Spice and Wolf

Genre: Adventure
Length: 13 episodes
Rating: 12 for nudity
Score: OK

Lawrence is a peddler travelling from town to town selling and buying during a period much like Europe in the Middle Ages. One night when stopped at the town of Pasroe, he finds in his wagon a 250 year old pagan wolf deity girl named Horo. She appears to be that of a 15 year old girl, except for a wolf tail and ears. She introduces herself as the town’s goddess of harvest who has kept it blessed with good harvests of wheat for many years. She manages to bargain her way out of the village by making a deal with Lawrence to take her with him. As they travel, her wisdom helps increase his profits, but at the same time, her true nature draws unwanted attention from the church.

Spice and Wolf takes the “travelling companions” plot in a different direction. While there’s a bit of sexual innuendo, it’s really not a romance, and part of its strength is the lack of romantic involvement. Lawrence is a kind chap, utterly unsuited to the business he’s in where driving a hard bargain is a prerequisite. Horo’s a much stronger character with something of a ruthless streak, and their different approaches to trading both bring them closer together and tear them apart at certain points in the series.

I really want to rate Spice and Wolf much higher than OK. It has *so* much potential, with new towns and city-states to be explored on their journey, new obstacles to be overcome, etc., I can’t understand why this series is only 13 episodes long. This series feels like it should be the first quarter of a series, not the whole series. It’s a huge let-down, and I don’t know who’s to blame for it – the studio, the producers, or the TV companies.

I’m not quite sure why, but there’s something very hot about the wolf ears and tail…

Spice and Wolf II

Genre: Adventure
Length: 12 episodes
Score: Good so far…

Having seen the second season now, I’d say Minotaur has the length about right. It will be three or four seasons before this is complete – if we’re lucky enough to get them. I actually feel the pacing of this series is one of its strengths, as it’s gentle enough to let us explore the world and doesn’t force an unnaturally fast romance on the characters. If it’s finished properly, this could be a very good series; but being left without an end would ruin it.

It’s actually an unusual setting for an anime. Mostly ‘middle ages’ actually means a swords and sorcery tale, but this is much more down to earth world with very believable characters and cultures. It’s closer to the renaissance, only seen from the perspective of ordinary people rather than the rich and powerful. But the culture is one where trade and the power of money are starting to overtake traditional feudal loyalties. In this setting, the plots and plans of traders can get intricate and dangerous. Each arc – of which there are two per series – visits a different town, in which we learn something more about the way this world works.

In the second season Lawrence and Holo (spelling varies) get closer to their destination, the town Holo set out from centuries ago. The prospect of their journey ending at some point – and of what they’ll find, if they can find it – weighs on Lawrence and Holo’s minds. The way they tease, cajole, console and keep secrets from each other is the real core of the story, with the growing of what could, in time, become romance – but given the circumstances neither is entirely willing to admit that. Even so, the secret they share – which could mean both their deaths if discovered – keeps them closer to each other than anyone else.

So far this is part of what could be a great story. I really hope it gets the end it deserves – and you may be better off saving your frustration and waiting until it does.