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.
An honestly incredible manga that explores a rich and developed world of medieval commerce and politics with a side of religious struggles. Story: Unbelievable and unique in the best way. Where most stories gloss over the minutiae of trade interactions in favor of progressing their story, Spice and Wolf presents the business dealings of merchants front-and-center as a core and essential part of the plot. The story follows Kraft Lawrence, a travelling merchant seeking profit and reputation, after he happens to pick up a supernatural wolf-girl known as Holo the WiseWolf in the back of his cart. Their relationship and antics are so deep and thoughtful that they not only provide a backbone to the story, but provide completely understandable conflicts and friendships along the way. The only complaints I have here are that it's at times hard to follow the exchanges of the characters as they come to their conclusions, but honestly it's entirely possible that's just my own stupidity and no fault of the tale being told. Art: Absolutely stunning. Beautiful and careful detail in every panel showing everything down to the odd shrub in the background, but without distracting from the action and focus. Gorgeous foreground detail as well, with every outfit being distinct and recognizable and every facial expression clearly represented. Everything fits clearly into an organized panel structure such that it's never muddy or unclear what's happening. Normally I'd mark a Manga down for not being in color, but honestly I think the setting lends itself well to monochromatic representation - maybe make it sepia instead of black and white. That's not to say that color wouldn't be appreciated, but this is certainly not missing anything by not having it. Characters: Easily the best part of an already amazing work. Each character has a distinct personality that drives them in convincing ways, provides beleiveable motives, and offers amusing and endearing quirks. Background is given wherever possible without going into boring or unnecessary detail, so that every character feels like we know enough about them to really get a grasp of why they're here and where they're going. Honestly some of the best and most beleiveable characters in Manga. Overall: Really just amazing. I can honestly say this one will stick with me as a cut above the rest. I anticipate revisiting it down the road. A note on tags: Nudity is definitely deserved and present, but it's not egregious nor even present in large amounts. Even when characters appear in the nude, there is generally hair or other things obfuscating the 'naughty' bits, and most certainly there's never anything more than nipples when there's not an obstruction.
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