Spice and Wolf

Every once in awhile I come across an anime that hooks me from the theme song. I’m a sucker for good characters. Spice and Wolf is one of those anime.

The story follows Holo, a deity of the harvest, and Kraft Lawrence, a merchant. Lawrence stopped at Pasloe one night during their celebrations of the harvest. He finds the one they are celebrating in his wagon. Despite keeping her promise to maintain good harvests, she feels forsaken and unneeded. She strikes a bargain with the merchant to take her north to her hometown. Her 600 years of experience helps Lawrence work closer to his dream of owning his own shop, but her true nature pulls unwanted attention from the ever present and powerful Church.

Oh almost forgot! Here is the opening theme, Tabi no Tochuu,  for the first season. Quite a beautiful tune…and hard to find.

Spice and Wolf takes place in a Renaissance stylized world. There is a lot of economics in the series. A lot of time is spent explaining money, exchange rates, and other “money theory.” I’m not business minded, so most of the stuff didn’t mean anything to me. The economics provides conflict to the story. I do like how they conduct business; it is very…and literally… cutthroat. These business associations are modeled after the Medici way of doing business.

Nora caused no end of jealousy for Holo.

The relationship between Holo and Lawrence is where Spice and Wolf shines and what hooked me. I’m a sucker for a good (read not-mushy) love story. Holo and Lawrence are completely independent. They don’t need each other; they are whole people.  They spend a lot of the series arguing and being playful as only close friends can be.  Sometimes, they share their deepest vulnerabilities, like Holo’s fear of being forever alone. There isn’t any “I can’t live without you” mush. They genuinely care for each other, but also have enough confidence in the other to let them do their own thing…except Lawrence when it comes to business. He is a micro-manager when it comes to transactions: which causes him a lot of trouble.

Holo and Lawrence constantly make each other jealous, playfully so of course. Lawrence is a bit of a lunk-head when it comes to Holo. At least he isn’t completely naive and clueless as most anime male protagonists. He sometimes plays at being naive just to stir Holo up.

Even Holo gets tired of her favorite food aftering eating a crate of them

Their strong relationship mirrors what I want in my own. I think that is why I identified so strongly with Lawrence and Holo. Spice and Wolf is a “road” anime. The side characters are also interesting, but Lawrence and Holo steal the show.

Holo is quite a sad character. While she falls in love with Lawrence, she is haunted by how fleeting his life is compared to her own. She covers it up with jokes, but the fear and sadness laces her moments of vulnerability.

The quality of the anime is good and consistent throughout. The setting is refreshing. There isn’t enough anime that takes place in a stylized European environment.

Holo’s tail becomes more sexual in meaning than her nudity

Holo spends a lot of time naked in the series. Her nudity isn’t erotic; there isn’t any detail. Instead, her nudity speaks of a naturalness and other-worldly nature. Holo doesn’t like to rip her expensive clothing when she transforms so it is also utilitarian. She is a wolf and comfortable with herself…much to Lawrence’s discomfort. As their bond grows, Lawrence too accepts her nudity and wolf form as just a part of her. Her tail actually becomes more of a sex symbol than her nudity. The nudity isn’t fanservice (thankfully).

Spice and Wolf tugged at me as much as my favorite anime Eureka Seven did. They both where produced by the same studio. Imagin did the in-betweening of Eureka Seven. Spice and Wolf may well become my next favorite…the characterization is that good.

4 thoughts on “Spice and Wolf”

  1. You’ll probably love season two, where it focuses more on their relationship and how profoundly their mutual dependence affects them.

    To me the merchant stuff is just icing on the cake, fun little bits of cut-throat economics that can be tough to follow but somehow miraculously manages to inject a sense of danger and drama into things. It’s neat to see how Lawrence stumbles while trying to impress Holo, taking risks that he’s never been able to take before.

    Lawrence and Holo make for a world-class romantic comedy act, and you can really sense how difficult it is for them to lower their defenses so their relationship can proceed. Their loneliness and independence is sold quite well, making it believable that they would find it difficult to progress their relationship from a fear of ending up lonely again.

    1. I particularly enjoy their difficulty to progress with their relationship. It mirrors my own difficulties perfectly.

      While the economics often leaves me scratching my head, I do like how it is a throw back to the way the Medici and other Renaissance families did business. Lawrence’s increased risk taking is a nice way for him to show how deeply he feels for Holo.

      I look forward to season 2. So far I’ve watched the first episode of that season and want the translations to hurry up. When I start with a dub, I like to stick with it. Likewise I stick to subs when I start watching an anime in a sub.

      1. True, the dubs are really good, to the point where I don’t even know which VA’s I prefer. If Briana Palencia didn’t stilt some words oddly, instead of in an old-timey way, then I’d have no issues with the dub at all (I wonder if the Japanese dialect Holo uses comes across the same way to Japanese viewers). As a bonus the dub’s translation is the best of all the ones I’ve come across.

      2. I was impressed with how Holo came off as authentic in general. Often I find certain dialects and accents contrived or irritating. I am guessing that in Japanese they use a similar “aristocratic” style of speaking. My Japanese is too poor to even read basic sentences yet.

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