I was a little late with watching Spice and Wolf, but better late than never for this excellent series…
Spice and Wolf has been on my “to-watch” list for quite some time, so I told myself I would watch it before the second season came out. And, since the second season started airing a few days ago, I just made it ^^ So this is a review of the 13 episode first season only.
Spice and Wolf has a lot of unique and appealing qualities that make it stand out among other anime. First of all, it has only two main characters and just a few additional side characters. Our protagonists, Horo and Lawrence, are also not your stereotypical lead characters. So much anime, especially the most popular ones, have main characters in their late teens or younger, so having one main character who’s obviously a man way past his teens, and another main character who’s an ancient wolf deity many years older than that, is quite special XD Their personalities also stand out. Although Lawrence can sometimes act like your typical “good-intentioned but inexperienced in the ways emotions” male lead, especially towards the end of the series when Nora shows up, much of the time he’s very level-headed and quick-thinking in the ways of business, and you can easily tell how passionate he is about his trade. But in spite of this, adding to his good character development, Horo points out to us many of his flaws, such as being “too kind” sometimes. Although best known for his role as the fervent Lelouch from Code Geass, Jun Fukuyama does an equally good job portraying the more humble Lawrence. And as for Horo, she is also not a cookie-cutter stereotype either. Her sly, crafty, and sassy demeanor make her all the more wolf-like, yet she also shows her sides of sadness and anger. Although she prides herself on being a wise wolf deity, she is not annoyingly self-centered about what she is, i.e., she is not quick to hate or kill humans and she is also critical of her own wolf brethren, as was shown when she fought off the young pack in episode 12.
Since they are older than your typical main couple in anime, Horo and Lawrence’s relationship seemed to me to be more mature and realistic and less riddled with angst and hyperbolic bickering than in a lot of other anime. Their relationship is not so much focused on love and romance as it’s focused on the mutual bond of trust and assistance they provide for each other. Of course, like most well developed anime relationships, theirs is pretty complex and whether or not they really have romantic feelings for each other remains to be seen and debated.
In addition to having appealing protagonists, Spice and Wolf also has an interesting setting and plot. I’ve seen plenty of anime that focus on political, historical, and militaristic themes, but Spice and Wolf is the first I’ve seen with so much emphasis on the art of trading, financing, and marketing in the economy of an old European-style world. Unfortunately I have no head for this kind of stuff, so all the business and finance talk went way over my head =P But I was at least able to get the general gist of the economics-based plots so I was still able to enjoy most of the series.
Just a couple of minor flaws I noticed with Spice and Wolf. Since it’s based on light novels, unfortunately it can get kind of talky and dialogue-heavy sometimes, especially when it comes to discussion of the financial and economic details I mentioned above. A lot of these conversational scenes were hard to follow, especially for someone like me who 1) has to read fast subtitles and 2) has no head for economics =P The animation in Spice and Wolf is also not that great. The character designs and the design of the old European-based fantasy world are nice, but actual scenes of animation were usually kind of choppy.
Anyway, I feel that Spice and Wolf’s unique characters and setting make up for its sometimes complicated economics-centered plots and low quality animation. Even someone like me who could barely follow the merchant jargon still enjoyed the series very much because Horo and Lawrence are appealing protagonists, and the experience of merchant life that comprises the story was refreshing and interesting. I’m looking forward to season 2!