What They Say:
Everyone knows that lies can come back to bite you, but when Erika makes up a fake boyfriend to impress her new classmates, the results may literally end up hounding her forever! Yes, it was dumb, but what were the odds that the random guy whose picture she used would turn out to be a student at her own school? Or that said faux-boyfriend’s silence would come with such a horrible price? Now Erika doesn’t just have to run and fetch at Kyoya Sata’s command, she has to bark too! Because he’s literally treating her like a dog, and she just has to roll over and take it, or he’ll tell everyone the truth! But that’s not the worst part, because even though this wolf in hunk’s clothing has Erika collared, she may be starting to have REAL feelings for him anyway! Is she barking up the wrong tree, or could true love be unleashed in WOLF GIRL & BLACK PRINCE?
The Japanese 2.0 audio is encoded at 48 kHz at 224 Kbps. The show mostly focuses on dialog, but background music plays an important role. In one section of one episode, the music and dialog sounded muddy. This lasted for one scene and might be more noticeable on some sound systems than others. Otherwise, the audio had clean separation and good balance.
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. I saw no distracting artifacts from a normal viewing distance, and the clean transfer looks good for a standard definition disc. Some jagged lines were apparent on the 40-inch screen used to view the series, and they were less noticeable when looked at on a 24-inch screen. This will vary depending on your player settings and size of your screen.
The standard size keepcase holds two discs with hubs on the inside of the front and back covers. The front cover shows the main characters in a black, white, and red field with the title. All is surrounded by organic, scrolling borders and white hearts. The top of the back cover continues the border theme. The top third includes four random scenes from the series. The middle of the cover shows Kyoya holding a dog collar and chain. The bottom quarter includes credits, copyright information, and a clear technical grid. The spine has an image of Erika at the top, the title through the middle, and an image of Kyoya in a scarf at the bottom. The discs have images printed on them. Disc 1 has an image of Kyoya, Erika, and a friend in cold weather clothes. It appears the printing was not exact and there is color separation. Disc two has an image of Erika, Kyoya, and Kyoya’s sister Reika on a white field with a small title.
The menus are on the right side with the scrolling border theme carried over from the cover. Episodes are aligned vertically. Disc 1 has episodes 1 through 6 and the special features. This is overlayed on a neutral background with the image of Erika and Kyoya from the cover. Disc 2 has episodes 7 through 12 with an image of Kyoya, Erika, and Reika as printed on disc 2.
The only extras are a clean opening and ending.
From the DVD cover through the first episode, the concept seems lurid. A girl lies about having a boyfriend, and to keep her lie secret, said boy treats her like a dog. Thankfully, the series gets over the gimmick pretty quickly, and it becomes a standard shojo romance done with great visuals and good pacing.
We meet Erika on her way to the first day of her first year of high school. Through a conversation with her friend, we learn Erika has a problem just being herself. She has what appears to be a low self-esteem and compensates by making up lies she thinks will make others like her. On her first day, she realizes the class has already formed groups, and desperate to find her own clique, she begins a conversation with the next girl who enters the room. Unlike Erika, her new group obsesses over their boyfriends, and so as not to stand out, she brags about her own relationships—even though she has never even been on a date.
When Erika learns her new friends don’t believe she has a boyfriend, she takes the picture of a guy on the street without his permission. When he confronts her, she worries he will accuse her of a crime, so she runs away. Erika shows his picture as proof of her relationship. Later, Kyoya, the guy in the photograph overhears the conversation, and Erika whisks him away to explain her deceit. He agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend, but in return, she has to be his dog. At any point, Erika could walk away, but she agrees to maintain her lies.
Erika’s stories about her fake boyfriend have included unflattering aspects, including bondage play. Her friends decide to go after Kyoya in the lunchroom by commenting on his deviant tastes while everyone around overhears. He responds as Erika’s boyfriend and finds a rather vulgar way of shutting up the offender. By agreeing to pretend to be Erika’s boyfriend, Kyoya takes a hit to his reputation. He is known as “The Prince” by his classmates. Kyoya is fashionable, and he has both a charming smile and disarming banter. In reality, Kyoya is a player who engages in casual hookups and has no desire for a relationship. When not playing the role of “prince,” Kyoya has a cynical attitude and a sour expression.
Once the premise has been explained, the “wolf girl” references tend to pop up mostly when Erika is overly excited or when she lies. At those times, her character becomes cartoony and grows ears and a bushy tail. At other times, Kyoya will talk about her as master to dog. Often, these derogatory comments come out of his inner emotional turmoil. While we as viewers get to see a childhood memory that partially explains his state of mind, Erika doesn’t, and still she tolerates his behavior. Her internal monologue critiques Kyoya’s actions, and her willingness to take the mistreatment shifts from only trying to protect her secret to falling in love and wanting to give him a chance to improve. The relationship remains fragile through the final episode with real and perceived breaks occurring.
Secondary characters have exaggerated behaviors and personality changes not supported by the narrative. This weakens them and their interactions. Kyoya’s best friend decides to help Erika without a real cause, going so far as to threaten his relationship with Kyoya. Erika’s “friends” from class treat her without respect, and then they are presented as supportive. Other side characters are introduced to highlight something about Kyoya or Erika, but the interactions have no natural development. I’m not sure any character is likable, and nearly everyone seems to be damaged or dysfunctional.
Artistic direction seems to be a strength in this series. Character designs are traditional shojo types, but the settings have excellent colors and attention to detail. Often, a limited palate will be used to emphasize a mood, but at other times, the setting becomes the character. For example, the mixtures of pinks and blues at a lake surrounded by blooming cherry trees gives the viewer a visual representation of lovers in budding relationships. The scene is necessary to understand Erika’s motivation. Interior scenes create a definite sense of space and place, and the design and coloring create a sensual experience of texture and fabric for the viewer.
For a shojo romance, the consistent pacing and development of the two main characters offer a better than average experience. Setting design creates a rich environment that allows the characters to live in the world of the series. Overall, the romance, while unhealthy, has an element of truth. For those in their first relationships, the steep learning curve means mistakes will be made. The series offers a metaphor for learning to be yourself while becoming more. That makes the demeaning moments more tolerable, and it makes the narrative stronger.
While not explicitly stated in the series, the wolf in Japanese folklore may have the ability to see the hidden character of people and other times acts as a guide leading a lost person home. I enjoyed the series more when I thought about it through this lens.
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, Clean Opening and Ending, Sentai Trailers.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.