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.
Kraft Lawrence and the proud wolf Holo the Wise continue their northward journey to Holo's mountain homeland of Yoitsu. As the two visit new towns and make new friends a growing relationship buds between them, and Kraft begins to realize that there is more to being a traveling merchant than just profits. However, a turn of events leaves Kraft in an unexpected predicament where he may lose something more precious than just his cart of goods...
Though I'm a big fan of slice of life and romance, I'll watch just about anything that catches my interest. My opinions tend to be pretty level-headed, but I have been known to be controversial from time to time! Feel free to lay into me if you so desire, as I always appreciate feedback - positive or negative. I hope you enjoy reading!