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Anime That Doesn't Suck: Spice and Wolf

Feudal slice of life + pagan god of the harvest = win



Info:

Title: Spice and Wolf
Genre: Feudal Fantasy, Mercantilism, Romance
Studio: Imagin
Licensee: FUNimation
Year Produced: 2008
Number of Episodes: 13 (1st of 2 seasons)
Run Time: 319 minutes
 
Available Online: YES (All 13 episodes, on their youtube channel and website, in both sub and dub)
SRP: $59.98
Online Price: $35.99
 

Official description: 
Lawrence, a traveling merchant searching for profit, finds a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf asleep in his cart. Her name is Holo - a harvest goddess with an untamed beast lurking inside who longs to return to her beloved northern home. Armed with his street smarts and her animal instincts, a simple peddler and a forgotten deity begin a journey through the wild countryside. Along their path, the riches of happiness shall be reaped, even as the bankruptcy which dwells in the human heart is exposed. 

"A harvest goddess with an untamed beast lurking inside..." is a little misleading, but that's otherwise accurate. True to her heritage, Holo is "untamed," but as her title is Holo the Wise, it has more to do with her being proud and brash, rather than a feral animal. 
 

Opening Animation

 
  

Discussion

If the words Slice of Life intrinsically put you off, we might have a problem. Spice and Wolf "is" slice of life, as much as, say... Kino's Journey is. There's a hint of romance, but this isn't a romantic series, and it definitely isn't action (despite moments of violence.) When you strip away its layers, its just two interesting characters, traveling and adapting to situations. Of course, the fact that one of the two characters is Holo the Wise, literally a harvest goddess in human form, it complicates things. See, Holo watched over a village for countless ages, helping their harvest when possible, but also understanding that in order for 1 harvest to be bountiful, another must be lackluster.
 
As technology advances, and Christianity spreads, the people grow less and less dependent on their compacts with pagan gods, and Holo finds herself abandoned. Thus, when traveling merchant Lawrence passes through, she offers him a deal. Her wisdom and skills, for her passage home.
 
Of course, that's just the set up. Its my sincere hope that these two never reach their destination, because impasse of their personalities is too engaging to let go. For being trapped away from the world, Holo has little knowledge of the current people and their customs, yet she can offer stoic observations learned from hundreds of years. Both possess a fierce independence, which leads them to act alone out of demonstrative pride, yet consistently prove that the skills the other has are great value. 

In fact, for being "the wise," there is a bitter loneliness in Holo. She has had companions in the past, but has outlived them all. Under her proud, strong exterior, there is a deep yearning for kinship, yet a sullen fear of its futility. Delicious. 
 
That said, beyond Lawrence and Holo, the supporting cast (if you could call them such) provide great depth to the work. Commerce in effect, the characters all cross paths, and make logical decisions about what profits them the most. Partnerships, and even friendships, are only a byproduct of mutual gain. Despite being a complex world where people must rely on others to survive, each truly comes across like a pillars of solitude.
 

Things you might like

  • Deep, rich story telling
  • While not episodic, the characters and events tend to have subtle impacts which can be highly rewarding to the viewer
  • Highly enjoyable side characters.
  • Short length leads for a relatively quick watch
  • Its a series about feudal economy!
 

Second Seasons, Novels, and Manga

I'll put out right now that my entire endorsement comes off of the first season. While FUNimation owns the rights to the second season, no details as to its release have been announced. That said, I'd even question a need for a second season. While every fiber of my being yearns for more of those delicious dynamics, the 13 episode package really gives you everything you need, even if I want more. So I will wait patiently, though that will not stop endorsements of the first season.
 
Also, the light novels (despite drama over adapted covers) are currently being released in the US by Yen Press. Those deep, subtle nuances had to come from somewhere, and if you're into reading, the light novels that inspired the story are a good place to go.
 

Images


Recommend it to friends who enjoyed...

Kino's Journey
Shigofumi
Katanagatari
Natsume Yuujinchou

Conclusion

Spice and Wolf isn't for everyone. Its not quite a romance, and it lacks a true direction oriented plot. What it does excel in, is characters. Conducting everything through the eyes of "business," the audience sees a cold, yet honest depiction with of complex motivations.
 

metalsnakezeroon April 28, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.
Spice and wolf sure is a great show and I look forward to the season 2 release in the USA.
Zeether77on April 28, 2010 at 3:18 p.m.
I like how Holo and Lawrence are "on again, off again" most of the time. Good series.
CrazyCanuckon April 28, 2010 at 3:25 p.m.
Darn right anime that doesn't suck!
crusader8463on April 28, 2010 at 3:47 p.m.
I couldn't get into this show at all. I always heard great things about it, but it was just too dull and uninteresting for me. I watched it up to the part where
and that's where I stopped. I just didn't like ether of the characters and felt like everything up to that point could have been done in a lot less episodes, and a lot more interestingly. I just never got attached to them, or felt any kind of investment in seeing where there relationship went, and just always felt detached from everything they where talking about or did. Maybe I didn't give it enough time, but I just couldn't find any motivation to keep watching it no matter how much I tried.
REDRUNon April 28, 2010 at 4:05 p.m.
I was happy with season one in its entirety. This is an easy recommend to most of my friends who watches anime and are new to the genre. Halo the Wise and Lawrence makes the journey interesting, while in the the back your mind you just might hope they never make their destination just yet. At the end of the season, it never let me down. A pure reward to watch.
sotyfan16on April 28, 2010 at 5:55 p.m.
@crusader8463:
When I started watching this (when it came out subbed) I was an Economics Major and the fact that you could learn just by watching this anime was an excellent idea to me. I'll restate again that Spice and Wolf is not for everyone but the second season takes the story further than the first if you ask me. This is a rare show that you can sit and watch almost in one sitting and not realize you did because you were drawn in by the animation, story, and characters. 
 
Spice and Wolf is indeed an anime that doesn't suck. I still have yet to watch any of it in dub as I really like th sub. Most shows I first see in sub I prefer the sub over the dub. The opposite is that when I start with a dub I only stick to the dub.
Ragnorakon April 28, 2010 at 6:25 p.m.
I really enjoyed season one and I hope funimation picks up season 2 at some point. I really enjoyed the characters, the story, and the economics lesson. I am now reading the novels as they come out in American and I really like them too. I highly suggest people pick both those and the manga up.
Krison April 28, 2010 at 7:54 p.m.
It is such a good show!  I thought it was lovely.  Haven't seen the second season yet, but I'll be getting around to that at some point.
I read the first light novel, but it was basically exactly what was in the anime, so I'm passing on the rest.  I'd rather watch it than read it.
Frostaliciouson April 29, 2010 at 7:30 a.m.
I actually enjoyed the dub of the first season. I usually give the dub a chance, but 99% of the time end up switching to subs within 10 minutes. With Spice and Wolf, I actually enjoyed how the dub meshed with the characters.
tacosRcoolon Sept. 26, 2011 at 9:12 a.m.

I wonder if they are gonna do a season 3?

Xpgamer7on March 26, 2012 at 5:10 a.m.

I just wrote a review after watching it. Funny enough I had the exact opposite thought, I felt the design of the small stories it created was well done(Plot in a way) and the characters were somewhat shallow despite their obvious intelligence and motives.

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