An anime series based around a travelling merchant and his travelling companion, doesn’t sound that interesting does it? Maybe that’s the reason it took me so long to finally give Spice and Wolf a chance. The plot really isn’t something many anime fans would jump at watching is it? Well, I’m here to tell you that Spice and Wolf deserves all the hype around it, and that it proves the old saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover”.
The two main characters of the story are the travelling merchant, Lawrence, and the over 600 year old wolf, Holo, who takes the form of a, cute, sixteen year old girl (although she does, amusingly, have ears and a tail) for the most part of the story. Holo played the role of the god of harvest in a small town for a number of years, insuring that the towns’ people always received a good harvest. However, as years went on and times changed, Holo was no longer needed and the towns’ people mostly started to forget about her. It’s for this reason that the wise wolf appears in front of Lawrence one day while he’s passing through the town. Her wish is to return to her home in the north, and after proving fairly useful to Lawrence he promises he will escort her back home, and thus the two begin to travel with one another. The series goes on to cover the daily life of Lawrence and Holo as they travel about. It may seem slightly on the boring side, but watching the interaction between Lawrence and Holo is always fascinating. Holo is a fairly cheeky character and not scared of airing her thoughts, which actually makes her likeable, especially when the series goes on to porter her softy side, like a scene in one of the early episodes where Holo ponders how much the world has changed, and if her hometown will also have changed. Lawrence asks Holo if she has changed, to which she replies no, and Lawrence reassures her that as long as she hasn’t changed, nor will have her home.
You can tell right from the off that there is a certain connection between Lawrence and Holo, and the series has you watching intently waiting for one of them to express their feelings to the other. Holo is too shy, and while hoping Lawrence will proclaim his love to her, and giving him many chances in which to do so, he never really does, at least not in words. However that doesn’t mean the two don’t work well with one another, because they do, immensely so. While some may find it hard to keep up with the merchant talk from Lawrence, you can be perfectly content just watching the relationship between him Holo. There is also the sense of danger about too, and you often wonder how long the two will last in a time where the church is a very dominant force, which don’t welcome any strange things such as wolves that take the form of girls, witches, etc. It’s for this reason that Holo must carefully hide her ears and tail at all times, or else be caught and killed by the church. As certain events in the series unfold you realize how great a risk there is that Holo could be caught at any point through a wrong move, and in these moments the series shows you just how much Lawrence cares for her and would do anything to avoid her coming into harm’s way.
The story really is very moving as long as you care for Lawrence and Holo. The ending feels very open and doesn’t really tie up all the loose ends like it probably should, maybe this was because the studio already knew a second season was in the works, or maybe just because this season only covers four of the nine light novels which the series is based off of. Either way the ending works, but you will be left with a number of questions, which will only be answered if you go into watching the second season.
The studio behind the animation for Spice and Wolf is Imagin, which is actually quite a lesser known studio for not having had a huge amount of involvement in loads of anime like other studios. Despite this the studio has done a really impressive job; everything about Spice and Wolf looks completely breath-taking, at least for a series of its age. Not that it’s that old only being from 2008, but for stuff from that time it looks awesome, and still holds up nicely next to stuff like this seasons Sword Art Online, which is terms of animation is simply stunning. Apart from the opening and ending theme the soundtrack likely isn’t something you’ll be humming or remembering long after you’ve finished the series, however it isn’t bad either. It’s perfectly fitting for the era in which the series is set, and you’ll be hard pushed to find a scene in which it doesn’t work perfectly with whatever is happening at the time.
Final word: Spice and Wolf is one of the best shows I’ve watched in terms of the relationship between Lawrence and Holo. It’s a must see for every anime fan, and you can’t really judge it until you’ve watched it all the way through, which for a series of 13 episodes isn’t hard.