Spice and Wolf was originally a light novel series by Isuna Hasekura, who wrote… umm really nothing else, and it was animated by IMAGIN who did stuff such as… nothing hmmm, with voices like Brian Palencia and J. Michael Tatum. So this show has a writer known for nothing else with an animation studio known for…nothing else, other than a few in-between stuff, so how is this show SOOO FREAKING AWESOME.
Kraft Lawrence is a traveling merchant in medieval Europe, even if it’s never actually referred to as such, as he travels around trading and selling just trying to get by. One day he enters a small farming town that is about to hold its annual harvest festival to pay tribute to the wolf deity Holo, who is said to help the wheat that surrounds the town grow. After Lawrence leaves the town he hears something strange coming from his cart, it turns out to be a naked girl, but not just any girl, it’s the wolf deity Holo who has changed into a human form, except for the ears and the tail. You see Holo can only move where there is wheat, and since Lawrence just happened to be carrying some with him she saw it as a perfect chance to escape, since all the people of the village don’t really believe in her and can grow the wheat on their own. Unsurprisingly Lawrence does not believe her so to prove it he asks her to prove it by showing him her true form, so she does and Lawrence freaks out, but then Holo disappears. Lawrence thinks it was all just his imagination, but then she appears to him again, still naked by the way, and explains to him she wants nothing more than to return to her home in the north. So Lawrence, being somewhat of a sap, agrees to take her back home, but she has to keep hidden for fear of being captured by the church that will most likely treat her as the devil. So that’s the plot in a nutshell, now I’m not going to beat around the bush this show is slowwwwwwwwwwwww, and if you’re into fast paced action and aren’t satisfied unless someone is countering a super mega ultra beam with a ultimate finishing move, you can stop reading because this anime is not for you. For everyone else however it can still be kind of hard to stay interested because not only is there very little action but there is a lot of confusing dialog about economics that, I personally barely understood. Yet it was still quite compelling to see how Lawrence would try to make money, sometimes it would just to be to put food on the table, or in some cases it was some rival traders from murdering them, if any show could get me into economics it’s this one. But of course that’s can’t be all this show is about, right, do not worry because there is actually a few other plot points like the quest to find Holo’s homeland, which is more prevalent in season II but that’s a review for another day, and of course Lawrence and Holo’s romantic subplot, and with that I will segue into…
So Lawrence is a merchant whose life’s work is to sell and buy goods so he can get his next meal, he’s in his late 20s early 30s, not a knight more of an average Joe. Holo, on the other hand, is a god who can change into a giant wolf, communicate with animals, and eats and drinks more than most of the men on this show. Now what do these two have in common, simple, they’re both very lonely. Yes despite how different both of their background and lifestyles are they are drawn closer by the fact that they both understand how the other feels, and you know what, that is freaking awesome. Holo and Lawrence are easily the best couple I’ve ever seen in an anime ever, not only are they extremely believable, have actual flaws, play off each other personalities perfectly, but also they actually develop. At the beginning Lawrence is somewhat reluctant to take Holo with him, but they really warm up to each other, and it really feels like you’re watching a real relationship, also the parts where they are obviously flirting with each other were some of my favorite in whole show. Holo herself is probably one of the best female leads I’ve ever seen, she strong, and wise, but also quite funny, but she is by no means perfect, she really likes to think she know everything, but she finds out she really doesn’t, also she isn’t afraid to show her emotions and even cry when she really feels like it. She is very deep and complex and I wouldn’t have her any other way. Lawrence himself is also quite interesting in his own right, sure his job is pretty boring most of the time, and when he’s talking with other merchants it’s like they’re speaking Russian, but he really does his best at what he knows how to do, and when he loses money on a bad deal you really feel for him and every time he get right back up again, sometimes with Holo’s help and sometimes for Holo’s sake. There are a few other characters most of them are pretty boring compared to Lawrence and Holo, the most interesting is Nora the shepherd girl, did I mention that Holo gets jealous of sometimes if there is another girl around. She is kind of the shy helpless character, except she’s not helpless, she often has run-ins with wolves and she has learned how to keep them away, there is a subplot about her not being trusted by the church, but nothing ever really comes of it.
So IMAGIN put this one together, considering they haven’t every done anything else on their own, this is freaking amazing. The backgrounds are very good with rolling hills, dense forests, and many fortified cities and towns, all of this really helps the world come alive. The character designs are actually interesting to talk about, the original artist of the light novels, Jū Ayakura, has somewhat of a cartoony style, but in the anime the characters are much more life like, which I thought fit it much better. Now don’t get me wrong Ayakura is a great artist I just thought that the more realistic characters fit better with the more dramatic portions of the show, but overall for a first time great job.
The OP for Spice and Wolf is simply put beautiful, not just the song which is great in its own right, but the animation is just breathtaking, and that sounds really corny but it's true. The ED is kind of what I would think of the opposite of the OP, it's all sung in "english" but is the kind you can't understand without lyrics. It is just so happy and fun, the animation is basically nonexistent, with just some still images, but it's easily one of my favorite EDs ever. The OP and ED actually make a good contrast, with the OP representing the more dramatic aspects of the show while the ED is more the fun and bubbly side of the show. The rest of the OST consist of music that really fits with the show's setting and mood, all of the songs are great but some are really memorable, seriously when I'm walking down the street now, that's what I hear in my head (it used to be Spring Wind from Clannad in case you were wondering). And now something I couldn't talk about in my last review, the dub. As you will find out if you read my reviews, I love dubs and I'm not afraid to admit it. With the Spice and Wolf dub I have to especially praise Brina Palencia for really bringing Holo to life. J. Michael Tatum also does an excellent job as Lawrence, but it was a little odd for me at first since I had just come off of finishing Ouran High Host Club, and hearing Kyoya as a much more emotional honest merchant was somewhat strange, but that just shows how good Mr. Tatum is at his job.
Overall I cannot recommend this show enough, great characters, gorgeous animation, fantastic music, and it's really something you don't see everyday (seriously an anime about economics, name me one other that isn't [C]). Although if you don't think you can stay awake from all the slow pacing and all the economic talk, that's fine just go and watch... I don't know Blue Exorcist or something. For everyone else give it a go, and you know what even if you think you won't like it, try it anyway you can actually stream it free from Funimation's website. One final note, this show does have a season two, but no season three has been announced, just thought I'd break your hearts now. I'm MrShadowzs and this has been my two cents.