After hearing that Spice and Wolf was to be followed by a sequel early last year, I was hesitant to consider a second installment worth watching. Even after having Clannad: After Story blow me away in terms of sequels outdoing their predecessors, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was just a fluke and I would be setting myself up for a great deal of disappointment if I decided to give it a shot.
Of course, as irony would have it, not even sixty seconds in, Spice and Wolf II shattered all notions of my skepticism - by five minutes I was hooked completely. Be it nostalgia at the charming flirtation between Lawrence and Horo or the flawless, calm pacing of an endearing romance I cannot be sure, but the opening scene undoubtedly had a way of putting all my qualms to rest. Like the first, the second series keeps economics, trade, and barter at the forefront of its story, but subtly shifts the focus to lean more on the romantic aspects of the duo’s relationship. The sequel distinguishes the two as romantic interests much more-so than before, as each major plot point drags their relationship into the forefront of events. In keeping with the series’ unique style of pacing and storytelling, however, these sorts of changes are all subliminal – you don’t see them occurring directly, but the differences are definitely there.
What does this all mean in layman’s terms, though? You guessed it: Spice and Wolf just got better. It builds flawlessly on the foundations of its predecessor, and continues fleshing out Lawrence and Horo’s tale without stagnating the story. As with the first, they continue to move north toward Horo’s homeland as their journey steadily progresses, but the temporal progression of the series does not interfere with its gradual and relaxed feel. All its climatic moments are built up with masterful skill, and the nature of the story makes predicting what will happen nigh impossible. Each episode provides certain twists are revelations that keep the viewer hungering for more while, at the same time, refining and deepening both the characters and the world in which they live.
As I fear I may say too much and potentially twist one’s expectations for what happens, I’ll leave all my commentary on the story at that. Simply put, Spice and Wolf II is structured without any indication that it is even a sequel; it continues where the first series left off without so much as a lapse, skip, or pause in either content on quality.
The only noticeable change between the first and second seasons is the appearance of a new animation studio, but this can hardly be considered a flaw. Both studios do a marvelous job at bringing the world and characters to life, and I’d even go as far to say that Spice and Wolf II exceeds Spice and Wolf in visual quality. The attention to detail is breathtaking, from the twilight panoramas of medieval city states to the gentle resting of Horo’s head on Lawrence’s shoulder. As fitting of Horo’s character, body language plays as much a role in communication as words, and every nuance of her flirtation is captured with the flicks of her hands or the twist of her head. Likewise, Lawrence shows a very visible increase in comfort with her companionship, and the dissipation of stiffness and rigidity in his poise follows concurrently with the story.
As such, the symbiosis between the animation, story, and characters makes the series visually spring to life; I can’t think of a single instance where the on-screen occurrences lost their seamless interface with the story. All in all, Spice and Wolf II is an aesthetic marvel, and the animation is a large contributor to this quality.
All the original seiyuu return to voice their respective characters and, as before, they do a splendid job. Even the secondary and tertiary characters are paid exquisite levels of attention, and there’s certainly not much to complain about. Special detail is given to the situation of speaking as well, with both conversation and narration having distinct and separate feels. Like with the animation, the emotional nuances of the characters are captured through their manner of speech, and harmonize with the visuals quite well.
On top of that, the musical score is fantastic. As with the first series, it synchs mood and story context together with tact and skill, and not once does the music feel out of place or oddly placed.
In watching Spice and Wolf II one will already be intimately familiar with both Lawrence and Horo, so I’ll opt not to waste any time going over how phenomenal their characters are. Rather, I’ll simply say that all the new characters that appear in the series to move the story forward are of definite quality. Many characters are introduced by heresay and rumor prior to any formal appearance, and their actual personas tend to blend nominal hyperbole and realistic virtue. As such, they discard any notions of one-dimensionality as events unfold, and seem to always posses some level of mysteriousness as to what their motivations are in seeing events unfold. Each side character has specific interests in seeing Lawerence’s many different business deals to fruition, and the interplay between the many different parties really defines how well the story is told. As much of their dealings are done with strangers, friend and villain are often relative terms depending on what happens, which ultimately drives the series’ captivating sense of mystique and intrigue.
Spice and Wolf II isn’t so much a sequel as it is a continuation, so viewing the two series with disparate eyes will give the wrong impression of how they relate. When viewed sequentially, there are no noticeable differences between the two – the story continues to progress in its charming way, the characters grow with heart-warming satisfaction, and detail occupies every square inch of its content. Needless to say, watching Spice and Wolf necessitates watching Spice and Wolf II, and the capacity for disappointment just does not exist. Splendid all the way around.
Spice and Wolf 2 is the 12 episode 2nd season of an adventure fantasy anime with themes of the supernatural and trading/economics set in a fictional medieval setting, based on the light novels written by Isuna Hasekuna. I knew I forgot something (I have the novels and forgot to read them before watching this)! I’ll also be including the OVA in this review (as episode 0). Oddly enough, there are few anime with this sort of setting and theme, I enjoyed the first season for how unique it was and how it managed to incorporate some economic and financial matters into a decent story. This season concludes the story and while the overall anime felt almost like a slice of life, in this season, the plot is more rooted and less episodic.
I watched this in 1080p and the animation quality was very similar to the first season, however I was unable to find season 1 in similar quality. The quality here was very good, though at times it felt a bit blurry, perhaps just my imagination. The image is well defined and the colours are mostly good, though at times the selection could have been better, the outro is especially good for showing off how good this anime looks.
The style isn’t too unique, some of the character designs feel a bit too familiar and perhaps a tad on the generic side, but this anime has an advantage due to its setting. The unique style used in the outro makes up for the character designs and while it doesn’t have many animated (cartoon-ified) facial expressions or interesting use of cinematography, the setting and atmosphere are spot on and feel appropriate. At times it goes into old-timey mode for stories and lore which is a nice change and a unique way of animating those scenes too. The setting really helped this anime stand out in terms of style.
No fan-service or ecchi to speak of here. Granted one could argue there is nudity, but all of it is ‘mannequin’ nudity, that is to say not true nudity at all. It is used for almost artistic effect in scenes like the intro and outro. During the previous season of the anime itself, the intended use of the mannequin effect was for the purpose of maintaining the pleasant sensible atmosphere, this is after all not an ecchi anime nor one with a primary demographic of teenage boys.
The intro and outro music were pretty damn good, but not to the point where I’d want the soundtrack. The outro suited the animated sequence well and was a relaxing piece of music, as if to relieve the viewer tension after a tough scene. The music in the anime itself is rather outstanding due to the fact that it’s ‘authentic’ and sounds like music from the era. There are also wonderful instrumentals too, but it’s nice to hear some middle ages themed music in this middle ages themed anime. The sound design is excellent, at one point I even noticed that the voices had echoes when the characters were speaking in a largish indoor place.
Speaking of which, this anime is available in both English and Japanese, as it was in the first season. I preferred the English here, since the voice acting was done well in my opinion and it felt more authentic given that this anime was based in the (British/European) middle ages and the characters had Western names. Were it historical Japanese then the Japanese voices would have felt more appropriate. I mentioned this to someone today, but as far as animation goes, ‘original voices’ means less. In live-action movies it matter to avoid dubs because of lip0sync issues but in anime like these, the animation isn’t even lip synched to the Japanese dialogue, paying close attention and mouths just open and close. From hearing about how recording dialogue goes in the West, the good ‘dubs’ tend to time their dialogue along with the original Japanese dialogue to match it and the animation as closely as possible. Enough of some facts, the character of Holo has an especially formal manner of speaking which makes her interesting to listen to and there’s a little bit of colloquial language in there too, which adds to the authentic feel of the whole anime.
Kraft Lawrence has the distinct voice of J. Michael Tatum, he has voiced roles including Erwin Smith in Attack on Titan, Isaac Dian in Baccano, Kazuomi Hirasawa in Eden of the East, Scar in FMA: Brotherhood (I’m watching this atm), William de Farnese in Romeo X Juliet, Kelb in Tower of Druaga, Seishirou in Tsubasa Chronicle and Shizuka Doumeki in XXXHOLiC. Holo was immediately recognisable as the voice of Brina Palencia, known for such roles as Ennis in Baccano, the Kinoshita twins in Baka to Test, Priscilla in Claymore, Yin in Darker than Black, Rei Ayanami in the Evangelion remake, Nina Tucker in FMA: Brotherhood, Teruki Maeno in Mnemosyne, Juliet in Romeo X Juliet, Ahmey in Tower of Druaga and many more. Nora Arendt is voiced by Leah Clark, she voiced Minami Shimada in Baka to Test, Saki Morimi in Eden of the East (I finished the other day), Hikari Horaki in the Evangelion remake, Akane Suzumiya in Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Blair in Soul Eater and Kai in Tower of Druaga. Fermi Amati was voiced by Ryan Reynolds (actually a woman, despite the male first name), a person of few roles including Yoshiko Mikami in Baka to Test. Mark Cole is voiced by Ian Sinclair, who has voiced Dallas Genoard in Baccano and a few roles either minor or in anime I’ve not seen. Eve Boland is voiced by Stephanie Young, she voiced Clare in Claymore, Juiz in Eden of the East, Arachne Gorgon in Soul Eater, Ishtar in Tower of Druaga and Elfriede in Tsukuyomi Moon Phase. Diane Rubens is voiced by Colleen Clinkenbeard, the number of her roles include Nice Holystone in Baccano, Youko Takahashi in Baka to Test, Galatea/Hilda in Claymore, Ritsuko Akagi in the Evangelion remake, Riza Hawkeye/Rose Thomas in FMA/Brotherhood, Mitsuki Hayase in Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Rin Asogi in Mnemosyne, Cordelia in Romeo X Juliet, Ethana in Tower of Druaga, Reina Sohou in Witchblade and Yuuko Ichihara in Tsubasa Chronicle/XXXHOLiC. Brittney Karbowski (a common voice in dubbing) also voices the Helena the barmaid.
The titular wolf of this anime is a Wolf deity known commonly as Holo the Wise Wolf. Holo was a wheat goddess in a large rural village, where she was worshipped in harvest festivals to bless the production of wheat in the fields of that area. Until Lawrence came along that is. Her normal form is a giant wolf of monstrous proportions and of course great strength, but she takes on the form a cute, small red-haired woman, though she is unable to hide her ears or her big fluffy tail. She can transform into a wolf any time by biting on the special wheat she keeps in a pouch around her neck. Whether in her wolf form or her human form, her powers remain unaffected, her sense of smell is second to none and she is very smart and cunning. In her human form she speaks in a very formal and well-articulated manner, she can be a bit messy when eating (she is a wolf after all), she has a voracious appetite and she likes to drink a lot and ends up being drunk very often, to the point where she needs to be put to bed. A fun individual, but she is very moody and protective of Lawrence and she easily gets jealous. She’s almost tsundere, but unlike a tsundere, she’ll happily admit to Lawrence that she enjoys his company as does he. Her objective is to return to her home in the north.
Kraft Lawrence (or Lawrence Kraft, Lawrence sounds more like a first name) is a young to middle aged man, who is making a living as a travelling merchant and is very proficient at his trade. He wields a slightly unshaven beard and owns a horse-drawn cart, by which he travels from village to village. He seems to have no home or family and his past is more of a mystery that anything Holo can conjure. He is very smart and as a merchant, is always after a good profit on his trades, knowledge of his goods goes a long way and he values this knowledge well. He is part of the Lowenheim Merchant’s Guild, and has many good friends and acquaintances he has made over the years of his well-travelled life. He enjoys having Holo as a companion, but is very careful around her, he doesn’t seem to be interested in women or that sort of thing and he seems to be a very mature individual in general. Holo might tease him, but he doesn’t mind or won’t let it go too far. His end goal in life is to settle down and set up a shop somewhere after he has made enough profits and live the ‘ordinary life,’ as if his current life wasn’t any ordinary. Of course with Holo travelling alongside him, they’ve had some troubles but nothing major besides the politics and events that seem to be going on throughout the world.
Nora Arendt is the only returning secondary character from the first season. This young lass is a shepherd for the church and shepherds sheep with her dog Enek. She is very sweet and kind, and she makes Holo jealous by how well she gets along with Lawrence. She assisted them in a risky journey at the end of the first season and is a good friend. She is very sensible and mature individual.
Fermi Amati is a young man (likely a mere teenager) and a prodigy… at being a travelling merchant. Of course this means he is a competitor for Lawrence and similar to Lawrence, he doesn’t seem to have too much of a home or any family. He is very good at making money and seems to have taken a liking to Holo. He seems to exude a good nature and kindness, being young he does tend to make rash decisions at times and he doesn’t care too much for his competitors.
Mark Cole is one of Lawrence’s old accomplices, he has a stall in the market in the town of Kumersun, where he is a permanent resident and he lives with his wife Adele Cole. He has a young boy in his employ to help out at his stall called Lanto Ewell, mainly used for errands involving a little distance while Mark remains at the shop. Due to owning a shop in town, he must maintain the reputation of his shop and will not take part in any business venture that will damage the reputation he has built up for himself. Unlike a travelling merchant, he cannot move away, so such a thing would spell disaster for him. He is still willing to help out Lawrence with various things and even give him decent trade offers since they are good pals.
Diane Rubens is one of the alchemists in the Alchemists sector in the city of Kumersun, she is well acquainted with the big merchant known as Gi Batos, who is the one that introduces Lawrence to her. Her place has many books and a large amount of feathers strewn around the place. She is a wise and knowledgeable individual and knows much about the folklore and fables from around the area. Her love of such information means she also asks her customers/visitors to tell her stories of their own, which she can add to her large collection. This woman has much mystery surrounding her.
Eve Boland (AKA Fleur Mariel Boland) is a travelling merchant mainly based in the big port city of the north called Lenos. She appears to primarily be a trader of religious statues and has ties with the church in the area, her trade goes up during the yearly expeditions to the north. She doesn’t like her original name, so she goes by the name of Eve, which apparently makes for a better impression and sounds more serious than Fleur, which sounds too feminine for her taste. She prefers to be less feminine. She knows much about the goings on in Lenos and ends up being acquainted with the innkeeper Harold Ecklund. She unfortunately fell out of favour with the church. Much like many of the other characters, there is much more than meets the eye with her.
Helena is a barmaid in a tavern of Lenos, she appears to be similar in appearance to Nora Arendt from the first season, but be assured that there is no connection between them. She appears in a couple of scenes where Lawrence buys some information from her and she is rather helpful. She is also rather flirtatious, openly admitting to Lawrence that she is interested in him and that she’s jealous of Holo for (appearing to be) being his woman. The tavern is relatively empty due to the current situation in Lenos, which would otherwise be brimming with customers.
The plot started all the way back in season 1 where Kraft Lawrence met Holo the Wise Wolf around the time of the Wheat Festival in Pasloe where Holo was worshipped as a deity. Of course with the times, the people’s faith in Holo has dwindled and thus Holo desired to return home to the north to live with her kind. Kraft Lawrence decides to help her and she accompanies him in his northbound journey. It almost wouldn’t make sense why a merchant would want to have a freeloader like Holo tag along with little to profit, but of course there has always been the underlying spark of a bond, a connection between the two: love. Granted this love remains submerged for most of these two seasons, even with some casual flirting by Holo. And Holo can also use her powers to help Lawrence in his business deals too on occasion, she saves his skin many a time in season 1.
While the plot in the previous season was bearing towards the episodic and almost slice-of-life, the plot here is based around two towns mainly: Kumersun and Lenos and the very relevant troubles the two face in these places. Their trust and affection for each other is tested in both of these scenarios and most of all they are trying to find out where exactly ‘home’ is for Holo, for her to return there. The plot isn’t very predictable and is rather focused, which is a good thing. It features quite a bit of economics and politics, with tense moments resulting from them, I’m surprised at how exciting this anime made such things, it felt almost like Death Note in the way that there were some unknown variables, risks and people outsmarting each other, associated with these gambles. I cannot compare this to the novels as I haven’t yet read them, but I know there are differences in characters and a few things.
The biggest disappointment however, is the conclusion. While the novels manage to tie things up neatly, the end of this anime remains open and essentially the plot is left incomplete. It is a major regret considering how good this story is and how interesting it gets. It lets the whole anime down as the last episode tends to stay with the viewer the most, since it was the most recently viewed. This appears to occur a lot in anime in general, let alone anime based upon other media and is one of my pet peeves. The story is the most important bit of an anime and they did this to it. There would be no sequel of course, the OVA certainly didn’t solve anything since it was set before the season.
The OVA episode is set before season 2 and is commonly known to be ‘episode 0’ of season 2. It is a minor filler episode where Nora joins the two main characters for a meal at an inn, where Holo gets very drunk, ends up ill and needs to be looked after by Lawrence. Older folks might have had experience themselves, having to deal with a drunken friend, I know I have ^_^.
Spice and Wolf is actually a rather relaxing anime to watch and of course an enjoyable one at that. The romance isn’t teased and bought to the fore like in many other anime, but is rather serious in the way that it takes a back-seat to the actual plot events of the anime, it doesn’t seem to interfere. A good thing. I feel as if this anime ill appeal to a good many folks, if you like slice-of-life, anime set in the middle ages, unique anime or stories of folklore and some nifty, often tense (like Death Note), economics/politics, then you would likely enjoy this and I’d recommend it to such folks. I’d even go so far as to recommend it to older folks and those who might not like anime, this is a fairly unique anime and in some ways it doesn’t feel much like an anime at all, it is very far from being the typical sort of anime. The characters are interesting and the story even gets a bit serious, it has much to offer. Of course I cannot say what this is compared to the novels, since I’ve forgotten to read them. However I’d assume the written novels have more content and some changes in them, which may result in readers of the original material dislike this anime slightly for deviating from it. I’m partially glad I didn’t read the books first, I was able to enjoy this anime without the usual worry that they left things out. But I cannot forgive the story here for not having a satisfactory conclusion. This would be a much better anime were it to not fall into one of the common pit-falls that most anime suffer from.
Family-friendliness Rating: 3/5 Difficult economic topics (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 8/10 (higher is better)
Dropped after 8 episodes. The story took a nosedive into a trashpile from the start of episode 1. Not only does the season really contain only two stories, both painfully drawn out to 6+ episodes each, but the stories themselves are much more agnoizingly poorly thought out than season 1. Worse, both Holo and Lawerance quickly become flat and unintresting, mere tired cookie cutter copies of standard Anime fare. Which is particuarly sad in this case, since the depth of both characters was one of the major up points of Season 1.
im very new to anime but regardless this is my fav anime yet the feels the charecter dev. its all great.
Absolutely amazing show, the characters are so loveable and some can truly make you despise them. The show is mostly in a medieval fantasy like world where a peddler named Kraft Lawrence meets a strange companion, a fox girl named Holo, who was a fox deity of the harvest. She is a very interesting character and very loveable for being a bit sarcastic, witty, and a bit of an alcoholic. I'm the type of person who mostly likes fighting and not romance but this show was something I couldn’t shy away from. Some parts are about the economy of their world and they may bore you, but don’t shy away from the show completely, its not entirely economy based. The openings are very well done, same as the endings. The music adds onto the medieval like atmosphere. Holo and kraft are kind of like oil and water at some points but that’s what seems to pull them closer to each other. I honestly stayed up very late at night sometimes watching because I couldn’t stand waiting to watch later. Finale is a bit abrupt and being there is no 3rd season (hopefully there will be) its kind of a downer, but that just leads you to think of your own parts. I honestly loved this show and if there was a third season announced, I would probably squeal loudly. Highly recommend this show.