Spice and Wolf - Reviews

Alt title: Ookami to Koushinryou

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Sheex's avatar
Apr 3, 2008

Story

If 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.


Animation

The 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.


Sound

Both 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.


Characters

If 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.


Overall

For 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.

7/10 story
8.5/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.1/10 overall
delolmo's avatar
Dec 25, 2015

I wish I had known this anime was not complete. The ending of this season was not very good in my opinion. The plot however was very good and unique. I enjoyed the characters and the complexity of their interactions. The animantion was great, but the sound was somehow "too mellow" for my liking.  Overall, I liked it but I did not love it.

9/10 story
10/10 animation
7/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
Thrawn's avatar
May 27, 2011

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.

8.5/10 story
8.5/10 animation
9.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
9.2/10 overall
5150x3's avatar
Apr 15, 2020

This show had everything going for it. It's SOL and romance, with a cute animal girl and unusual setting. Put all of these together and I would have given it a 9/10, except for such a cringe-worthy episode it brought the story crashing down. I'd like to write this without spoilers, but it's impossible to discuss the big problem without specifics. This review is for both seasons.

SPOILERS***

First, there's some minor nudity at the beginning, the sort of nudity you find with a department store mannequin. The wolf goddess is found in human form, without having obtained clothes, and we are shown her almost featureless nude body, in no way lewd. If seeing a mannequin without clothes offends you, don't watch this show. Otherwise, don't worry about it at all.

Romance is at least 50% of the allure of this show. Holo, the wolf goddess, is one of anime's great female characters. She's beautiful, smart, petulant, protective, and perpetually happy. She eats with a wolf's apetite and loves to drink -- a lot. The show starts with her becoming a traveling companion with Craft Lawrence, a merchant. He gauges virtually act in terms of a financial transaction, including his relationship with her.

As the show progresses, their relationship becomes closer, but he is slow to let go of his innate transactional view of life. However, near the end of season 2 he has finally realized that Holo is more than just someone who is valuable to him because she's a business asset. And this is where the show crashes.

When the romance has finally reached, or almost reached, the point that we've been waiting for, he agrees to a deal to sell her to help finance that deal. That's right, he puts her up for collateral, and if he's unable to pay the money back she'll be given to a guy and forced to marry him. I'm not kidding. To soften the blow of his incredible decision, the writers have Holo approve of it because it's a good business. 

The romance part of this show, which is 50% of it, was magnificently blown to hell. It's like 4 groomsman at wedding picked up large buckets of cow shit and dumped them over the bride's head as she's saying her vows, then threw a little extra on the maids of honor. There's no recovering from that -- the mood is shot.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm glad I watched this. It was different and carefully put together and Holo was a gem. However, the one misstep was so big that it pulled my rating down by 3 points. Also, it needed a 3rd season. It wasn't a terrilble ending for the show, but there were many threads that needed to be tied up.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
6/10 overall
Yuisen's avatar
Dec 29, 2010

Story:

Storyline is very unique in my perspective. We always view the past , or at least time's like these in the mid of war, or some sort of family conflict ; however, in Spice in Wolf they take a different approach. The very first thing that was noticeable to me was the presence mythology and religion. Soon enough Lawrence meets Horo a deity that brings wealth to crops and because of the given situation she is able to leave the town. From that moment on they travel together throughout their world. During this time Horo makes an agreement with Lawrence that he will take her back to her homeland, however as the story progresses they develop a trusting and romantic relationship and neither one wants their journey to end.

 

Animation:

Animation is actually quiet good. Nothing overly fancy but very fitting towards the environment. I really just can't think of any time that the animation was a bother so gonna rank this pretty high for a very fluid performance.

 

Sound:

 

Music. I'm a big fan of music in generally, not only does the music have to sound good, it also has to "fit". Spice and Wolf did a great job. Opening songs reflected the story's romantically setting's and during the story it was great music during tense situations. Ending song was kinda random....haha.

 

Characters:

 

OMG it's lelouch! Is what I first said to myself haha. Horo and Lawrence relationship and personality is just awesome. A lot of funny and playful moments, but they get angry at each other from time to time , but mostly in Horo's cute kind of way. Every challenge that presents itself towards them they seem to get through it together.

10/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
10/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
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