Manga / Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund

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Wolfram: Whatever happens at this checkpoint shall be handled at this checkpoint. Such is my mission.

Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund is a seinen manga by Mitsuhisa Kuji, a former assistant of Berserk author Kentaro Miura.

Between Switzerland and Italy there is the St. Gotthard Pass. It is the early 14th century and those who wish to flee the rule of the Habsburg Monarchy must go through this pass. However, it is not called "The Wolf's Maw" for no reason, as it is overseen by a cruel governor who follows the law with a steel fist. These are the tragedies of men and women who sought passage through Wolfsmund.

The manga takes artistic liberties with regard to historical events and characters, focusing on telling an interesting story rather than what actually happened. At the same time the author has Shown Their Work on the early 1300s setting by offering a refreshingly accurate depiction of various aspects of the medieval world such as clothing, armor, archery, sword fighting, architecture, and politics.

This manga provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Cedar to her daughter Juwel in chapter 6. She's not shy about beating her physically if Juwel angers her, and threatens to abandon her. Sadly, Cedar truly does love Juwel, but her self interest often wins out in the end, which ends up dooming Cedar anyways.
  • Action Girl: Almost every woman involved in the war is a bonafide badass. Johanna and Hilde are both renowned warriors, with Hilde known as "The Ripper of Schwyz" for her prowess and merciless nature. Even the mistress of the inn can make a decent showing.
  • Anachronism Stew: Downplayed, as you have to be really into The Late Middle Ages to notice, but some forms of costumes, arms, and armor that didn't appear until the late 14th century are depicted in the early 14th century setting, and there's a few 15th century outliers like sallet helmets and the Lucerne hammer. The cranequin device that William Tell uses to span his crossbow wasn't invented until after 1400.
  • Animal Motifs: Wolfram is often likened to a hungry wolf, and his shadow occasionally reflects a wolf.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. Arrows and bolts, when they hit their mark, are as deadly as they should be.
  • Anyone Can Die: It's usually a coin flip if the main character of a story will be breathing by the end after their encounter with Wolfram. Wolfram himself quite horrifically discovers that he does NOT have Joker Immunity.
  • The Archer: Wilhelm Tell and his son Walter fit the archetype as masters of the crossbow, accustomed to operating independently in the wilderness, and practical as well as pragmatic.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted. Knights in full plate and maile have a tremendous advantage in survivability over regular soldiers.
  • Badass Army: A side chapter details how a company of Swiss Mercenaries fought near to the death defending the pope, establishing the tradition that the Vatican would always be protected by Swiss soldiers.
  • Bad Boss:
    • The Hapsburgs in general. Though working for Wolfram can really suck. Delay telling him bad news, and you're likelygonna get defenestrated. Best case scenario, he'll force you to work in the freezing Alps until your death.
    • Aside from being clever in designing defenses and traps for his castle, Wolfam is a rather uninspiring military commander, more interested in keeping himself alive than leading his men effectively.
  • Big Bad: Wolfram is the most active villain in the story, as as the Bailiff of the Wolfsmund, he is the omnipresent threat of the story.
  • Book Ends: Volume 1 ends with the Innkeeper wishing to see Willhelm Tell once more. Volume 2 ends with Walter Tell saying he'll be seeing the Innkeeper soon. And both the ones they wish to see are dead by the time they say it.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Austrians are fond of torturing prisoners with methods such as the rack and burning coals. Wolfram considers it a helpful tool and a delightful hobby.
  • The Brute: Berchtold, Wolfram's chief enforcer. He's a brutish, hulking knight who prefers to beat his enemies to death.
  • Cool Old Guy: William Tell is a very easygoing and charismatic fellow.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Many times, a rebel being tortured or executed by Wolfram will be in a pose reminiscent of Christian martyr.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Happens every story. Heroes will often face nasty ends. Villains too with both Sir Berthold and Wolfram meeting very harsh deaths.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Everyone with their name in the chapter titles is probably dead at their chapters' end. Grete, the innkeeper, is probably the best example of this, though. She lasts two volumes, however.
    • Surprisingly, Wolfram himself becomes an example of this trope, after spending most of the series with him. The story still manages to continue even after he's been killed.
  • The Determinator: William Tell's son, Walter absolutely refuses to give up.
  • Dirty Coward: Wolfram himself is revealed to be this when he abandons his own men when the fighting goes south, his own Dragon stating his disgust at his master's actions. It shows again when he's about to be executed, despite subjecting countless people to horrific ends, he goes out sobbing that putting him to death is unjust.
  • Disc One Final Boss: For all the boasts Wolfram made about his power he is still under servitude to Duke Leopold. When he dies the Duke himself takes the matters into his own hands and personally deals with the rebellion.
  • The Dragon: Wolfram to the Hapsburg Duke. For the Wolfsmund alone, the brutish Berchtold functions as Wolfram's Dragon.
  • Evil Genius: Wolfram is absolutely brilliant and often has people figured out the second they arrive at his Checkpoint.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Wolfram is nothing but sweetness and smiles, and most who don't know him mistake him for a kind man. It's a mask for the devious sadist he really is.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Wolfram is unfailingly polite and genteel at all times, but he views everyone around him as a toy he can hurt.
  • Foreshadowing: Wolfram's first appearance should tell you he is not a good person.
  • For the Evulz: Wolfram will kill and publicly display his prisoners even if he is ordered to send them to his master. He even refers to the Wolfsmund as his little "Mountain Pass of Pleasure."
  • Gorn: Jesus, this manga is brutal...Still, considering just WHO the author has worked with, is anyone surprised?
  • Gratuitous German: The title of the work combines the Japanese and German ways of saying "Wolf's Maw", and the title page includes a summary of the story in Gothic-font German that presumably cannot be read by the intended Japanese readers.
  • Greater Scope Villain: Duke Leopold of the Hapsburgs. Though, he did not actively kill people himself and even orders Wolfram to keep the captives alive.
    • When Wolfram is finally killed, he takes the role of the Big Bad and proceeds to utterly crush his enemies.
  • The Hero: Many a character in this series appear to take this role only for them to fail horribly and die in gruesome fashion. The series goes out of it's way to crush all hope of such a person to exist and survive in its cruel world. Thankfully Walter takes this role later on the series, he's the longest surviving character fighting against the Empire and he's even the one to defeat the (first) Big Bad Wolfram in single combat.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted in chapter 3. In a desperate attempt to escape from Wolfram, who intercepted them in the mountains, Wilhelm and Walter are in peril. Walter is clinging to the ledge with his ice axe, and his father is dangling over the abyss by the rope connecting them. Wilhelm tells Walter to cut the rope and escape, and when Walter refuses he begins to cut it himself. However, seeing that he's already surrounded, Walter lets go and falls with his father before he can sever the rope. Walter survives, Wilhelm doesn't.
  • Hero Antagonist: The manga of the trope. The people Wolfram kills are genuinely fighting for their homeland. Cue angry reviews from modern Swiss readers of the French translation. Although it's made pretty clear Wolfram is the bad guy pretty early on, and isn't serving any sense of patriotism, but rather his own sick sadism.
    • Walter is placed in this role as the series progresses. He's one of the few named surviving characters in opposition to Wolfram. He embodies several heroic traits and can be classified as a good guy. Later on, he's even the one to finally defeat Wolfram.
  • Hope Spot: If there were ever a manga to exemplify this trope and what it stands for, this would be it. Although, some genuine hope begins to grow as the third volume comes to a close...
    • Ironically Wolfram himself falls victim to this. During his bout with Walter he's got the latter on the ropes and is ready to land the final blow ensuring his escape from his enemies. Only for Walter to counter his move and break both his arms. This action finally leads to his utter defeat in the hands of the alliance.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: "Oh, the only way through is that place called The Wolf's Maw. Have a nice time!"
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Wolfram finally dies by being impaled with a giant wooden spike that is hammered up his ass and through his body until it sticks out of his mouth. The depiction of it is as brutal as it sounds.
  • It's Personal: Walter Tell's hatred of Wolfram boils over into a seething fury after Wolfram executes his mother and little brother just to draw Walter out.
  • Fallen Princess: Lise is the daughter of nobleman and rebel leader Ernst of Schwyz, and loses everything when her father is executed for treason. She has only one knight, Georg, and is forced to disguise as a knight's boy servant to escape detection.
  • For the Evulz: Wolfram's real motivation. He confesses to Hedgwig Tell in volume 3 his greatest kick in life is messing with people.
  • Karmic Death: Wolfram has possibly the most horrific, vomit-inducing death in this series, and one could argue he deserved a hell of a lot worse.
  • Kick the Dog: Every chapter has Wolfram doing something horrible to someone. Even worse as the first chapter presented him as a nice, reasonable fellow.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: After all he's done, it is damn hard to blame the Swiss for subjecting Wolfram to an absolutely stomach-churning execution.
    • It's even harder not to cheer for Walter as he finally gets the upperhand in his fight with Wolfram and ends up smashing Wolfram's face with a knee kick after breaking his arms.
  • Kill the Cutie: Poor, innocent Lise gets beheaded in the first chapter. That's just the beginning.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Georg is a true knight to his very core. He's resourceful, skilled at fighting, incredibly brave, but most important is his Undying Loyalty to his damsel, Lise. She has no one else to protect her from the evil oppressors who executed her father, and Georg subordinates his entire being to making sure she gets to safety.
  • Leave No Survivors: The Swiss rebels are not particularly merciful to the Hapsburg soldiers after storming the castle.
  • Mama Bear: Subverted. If Cedar had actually been one of these, Wolfram would have let them pass. As it is, while she was protective, she just wasn't protective enough.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Wolfram is a genius at manipulating people's emotions so that they'll play into his hands.
  • McNinja: Although there's no indication she was trained in actual ninjutsu, Johanna is basically what you get by transferring the idea of a female ninja or kunoichi to 14th century Europe. She disguises herself flawlessly as an old woman in her attempt to pass the St. Gotthard Pass checkpoint, uses her wiles to break out of her cell and infiltrate the castle, and dispatches multiple guards using her deadly martial arts skills. The inclusion of such a character in this setting is simply justified by Rule of Cool.
  • Medieval Morons: Significantly Averted. Being smart was just as important in the Middle Ages as it was in any other period, and any characters playing the game of subterfuge have to be quick with their wits.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Ripper of Schwyz". It does make an impression on Wolfram's soldiers.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Wolfram's....excesses drive the people to the point where rebellion is inevitable.
    • Wolf's Maw defenses would have been impregnable if not for the fact that Wolfram drove the Swiss to such rage that a lot of them did not mind sacrificing themselves to bring him down.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: While Wolfram's mind always made him extremely dangerous, Walter and others assumed that physically Wolfram is a Sissy Villain. But the final surprise Wolfram had prepared for those seeking to corner him is himself being a skilled, dangerous fighter. That surprise claims Hilde's life.
  • Oh Crap!: Wolfram has this HARD when he sees how he is going to be executed. This is the one time in the manga when he is actually terrified. Which is rather ironic, considering just how many people he caused to have this over the years.
  • Older Than They Look: Wolfram looks like he's in his early twenties, but looked the exact same about ten years prior, as shown in flashbacks.
  • Papa Wolf: William Tell fights ferociously to protect his son when Wolfram's troops catch up to them.
  • Sadist: All the gods above, Wolfram. He outright declares he's in it only for the fun involved and clearly delights in the atrocities he commits.
  • Sadistic Choice: Wolfram is fond of forcing these on his victims. However, he inevitably rigs the games he sets up and confesses he simply enjoys fucking with people's heads.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: In the first chapter, Georg goes down fighting in a heroic attempt to protect Lise. Tragically, his death only delays the inevitable for a few seconds, since after he's dead Wolfram executes her.
  • Set Swords to Stun: Plays with and possibly Justifies the use of this trope. Some of Wolfram's knights find Johanna escaping through the castle, and—remembering that they're not supposed to kill her—decide to grip their swords by the blade and beat her unconscious with their hilts. Shown Their Work, as this is a legit technique from German Longsword called mordhau.
  • Slasher Smile: Wolfram often grins when he's ordering someone's death.
  • The Sociopath: Wolfram refers to the Wolfsmund as his 'little pass of pleasure.' He doesn't seem capable of empathy or care for other people.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Wolfram did more public executions and corpse displays than you can stand. He enjoys them.
  • The Stoic: The Hapsburg Duke never betrays any emotion whatsoever.
  • Undignified Death: Wolfram himself finally gets his when he is caught be the rebels and executed by having a spear impaled through his ass until it comes out his mouth. The execution is slow and drawn out, ensuring all of his painful and terrified moments are thoroughly enjoyed by the enraged crowd.
  • Undying Loyalty: Georg risks his life for the sake of his dead master's daughter Lise, and gives it up trying to protect her to his last breath.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Swiss in real history drove the Holy Roman Empire out through open warfare sometime earlier than the timeframe of the manga and William Tell did not die like he does in this story.
  • Villain Protagonist: Wolfram is the closest the story has to a main character, or so it seems. Every story up until his death features him. He is also a brilliant sadist who delights in harming anyone who crosses his path.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • When the Wolf's Maw is finally under siege and being brought down, Wolfram snaps enough to even throw one of his own soldiers out his window just for questioning him.
    • Occurs again as Wolfram is taken to his execution he starts screaming and telling the rebels that his Lord and God will punish them and that they will go to hell if they kill him. Considering what he did to the people over the years, the jackass has no right to talk about hell.

Alternative Title(s): Wolfsmund

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