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Spice and Wolf II
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 10/25/2009

Review:
Kicking things off shortly after the end of the first season, Spice and Wolf II continues the tale of Kraft Lawrence, a traveling merchant who happened upon the most unlikely of companions, the wolf goddess Horo. After narrowly escaping death at the end of their last misadventure, Lawrence and Horo have resumed their steady march northwards in search of her long lost homeland. Neither one of them is in a particular hurry to get there though, especially since it will spell the end of their journey together. So they’re just enjoying being with one another while they explore the legends of Horo’s homeland and Lawrence tries to do a little deal making on the side. He is a merchant after all, and even though he’s escorting Horo north he still has to make some money. But when it comes to Lawrence and his dealings, nothing ever seems to go as planned, especially with the ever feisty Horo now in the picture. Between a merchant duel for Horo’s hand in marriage and Lawrence selling her off as part of a fur trading scheme, emotions have never run higher, for better or for worse.
 
Where the first season introduced us to our main duo and developed their budding friendship, the second season delves much deeper as Lawrence and Horo are once again tested with a never ending barrage of unfortunate circumstances. As the story starts to unfold, Lawrence and Horo have arrived at yet another new city on their journey, a place where they hope to mix business with pleasure as they look forward to a coming festival. At least, that was the plan until they met Amarty, a fellow merchant and member of Lawrence’s guild, who was so struck by Horo’s beauty that he fell in love with her at first sight. Believing she is traveling with Lawrence in order to pay off her debt, Amarty takes it upon himself to setup a contract where, if he can raise enough money in time, he will be able to buy Horo’s freedom. Of course he hopes that she will agree marry him after this show of affection, but there’s no obligation to do so. That being the case, there’s no real downside for Lawrence, so he eagerly accepts secure in the knowledge that he can’t lose. But his best laid plans always seem to run into problems, and when Horo discovers a secret about her homeland that Lawrence was keeping from her, his once foolproof plan is about to go up in flames. 
 
As the interpersonal relationship between Lawrence and Horo starts to come to the fore, it’s clear the direction this season is going to take. This time it’s all about the two of them, their actions and feelings as it relates to one another more than anything else. This dynamic in the first half greatly shapes the second and final story arc as they continue on to a rather cold and dreary city where they hope to dabble in the local fur trade. But what awaits them is another situation fraught with problems as they find the city in a power struggle with the Church and all fur trade forbidden until the “fifty man meeting” comes to a decision about the terms of trade. With so many problems afoot there isn’t much for them to do but to spend some time researching her homeland. That is, until they meet Abe, a merchant trading in statues who’s got a plan to corner the fur market and be the first ones to bring the goods to the market down south. That’s all well and good, until the part about using Horo as collateral so they can get enough money to successfully pull off their scheme. This time it isn’t Horo who minds being sold off as a young noblewoman but Lawrence who’s having serious reservations about the whole plan, especially after Horo voices her desire for the two of them to part ways. As one would expect, the whole plan goes pear-shaped as Lawrence does everything he can to salvage the deal from falling apart in the face of riots and people with murderous intents. His judgment is a tad cloudy though, for all he can think about is Horo and how his life will be if he loses her…
 
It’s true that with all the Lawrence and Horo mumbo-jumbo going on that it gives us a much more meaningful look into and development of our main pair, which also results in a couple of very sweet scenes between the two of them. The downside is that too much of the focus is on the characters, giving us an overabundance of emotional drama without sufficient time being put back on the stories. I mean, I’m as big a Horo fan as the next red-blooded male, but at a certain point the balance between the story and characters became too off-kilter and just couldn’t keep itself as intriguing as it otherwise could have been. That’s something the first season excelled at which ultimately resulted in it being slightly more enjoyable, though I must say the end of this season almost makes up for the shortfall. Plus, it leaves room open for a continuation of the series as the source material extends beyond what we have seen in the anime adaptation. We can only hope that comes to fruition.   
 
One of the things about Spice and Wolf II is that, while it may not be filled with loads of action, it has some spectacular backgrounds to go along with its quality animation work, especially when viewed in 1080p. This was a big worry with a new animation studio coming in to handle the second season and the OVA prequel, but they seem to have pulled it off fairly well. The only sad part is that they did not fix the problem of moderately distant characters not getting the attention to detail they should. It’s really only noticeable if you’re looking for it or if you’re watching it in high def and all those minute details suddenly become much clearer. That being the case it isn’t a terribly noteworthy problem, but it’s unfortunate nonetheless. Regardless, between the luscious backgrounds and beautiful character designs (especially the alchemist Dian, who’s trying to give Horo a run for her money), you shouldn’t have many misgivings about the quality of the visuals as the smooth animation pulls it all together. While Spice and Wolf is now licensed by Funimation, Spice and Wolf II has not yet had the pleasure. So for now you will only have the Japanese language track, which is certainly a pleasure to hear, but hopefully it will get licensed and dubbed as well.      
 
Despite a few disappointing aspects, Spice and Wolf II is a superb continuation of the first season with a wonderful cast of characters and the technicals to go with it.  With a focus on just two story arcs, we get not only more depth and complexity in terms of the individual storylines, but even more-so with regards to the characters and their relationships. Those who love the ever witty and comical interactions between Lawrence and Horo should enjoy this season even more, but for those of us looking for a more balanced mix between story and drama, it falls just a tad flat.

Miscellaneous:
There was also a one episode OVA prequel released about a month before Spice and Wolf II came out which features Horo getting sick and Lawrence having to take care of her. It’s a completely standalone episode that does not need to be seen to know what’s going on in this season. It is also rather pointless / useless in an overall sense. 
 
Horo’s tail gets absolutely enormous when she gets angry!

Screenshots
Spice and Wolf II
Spice and Wolf II
Spice and Wolf II
Spice and Wolf II
Spice and Wolf II
Spice and Wolf II
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Review Title:
Spice and Wolf II
Alternative Titles:
Ookami to Koushinryou II
Type:
TV
Episodes:
12
Duration:
300 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2009
Suitable For:
Teens
Genres:
Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
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