Spice and Wolf

Alt titles: Wolf and Spice, Okami to Koshinryo

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Sheex's avatar By Sheex on Apr 3, 2008

Story

If there's any one physical setting that can catch me hook, line, and sinker just about every time, it would have to be romanticized medieval fantasy.  While it may not be the most eccentric of preferences, I find such works (anime or not) to be boundlessly fascinating; yet, while Spice and Wolf proved certainly no exception, it managed to exceed my expectations quite profoundly.  However, while most similar anime within the genre tend to focus on the caustic militaristic trends of the era, Spice and Wolf does anything but.  Instead, its core story elements revolve around the day-to-day travels of a roaming merchant and his companion, which means most conflict comes in the form of economic disputes and not swordfights.  This premise, while simple, emerged as surprisingly effective, as it allowed the series to flaunt a very strong sense of character development in lieu of an ordinarily frail story.

Fortunately, Spice and Wolf's lack of an exceedingly complex story was not a negative.  At its conception, the story begins when Lawrence arrives in a rural farming village at the time of its harvest.  After bartering some of his goods away, he comes into possession of a bundle of wheat which happens to be enchanted by the village's guardian spirit, a wolf goddess named Horo.  With the village's increasing desire to distance itself from its old traditions regarding her, Horo decides to accompany Lawrence on his travels as she journeys to return to her home in the northern forests.  From there on out, both Lawrence and Horo discover just how lonely their respective lives have been, and despite distinctly different personalities, begin to confide in one another's company.

And this certainly is what makes Spice and Wolf shine as much as it does.  Both Lawrence and Horo are absolutely fantastic characters, and their interactions with one another are both endearing and authentic; the series' pacing allows their story to flow very naturally, and lacks any noticeable lapses in quality.  Though the romance only really starts to develop by the time the last episode rolls around, I didn't really find this an inherent flaw, as for the entire duration of the series their relationship is steadily developed.  Initially Horo views Lawrence as little more than a traveling companion and a source for her personal amusement, but his kindness slowly seeps under her skin, and she begins to desire his company in a manner deeper than that of mere friendship.  Ultimately, by relying on each other's respective strengths and covering for each other's weaknesses, they pull themselves through a number of dangerous circumstances, resulting in the development of a very hardened bond between them.

Thus, for those looking for an action-packed thriller, stay as far away from Spice and Wolf as possible.  Its very leisurely pace is slow but cumulative in nature, creating a very serene, relaxing watch that guides the viewer through the story with a graceful hand.  While they are indeed a couple "action" scenes scattered throughout, they tend to lack much intensity, and are designed more as story elements than eye candy.  At its heart, the story revolves around the communal bond between Lawrence and Horo and not so much the external strife that plagued the era.


Animation

The animation captures the medieval setting perfectly.  From flowing fields of wheat to bustling market squares, the world comes across as surprisingly immersive, and the attention to color and lighting really enhances this.  For example, particular attention is paid to clothing colors indicative of the times; most characters wear browns, grays, and whites, yet Horo is dressed in more regal purples, blues, and reds.  These small, but cumulatively noticeable details, along with the music, provide for an enormously potent atmospheric feel, much in the same manner as series like Seirei no Moribito or Haibane Renmei.  All in all, while not the most astounding of quality, the animation more than suits the series, and I can't think of a single instance of it appearing awkward or out of place.


Sound

Both Horo's and Lawrence's voice actors are splendid, and each captures the subtleties in his or her respective character magnificently.  Given Horo's keen disposition for mixing emotional undertones in many of her more serious speeches, this further served to exemplify her character's strengths and insecurities as being hand-in-hand.  Tack on a soundtrack awash with tunes composed with fiddles and other instruments of the times, and it's certainly easy to feel quite at home within Spice and Wolf's world.


Characters

If nothing else, Horo is the incarnation of every guy's dream girl: she's strong and confident, yet simultaneously both charming and feminine.  This duality in her personality functions on a number of levels, and unlike most anime romances which have somewhat brazen females, Horo is much more human and believable (odd, since in actuality she is a wolf.)  Despite her constant attempts to deny her affections, she finds herself continually flattered by Lawrence's chivalry-driven personality, and finds it increasingly more difficult to deny how happy she finds herself when in his presence.  In fact, at many points throughout the series she becomes angry with him simply because he sacrifices so much of his own happiness for hers.  Come the end, her goal of returning home seems to trail off toward the back of her mind, and her desire to continue her travels with him and further develop their relationship takes priority.

And indeed, while Horo is charming, Lawrence is no stranger to the trait himself.  Though his lifestyle of solitude leaves him somewhat oblivious to the subtleties of courtship, his constant care and concern for Horo's well being make him a very respectable lead.  While he finds himself relying on Horo's wolf form for physical protection, he cultivates her emotional needs, which creates a heartwarming quid pro quo between the two.  With so many male leads that tend to flop when placed in such a circumstance, Lawrence's character was enormously refreshing; he maintained his dignity and logic without deteriorating into an emotionally numb idiot.  From the get-go he's able to clearly recognize that he has affections for Horo and she him, ruling out any form of unnecessary drama.

7/10 story
8.5/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.1/10 overall
jypsyjulia's avatar By jypsyjulia on Apr 27, 2012

The STORY of Spice and Wolf follows a traveling merchant, named Lawrence, who accidentally stumbles across a naked, sleeping woman.  When she wakes up, she introduces herself as Horo: The Wise Wolf.  The village people believe in a wolf god who controls the harvest, so naturally Lauwrence is suspicious until she shows him her wolf form.  From there, the two agree to travel together to get Horo back to her home in the North.

The story itself was not anything substantial.  There were twists and turns and betrayals as the two characters travel, but the focus is really on the relationship between Horo and Lawrence.  This is not a plot-based anime as much as it is a character-based one.

The ANIMATION was fine.  It was nothing particularly amazing, but I would say it was above average. I wish that some scenery had stuck out.  This is an alternate universe that resembles our medevial history.  I think there could have been some really wicked opportunities to make some of the scenery beautiful, but they seemed to skim over it.

The SOUND for the OP was lovely.  It's not necessarily something I would personally Youtube, but if someone burned a copy for me and this OP was on it, then I would not skip over it.  Also, the voice actors did a great job.  I listened to the English dub of this and I particularly liked Lawrence's voice.  it was very natural and flowed easily.

The CHARACTERS were what really made this anime what it is.  The relationship between Lawrence and Horo is one the viewer knows would never really work out, but you're still rooting for them.  Other interesting characters are introduced as well, such as Chole and Nora - who was my personal favorite.  Each character had a backstory that explained their motives and you could understand why they did what they did.  

My PERSONAL ENJOYMENT of this anime is more of a 10/10.  I had a lot of fun watching this!  I will say that around episode 9 and 10 I got bored and began to websurf, but it caught my attention again by episode 11.  

OVERALL, this anime earns an 8/10.  I would recommend this anime to anyone who loves fantasy.  This is a high fantasy anime with magical qualities and made up lands and all of that neat stuff, so if something like that floats your boat, check it out.

8/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
9/10 characters
8/10 overall
UTXShiro's avatar By UTXShiro on Jan 7, 2011

This series caught me by suprise, as I only watched it after it came up as a recommendation for a few of my other favorite series'.  Not having heard anything about it before, I quickly fell in love with the characters of Lawrence and Horo, and watched the entire series on a single Thursday afternoon.  I very much liked the setting and animation, but the music, while fitting, got on my nerves a bit with the overuse of horns.  Small frusturation aside, the story is excellent, and I can not wait to watch season 2 this weekend!

10/10 story
10/10 animation
7/10 sound
10/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
Akawoa's avatar By Akawoa on Jan 26, 2010

        Now, I don't know how many of you have heard of this show, but all I knew before I watched it was the that the trailer made it look mildly amusing. However, I watched a few reviews for the show and my curiosity was piqued, which made me go onto Funimation's website and watch a part of the first episode to test whether or not it had the substance to grip and entertain me. It did, so much so that I watched all of it and purchased the box set ^_^!

         Spice and Wolf utilizes an animation style that is very fitting to the setting and the tone of the story. Primary colors are used to illustrate the beauty of nature, candles cast realistic shadows, clothes are appropriate for the relative time period (roughly the latter half of fuedalism, with Catholicism being the dominant sacred group of the time). Animations are fluid and detailed, and while combat sequences are few and far between, they always have the right amount of "oomph". I never once felt that the show was going for anything other than a quasi-fantasy setting with, for the most part, realistic action.

         The story of the show is excellent. The plot is original, a wolf goddess named Holo (you can call it Horo as much as you want, the Japanese don't pronounce "L"s properly though so I'll stick with Holo. Plus the creator specifically wanted the novels to translate "Horo" into "Holo" for the English editions.), meets a traveling peddler/merchant named Lawrence. After the two meet, Holo requests that she travel with Lawrence to the North (her homeland) with him. He decides to go along with her as he is heading in the same general direction for his trading routes. From there onward, the two partake in a journey that is filled with laughing, tender moments, and the occasional bout of danger. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, it managed to remain original with a completely uncommon setting and at the same time felt familiar. Holo being the mischievous and somewhat sardonic wolf goddess and Lawrence playing the part of the ever-serious, shy man. My only complaint with the story is that it doesn't ever really conclude all that well. Thankfully there is a second season and if we're lucky a third could be on the way as well!

         Perhaps my favorite portion of this show was the audio. It captured my attention and heart in more ways than one. The sound effects (foley artist work) were absolutely beautiful in their realism. There's actually one point early on where Holo grabs Lawrence's coat sleeve and you can distinctly hear the faint rustle that one would actually hear if performing such an action. Now if you're a dub person, you're in great luck! The dub for Spice and Wolf is absolutely phenomenal. Brina Palencia IS Holo throughout the course of her performance. She effectively conveys every line, but never pushes her lines out into the realm of melodrama. Lawrence and Holo spend a great deal of time conversing, and I found myself enjoying their charming conversations more than their progress towards their ultimate goal of reaching the lands to the North.

         Now I can't give a review without mentioning one key thing. Spice and Wolf incorporates an interesting method, bringing the fundamentals of economics into an anime show. Now before you get all flustered, hold your horses. The economic discussion in Spice and Wolf is nothing too difficult, the discussion pieces are merely economic concepts that actually can be applied to the real-world. I found it interesting because Holo and Lawrence make almost a game of sorts with the discussion, calling each concept a "trick". It kept my brain partially "on" while watching and allowed me to absorb more of the reasoning behind the actions of other characters. In short, the audio in the show is top-notch, something to delight the ears and bring a grin to the face of anyone that revels in audio excellence (I grinned a LOT ^_-).

         I'm sure my final verdict isn't going to be too difficult for anyone to discern. I enjoyed Spice and Wolf so much that I actually felt it deserved to bump out another show on my top five slot. It surpassed Dual and Evangelion (two mecha animes that I absolutely love) for its own title in my top five. This is actually a pretty rare occurence, as once I find favorites, rarely do they get replaced so easily. However, I can honestly say, that if you have any interest in the fantasy genre, medieval/European fuedalism themes, or perhaps you just dig girls with tails and ears(lol xD). you absolutely owe it to yourself to watch Spice and Wolf, it's a title that older folks will enjoy, without anything graphic or disturbing really (no sex scenes, rape scenes [thank god, boy are these creepy], or pressurized arterial spray) await you in Spice and Wolf. Instead, you can be pleased to learn that you shall be charmed, you will see character development, and most importantly, you will be entertained ^_-. I give Spice and Wolf, a 10 out of 10.

        Spice and Wolf is available from Funimation entertainment and can be purchased from rightstuf.com. Do yourself a favor, pick up a copy. Oh and once you watch it, keep in mind that a second season is already airing over in Japan. The second season may very well be picked up by Funimation also and hopefully will be out around this time next year if we're lucky ^_^! Of course this will only happen if it sells well, support the licensed release everyone!

P.S. - First review is done, yeah!!

9/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
Yuisen's avatar By Yuisen on Dec 29, 2010

Story:

Storyline is very unique in my perspective. We always view the past , or at least time's like these in the mid of war, or some sort of family conflict ; however, in Spice in Wolf they take a different approach. The very first thing that was noticeable to me was the presence mythology and religion. Soon enough Lawrence meets Horo a deity that brings wealth to crops and because of the given situation she is able to leave the town. From that moment on they travel together throughout their world. During this time Horo makes an agreement with Lawrence that he will take her back to her homeland, however as the story progresses they develop a trusting and romantic relationship and neither one wants their journey to end.

 

Animation:

Animation is actually quiet good. Nothing overly fancy but very fitting towards the environment. I really just can't think of any time that the animation was a bother so gonna rank this pretty high for a very fluid performance.

 

Sound:

 

Music. I'm a big fan of music in generally, not only does the music have to sound good, it also has to "fit". Spice and Wolf did a great job. Opening songs reflected the story's romantically setting's and during the story it was great music during tense situations. Ending song was kinda random....haha.

 

Characters:

 

OMG it's lelouch! Is what I first said to myself haha. Horo and Lawrence relationship and personality is just awesome. A lot of funny and playful moments, but they get angry at each other from time to time , but mostly in Horo's cute kind of way. Every challenge that presents itself towards them they seem to get through it together.

10/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
10/10 characters
9.5/10 overall