature of this anime as we watch Holo and Kraft travel from town to town selling wares. The banter between these two characters and their budding romance is entertaining from the get-go when Holo embarrasses Kraft with her all-natural look. In truth, the show excels at presenting a very real chemistry boiling between the business minded and always wary Kraft and the wise, but very free-spirited Holo.
So character design is definitely a strong point of the show, but its overarching narrative also hits home some interesting points. Not only do we get an intriguing, even if it’s slightly simplistic, view of economics, but a world ripe with fantasy. The history of Holo, her status as a deity, her position amongst other wolves all come together in very satisfying manners.
1. Wolf’s Rain
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jan. 2003 – Jul. 2003
In a desolate dystopian future, folklore dictates that wolves will be the ones to bring about paradise, or, in other words, the end of the world. It is also common knowledge that wolves have been extinct for more than two centuries, killed off by humans or lost and forgotten in a futile quest for paradise. Interestingly enough, that is not true. Many wolves live within different communities hidden in the guise of humans, accepting whatever position they can. Some are thieves, others beggars, and a good chunk work as physical labor. Enter Kiba, an idealistic wolf, who has for years refused to even don the façade of being human. He is strong willed and relentless in his search for paradise. Due to his uncompromising nature and steely gaze he’s even able to recruit a team to accompany him on his quest.
Though not dealing with traditional werewolves, Wolf’s Rain is entirely wrapped around the lore of wolves and their mystical powers. In this world, wolves are a terrifying reminder of the end of time as well as imbued with incredible speed, dexterity, and power. Yes, they’re wolves and obviously possess beast-like qualities, but to destroy human squads like flies is something else. Only making this adventure more like a Grimm fairytale is the Sleeping Beauty/Beauty and the Beast narrative of Lord Darcia III. A man whose lost the love of his life to an ailment known as Paradise Sickness, which steals the soul of a person while leaving their body alive.
Darcia and the wolves are both after the fabled source for Paradise, the one who has the scent of Lunar Flowers, Cheza. In the end, it feels like several different fairy tales are dueling it out against one another in hopes of achieving the happy ending. Beautifully done and cryptic at times, Wolf’s Rain will keep you glued to the screen as it takes you on a mythic adventure.
Werewolves obviously make awesome characters and more creators should definitely take note of how popular these characters rate and develop more shows focused on them. Nonetheless, until that day comes you can refer to this list to get your werewolf fix. If for some reason, you still need more, then take a look at shows like Soul Eater, Vampire Hunter D, or Hellsing Ultimate; which feature at least one werewolf antagonist that you can enjoy for a scene or two. More importantly, though, if any werewolf shows were missed, please leave a comment as we’d love to see the werewolves get more love.