Spice and Wolf

Alt title: Ookami to Koushinryou

TV (13 eps)
4.372 out of 5 from 31,960 votes
Rank #292

Since long ago, the wolf goddess Holo has honored a contract to bless the rural village of Pasloe with fertile harvests; and in return she has been celebrated and worshipped by the villagers. But as mankind advances, the people have begun to take command of nature for themselves and have made their own god to worship. Holo finds that she is paid little more than lip service, if not outright mocked; and considering the contract annulled, she takes human form and enlists the aid of a passing merchant, Kraft Lawrence, to return to her home in the snowy forests to the north. As they journey together, Kraft finds that he has plenty to learn from this capricious god, and she from him as well.

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Sheex
8.1

StoryIf there's any one physical setting that can catch me hook, line, and sinker just about every time, it would have to be romanticized medieval fantasy.  While it may not be the most eccentric of preferences, I find such works (anime or not) to be boundlessly fascinating; yet, while Spice and Wolf proved certainly no exception, it managed to exceed my expectations quite profoundly.  However, while most similar anime within the genre tend to focus on the caustic militaristic trends of the era, Spice and Wolf does anything but.  Instead, its core story elements revolve around the day-to-day travels of a roaming merchant and his companion, which means most conflict comes in the form of economic disputes and not swordfights.  This premise, while simple, emerged as surprisingly effective, as it allowed the series to flaunt a very strong sense of character development in lieu of an ordinarily frail story.Fortunately, Spice and Wolf's lack of an exceedingly complex story was not a negative.  At its conception, the story begins when Lawrence arrives in a rural farming village at the time of its harvest.  After bartering some of his goods away, he comes into possession of a bundle of wheat which happens to be enchanted by the village's guardian spirit, a wolf goddess named Horo.  With the village's increasing desire to distance itself from its old traditions regarding her, Horo decides to accompany Lawrence on his travels as she journeys to return to her home in the northern forests.  From there on out, both Lawrence and Horo discover just how lonely their respective lives have been, and despite distinctly different personalities, begin to confide in one another's company.And this certainly is what makes Spice and Wolf shine as much as it does.  Both Lawrence and Horo are absolutely fantastic characters, and their interactions with one another are both endearing and authentic; the series' pacing allows their story to flow very naturally, and lacks any noticeable lapses in quality.  Though the romance only really starts to develop by the time the last episode rolls around, I didn't really find this an inherent flaw, as for the entire duration of the series their relationship is steadily developed.  Initially Horo views Lawrence as little more than a traveling companion and a source for her personal amusement, but his kindness slowly seeps under her skin, and she begins to desire his company in a manner deeper than that of mere friendship.  Ultimately, by relying on each other's respective strengths and covering for each other's weaknesses, they pull themselves through a number of dangerous circumstances, resulting in the development of a very hardened bond between them.Thus, for those looking for an action-packed thriller, stay as far away from Spice and Wolf as possible.  Its very leisurely pace is slow but cumulative in nature, creating a very serene, relaxing watch that guides the viewer through the story with a graceful hand.  While they are indeed a couple "action" scenes scattered throughout, they tend to lack much intensity, and are designed more as story elements than eye candy.  At its heart, the story revolves around the communal bond between Lawrence and Horo and not so much the external strife that plagued the era.AnimationThe animation captures the medieval setting perfectly.  From flowing fields of wheat to bustling market squares, the world comes across as surprisingly immersive, and the attention to color and lighting really enhances this.  For example, particular attention is paid to clothing colors indicative of the times; most characters wear browns, grays, and whites, yet Horo is dressed in more regal purples, blues, and reds.  These small, but cumulatively noticeable details, along with the music, provide for an enormously potent atmospheric feel, much in the same manner as series like Seirei no Moribito or Haibane Renmei.  All in all, while not the most astounding of quality, the animation more than suits the series, and I can't think of a single instance of it appearing awkward or out of place.SoundBoth Horo's and Lawrence's voice actors are splendid, and each captures the subtleties in his or her respective character magnificently.  Given Horo's keen disposition for mixing emotional undertones in many of her more serious speeches, this further served to exemplify her character's strengths and insecurities as being hand-in-hand.  Tack on a soundtrack awash with tunes composed with fiddles and other instruments of the times, and it's certainly easy to feel quite at home within Spice and Wolf's world.CharactersIf nothing else, Horo is the incarnation of every guy's dream girl: she's strong and confident, yet simultaneously both charming and feminine.  This duality in her personality functions on a number of levels, and unlike most anime romances which have somewhat brazen females, Horo is much more human and believable (odd, since in actuality she is a wolf.)  Despite her constant attempts to deny her affections, she finds herself continually flattered by Lawrence's chivalry-driven personality, and finds it increasingly more difficult to deny how happy she finds herself when in his presence.  In fact, at many points throughout the series she becomes angry with him simply because he sacrifices so much of his own happiness for hers.  Come the end, her goal of returning home seems to trail off toward the back of her mind, and her desire to continue her travels with him and further develop their relationship takes priority.And indeed, while Horo is charming, Lawrence is no stranger to the trait himself.  Though his lifestyle of solitude leaves him somewhat oblivious to the subtleties of courtship, his constant care and concern for Horo's well being make him a very respectable lead.  While he finds himself relying on Horo's wolf form for physical protection, he cultivates her emotional needs, which creates a heartwarming quid pro quo between the two.  With so many male leads that tend to flop when placed in such a circumstance, Lawrence's character was enormously refreshing; he maintained his dignity and logic without deteriorating into an emotionally numb idiot.  From the get-go he's able to clearly recognize that he has affections for Horo and she him, ruling out any form of unnecessary drama. OverallFor a series centered around the merchant dealings of a medieval trader, Spice and Wolf confirms that even the most ordinary and plain of story ideas can be transformed into a splendid piece of work.  I must admit that when first choosing to watch this title, I wanted to prove to myself that much of the credit given Horo's character was mere admiration of the fact that she's a cute wolf girl; once more, however, I've confirmed my initial conceptions wrong.  Through her coupling with Lawrence, Horo highlights Spice and Wolf as one of the more exemplary titles of the winter season; I easily recommend this to anyone looking for a series that wistfully and brilliantly explores the complexities of the romantic interaction between two individuals - this is definitely not one to be missed.

Thrawn
9.2

The premise doesn't do it much justice, as it sounds dull. A travelling merchant and a wolf deity (A goddess of the harvest) travelling up north, engaging in serious business and economics at a slow-pace. As boring as it may sound, it turns the economics into something compelling and interesting, or at least I saw it that way. This definitely depends on what you find fun, as even though it explains the economics and logic of coinage and currency, this isn't everybody's cup of tea. Economics is half of the anime while the other half is the banter and dialogue between Horo and Lawrence. Fortunately, it's just as good if not better than the economics aspect. It feels natural and real while remaining fun and serious when needed. And even with other characters it's spot on. How they explain plans and schemes without making it feel like an explanation for the viewer or a lecture. They incorporate it into their world and we just listen to it through them. There's a second season and unfortunately no third so there's no real conclusion to the tale but the arcs are brilliant, fun and packed with the joys of money and goods. Right off the bat, you hear the beautiful OP. It is a work of art and one of the best I've heard. You can't talk about Spice and Wolf without the OP.  And the music all-around fits the setting. It isn't out of place nor intrusive but it remains in the background adding atmosphere to it. The VO's are amazing and you can feel the emotion in their voices. Along with dialogue, you get Horo and Lawrence. Both are stunning together. I simply can't get over their chemistry; once more, one of the best parts. But underneath all the fun they have and their smiles is a darker side, one of loneliness. Horo is just about immortal, and through immortality comes those who are mortal, who die while you still live. It's a curse that she knows all too well. And Lawrence is a travelling merchant, one who is always on the move without a real home to call his own but for his wagon. How they're cured of their loneliness by being together is heartwarming and enjoyable to watch. I could go on about them as they're both great characters and have wonderful traits and wit, but I'll end it with Horo being the perfect gal, adorable ears and all. And that tail, rawr! Other characters are there for plot and our amusement, with brilliant schemes, aiding and forming them and to bring drama and excitement into the pair's lives. Just give the first episode a shot. It's slow, relaxing, laid-back with medieval economics, coinage and business. It's not the most exciting stuff but it's compelling if you're into economics and an adorable wolf/girl doesn't hurt either. All in all, one of my favorites.

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