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!!