Ahhhh! Ever since we came up with the concept for this website, I’ve wanted to do a review on this. I also just re-watched this wonderful piece of art which may or may not have sparked my inclination to do my review on this. But no matter-on to my Spice & Wolf review!!
**Review: **Spice & Wolf is a rare gem-of-a-show that us as anime viewers do not get to see a lot of. When we think of anime, we usually can think of several prevalent genres that appear commonly throughout the large catalog of anime that exist today. Off the top of my head, Shounen, Shoujo, Mahou Shoujo, Seinen, Slice-of-Life, and Fantasy all come to mind. There are also those that fall into the more common show categories of romance, comedy, mystery, action, and horror. But Spice & Wolf is pretty unique in the fact that I can’t quite label it as any of those genres. Personally, I find that extremely refreshing. I love when a show can’t be directly linked to a specific subcategory or genre. And S&W treads these unexplored waters with ease.The general plot of the series is that a merchant by the name of Craft Lawrence comes across a mysterious wolf girl called Holo sleeping in his wagon full of wheat. After negotiating a few things and discovering that they are both headed in the same general direction, Holo decides that traveling with Lawrence is in her best interest. They story basically covers the adventures and economic experiences Holo and Lawrence have while traversing the Medieval European-style world that they live in. I found it really interesting just how much the show tended to focus on economics of the world. The show likes to go in-depth about the medieval economics which makes the experiences interesting, but also tends to drag the show down a little bit. They throw in a bit too much economic jargon for my liking and just kind of expect you to understand what is transpiring at some points in the show, which unless you are exceptionally savvy with 1300’s economics, you probably won’t fully understand. However, the show does do enough make sure you have a general notion of what the hell is happening. I just feel like they make it out to be significantly more complicated than it actually is. And the reason this irks me more than it should is because it takes away from Holo and Lawrence’s personal interactions. The second season is basically more of the same, with Holo and Lawrence continuing on their adventures while running into problems and drinking booze. But I have a few slight issues with the second season that I didn’t have with the first. The first problem is the ambiguous ending. I mean, I am alright- sort of -with the ambiguous ending. I just wish we could have a third season to see the journey finally climax. That would make me a happy man. The second issue and the bigger of the two is the fact that the plot calls for Holo to get less screen time. That I am much less ok with. I mean, Lawrence is a good enough character and all, but his backpack isn’t nearly big enough for him to carry the show by himself. He needs the help from Holo. It’s just like the director wanted to focus less on the best part of the show and more on Lawrence scrambling around while simultaneously wondering why his life sucks all of the sudden.
**Characters: **Here is the motherfucking selling point of the show if you’re like me and don’t have a massive boner for gold coins and transactions between merchants. What gives me a boner (not actually) are the two main characters. Craft Lawrence is an exceptional male protagonist. He’s so much better than 90% of the same angsty, high school dudes with disheveled hair and a sword made from the “power of friendship.” Though he can be a tad dry at times, he is cool, calm, and collected and relatively intelligent. He also thinks his actions through logically unlike literally every other bloody male protagonist that ever made an appearance in anime. Though he doesn’t have a lot of comedic moments, there are a few and are usually brought on by Holo. Which brings me to my next, bigger, and more important point: Holo. Holo is my favorite female character in anime to date. She most likely makes my top 3 favorite anime characters of all-time list, also. And none of the reasons include the fact that she’s a wolf girl. Holo is great because of how she interacts with Lawrence and every other character. She can play anybody like a fiddle. She’s incredibly smart, witty, conniving, and equal parts sensitive, comical, and sensual. She knows how to use people and how to exploit their weaknesses and that’s what makes her so entertaining. She’s also vocal about how highly she thinks of herself. I would go on all day about how great the wolf girl is, but that’d be getting into spoiler territory.The only gripe I have about Holo is not about her as a character, but how the media tends to portray her when advertising the show. They tend to over-sexualize her and make it seem like she’s only there to flaunt copious amounts of skin while happening to have ears and a tail. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. But I digress. The rest of the support characters range from a variety of personalities, all of which fit very nicely into their respective arcs. But they are quickly forgotten after our two main characters change locations, thereby starting a new arc. Overall, while the economics and actions drive the plot, the characters drive the story. The interactions between Holo and Lawrence are priceless and truly are the lifeblood of this series.
**Art/Animation: **The animation for this show was pretty well done. It was done by the studio, Imagin, who basically hadn’t done anything before hand and hasn’t really done anything else since. The second season was actually done by a different studio; the new studio that did the second season was Brains Base which is the same studio that did stuff like Baccano!, Durarara!! season 1, and Natsume’s Book of Friends. They manage to keep the style and quality relatively constant with the initial season which is great. The character designs are original and the animation for the characters is rather detailed. The backgrounds for the show are also a nice touch; rather than being incredibly detailed and glossy, they instead look more like paintings which just adds to the originality of the show.
**Sound/Music: **Now, the music for this show went kind of unnoticed for me the first time around. I was too enthralled by Holo eating potatoes and Lawrence trying to tell her that she’s an alcoholic. But as I saw it again, the music really stuck out to me as something wonderful. It’s comprised of folk tracks that really complement the setting. The soundtrack really takes advantage of a chamber orchestra, the ocarina, the tin whistle, the fiddle, and the accordion which I love. But that just may be because I adore folk music. If you don’t, well you won’t like this track. Just know I found it more than fitting and absolutely gorgeous. I give credit to the composer, Yuji Yoshino. For basically the only anime he ever did music for, he did a damn good job. As for dubs, I try to listen to the subbed version for shows because they usually just sound better. There are a few exceptions to where I just recommend the dub over the sub ( Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Bebop, Hellsing Ultimate, Ghost Stories and Black Lagoon). Spice & Wolf is in the middle. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this dub. J. Michael Tatum does a swell job at portraying the cool togetherness of Lawrence while Brina Palencia hits the part of Holo out of the park (in my book). Feel free to think differently, but I think Funimation really brought their A-game when recording this dub. But I have heard it subbed, too and it is almost just as good.
**Overall: **Spice & Wolf is a refreshing series that goes in a direction that most anime don’t go–like ever. Though the unique plot is a nice setup for the series, it truly is the characters (meaning Holo) that make this show as good as it is. The show is not without its flaws though. It does tend to drag a bit with economic explanations. While I find them interesting, they do tend to weigh the show down more than it could be and can be slightly confusing at times. The second season’s ending, while not necessarily bad or incomplete, is lackluster to me and I think it could totally use a third season (please Japan, please). And lastly, Holo is not as prevalent in the second season as she is in the first which disheartens me. The show chooses to instill conflict rather than stick with the same snarky banter that occurred throughout the first season, which in my opinion, took away from the show rather than adding more depth. So if you’re not one for lots of monologue (no matter how interesting), this is not your show. If you also hate economics and want to puke the moment somebody says the word “currency,” you may want to steer clear of this. And though I forgot to mention it, if you’re looking for an action-packed series, this ain’t it. But I would question the sanity of anybody planning to watch S&W for its action in the first place. In any case, if you’re looking for a series with well-developed and entertaining characters with a good, unique plot that doesn’t conform to a lot of anime norms, look no further.
Overall, I give Spice & Wolf 8.5/10. Greg’s Rating Scale.
P.S. Holo gets an 11/10