My english is terrible, but I am trying my best, any mistake will be fixed as soon as I notice. If you notice me about one I would appreciate it a lot.
This is a review for the two seasons, and will mention the ova but it won't affect the scores.
The Good Part
The Bad Part
To begin with this show is handled by arcs and the only relation between them being the main characters since those 2 is what the whole story really is about... that kind of bothers me, just a little bit, but at least it is understandable since one important part of the plot is travelling so the people is always new which mean also new sub-stories. But having many little stories it is always a trouble, you have to build up, add a climax and unwrap the conclusion for each one, and all spinning around business which isn't an easy task. But before mentioning in detail what I didn't like let's speak about the part I like.
The work they did on making the setting real, in terms of economy, was the only thing that I consider superb in spice&wolf. This matter isn't my strong, but everything looked just beautiful explained. The organizations, the guilds, the markets, the coins, the products, the church being one of the strongest organizations since this is set in a medieval context, they actually cared about delivering the focus in such a proper way, instead of wasting their time in order to please the audience with plot no-sense.
As for the arcs, they were pretty interesting and developed right, there was introduction, development, climax and conclusion for each one. And now, for the part I didn't like, it was actually that despite of being interesting, there wasn't enough movement. I barely can remember how the arcs goes and I started watching it the last week. Everything just was talk and talk and talk, and there wasn't too much to remember unless you are a master in economics and you love a lot hearing what they are talking I guess. Not that I think the talking part is annoying, I actually enjoyed it, but the balance between emotions and business in this bussines conversations was in the most of the episodes more sided on the latter, the only things I remember are the ones were there is actually risk and emotions in the conversation beside of money. So in other words, they could made the necessary dialogues that introduce you to what the arc is about a lot more fast and add the emotions as soon as they can, but I comprehend this is actually a big task and for what they presented it was actually very well-made.
And the journey about Holo and Lawrence is elaborated in such a nice way, but I will talk about them in the character section.
Taking away those not so great details, I think they did a great job with what they had. As for the OVA (what happens after the first season and before the second).... it is entertaining but is one episode of Horo being sick aaaand... nothing more, you can skip it and you won't miss anything important.
Aside from this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP16YxfF8Jo which is the part that made me laught the most. (I start to noticing that animals can be a pain in the ass to animate properly)
There is one thing I would like to mention that I quite respect, and that is the change of staff in the second season. If I didn't knew there were different in each season I would never notice a thing but that the quality did a nice improvement in the second season. But they respected all the character desing, the eyes, the expressions, the enviroment, everything was the same but animated a quite better.
As for the animation itself, the first season was good and the second great. The expressions of all character always hit the nail, even the tail of Holo. The enviroment wasn't the best though, they were all pretty much generic, and looked very similar, the second one improved (the town with the voodo doll in fire and parties was great) but still I would have like to see more cultural aspects of the towns than just medieval buildings.
Short summary, as athmosphere it does a great job but the repertoire is just tiny and it gets repetitive, voices were great.
The dialogues were just so damn clever, I don't mean they all made you think or they exremely deep, but how sentences were put together. The train of thought of the characters was amazing, almost non of the dialogues felt odd. And the only ones I remember are the "lame joke, everyone laughs" scenes, but they could be speaking of butter and it would still be interesting since they actually mean to talk about butter, and the best part is they don't talk about butter, they actually spent their words of things that matters, whether it is economy, interesting things, emotions. I just love when dialogues are natural so kudos Spice&Wolf.
And well, the two main characters did an outstanding job. With Holo, I was confuse, my mind was set on a one dimensional character vision since most of shows are like that nowadays so my mind didn't compute at first. Look, it is a tsundere, nooo, it is a deredere, noooo, it is a kawaii girl, nooooo SHE IS A BITCH! And actually I said this as a compliment. The thing is that despite of being familiar and having traits of stereotypes they went deeper, they do not only give it a coherent personality and natural behavior, but they went farther into something even harder to achieve, they manage to prove how messy all humans can be inside of their mind. The same goes for Lawrence, as for him he is Holo's bitch, his behavior was human like, they way he thinks is not linear he analyze and make tons of conclusion, he have doubts, he has fears, he is intelligent but dumb at the same time, and he also has this familiar traits. So put this two pieces of great character development working together with the same quality of presentation and it is just marvelous. The way they interact together feels correct, and the way they actually grow together, you can see progress. It is not perfect, they have some errors in quality, and even if I loved how they deliver this two, it kinds of bother me that they are almost the only thing I can remember in detail about this show since the real story is Lawrence and Holo's journey as I mentioned before.
The other cast was decent, but it didn't show as much of this human mess, and I have seen this expressed in less than 5 minutes and without making the character a huge mess to make it obvious, they can make it in subtle ways. But on the other hand they all had a coherent personality and nice behavior, but rarely went to the other level. There were some cases that they had succed, but not everyone, so I would like to give an honorable mention to Amati and Chloe, those two were pair in quality of presentation with Holo and Lawrence, some other few characters are also close behind.
Well, make economy an interesting topic, have two awesome characters, some parts really play with my emotions as it should. I really enjoy it, it was great. If it was more memorable and had more action; as human emotions and not as shounen fighting shows, those are the only things that didn't convince me.