I once tried to write a review about Spice and Wolf (S&W) but soon gave up since there was absolutely nothing to write about it. Seriously, it was just aimless slice of life with some hints of economy and trade. But now that they made Demon and Hero, (D&H) its spiritual successor, I had more than enough material to finally write my thoughts about it. So in a way consider this a double review.
- Both the animation studios behind these shows are very minor in the field, and most of their works are hentai. At the same time, these two titles are their best works to date.
- The writers of the shows are different in each one but follow a similar theme in the story.
- The director is the same in both titles and despite having done several other anime, these are his only average and above works. The rest are hentai or heavy on erotic context.
In both titles we have a mortal male siding with a super hot sexy supernatural woman and going around doing stand alone missions that have to do with economy and trade. Surely, it isn’t much since they are mostly shows about fluff than plot. At least D&H has a bit more variety for having a fantasy war in the background. Other than that, it is still nothing much in terms of plot. And let it be noted that D&H is to the most part a parody of fantasy stereotypes; so it feels funnier and sillier to S&W, which was “serious” as far as slice of life goes.
Let it be noted that the source material has a lot of plot which the anime skips entirely in order to save budget in fights and stick to silly gag and boob jokes before it ends openly. So all the interesting themes are both underplayed and left incomplete for the sake of fan service. If you are wathing this for the plot, prepare to be disappointed.
S&W’s two main characters had a huge antithesis and made a very interesting couple. Aside from having different genders, the male was a typical mortal merchant, and the female was a goddess of nature. Their common goal existed in how humanity needed to find a balanced way of life so it won’t further damage the environment in which it lives. The protagonists were trying to achieve that with proper trading of goods and by spreading their ideals.
In D&H the antithesis is not so bold, as both main characters are very powerful in combat and magic. The male is an epic level human warrior and the female a demon lord with great knowledge in most sciences and arts. Their species are in war for many years and team up in order to find a way to stop that and promote coexistence. The method they have in mind is through trading; one side covering the needs of the other through exchange of goods.
It seems more colorful to have different species, spells, and civilizations blending like that, but at the same time it lacks the spiritual and philosophical feel of S&W. It has to do with pluralism and equality instead of ecology and balance. And if you see deeper than that, you realize the differences between humans and demons are only superficial. They barely look different besides some horns and tails and otherwise behave and live in the exact same way.
Aesthetic aside, there are other things which make the couple of D&H worse to that of S&W. When you have two overpowered main characters who can pretty much defeat anyone, it is hard to feel they will have big obstacles in their mission. They can just kick the crap out of anyone who disagrees and enforce their beliefs through fear instead of convincing the population of their philosophy. Of course they keep saying the whole point is to bring coexistence without reliance on raw power but there is still that option as a last resort.
Another issue is the way the main two characters are presented to the audience. The male hero was so powerful that everybody was afraid of him. He felt like committing suicide out of depression, until he was offered this mission and found a new meaning in his life. That makes him look like an asshole, since he is scorned by everybody for doing his job right and intends to change everybody’s lives even if they disagree. It’s like he is in a lose-lose situation.
The far more Average Joe in S&W, as simplistic as he was, he accepted the task exactly because it was already his profession and because he realized the crisis the world was facing and wanted to help everyone by doing what he already was good at. It was a selfless act; not an act of boredom or depression. Plus he looked like a mature adult while the super warrior looks like a stereotypical immature shonen protagonist inside a harem.
Even the female demon lord feels so much less interesting to the one in S&W. She is far more sexualized and her boobs bounce a lot. The goddess in S&W was naked because the animals in nature are naked; an excused feature that could not be seen as erotic. When she was dressed, she was modest and fine to look at. On the other hand, how am I supposed to show respect for this big tits? She doesn’t even look like a demon and dresses like a typical human noble with a bare cleavage. Even her horns are there as decoration; she is otherwise just another hentai bitch.
Plus, because the male is as powerful as she, it makes her feel like nothing more than his female counterpart. And sure, at first you are meant to believe she is NOT that good in battle as she is at politics or planning but then they throw a devilish dark side she has which makes her god-level for awhile and thus she is as strong as she likes to be. So she ends up being needless fan service instead of a vital character with a different role to that of harem girl number 1. Why did I say harem? Well…
The final nail to the coffin is how there are many other secondary girls who are all after the hero. Yup, harem in the making, further detracting focus and context from the main goal. Take out economy and war, and throw in done-to-death erotic comedy. Lots of boob jokes and the hero constantly called virgin and a useless piece of meat, as he breezes through missions full of hot animal chicks ho are after his shortsword, if you know what I mean. Unlike S&W, this show is pandering to otakus way too much, a thing I find cheap and lame as it trashes its worth as a memorable series.
It must be noted though that many things in the show are supposed to be there as a parody of jrpg stereotypes. So all the goofy and overused stereotypes are meant to be an excuse to make jokes out of them. No sir, it is not fan service to have breasts bigger than a house; it is a parody! And no sir, they are not named after their classes; it is there to make it easier to remember who is who. Why bother to name your characters Bill, Jeanne, and Maria, when you can simply call them Hero, Demon, and Warrior? And thus we go back to what I said about this one being light and silly, while the other was serious about its themes.
Both shows look nice to keep staring at, with S&W being very calming thanks to its rural areas and old style cities, while D&H heads for fantasy appeal by having knights, wizards, monsters, and spells. The later has some pretty interesting backgrounds, by adding filters and gradient special effects to the mix in order to create a much better fairy-tale feel. So it wins in being more colorful and detailed, although the bouncing boobs in the foreground can be very distracting.
As far as music goes, voice acting is ok and I am not fond of any of the songs. It’s just that the S&W OST is calm and elegiac, while the D&H OST is just generic jpop nobody would care to remember.
Although I was never a fan of such shows, S&W was amongst the best warm and fuzzy feeling anime of all times. D&H is a far more typical show, aiming to appeal to otakus with bouncing boobs, harem, and videogame fantasy worlds. It looks more colorful and variable but it has a lot less development with a lot more elements, and thus loses. It will fail to be anything significant in the longrun but for awhile it will be appealing for many, because the season it aired in was boring as hell, plus all the fans of S&W will be biased towards liking it for having the same feel, voice actors, and director.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (nice fantasy world)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (interesting textures in backgrounds)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (silly but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (bad)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (ends openly)
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Presence 0/2 (generic erotic archetypes)
Personality 2/2 (cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 0/2 (none; the show ends incomplete)
VALUE SECTION: 2/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (no reason to rewatch)
Memorability 2/4 (nice visuals and concept but very light to bother remembering)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Art 1/1 (looks nice)
Sound 0/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (good concept but very light presentation)
Characters 0/4 (they are just generic and erotic archetypes)