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Spice and Wolf
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 04/01/2009

Review:
Spice and Wolf is a charming little tale about a traveling merchant named Kraft Lawrence who roams from town to town, trading various wares while trying to earn enough money to open his own shop one day. After hearing of a pagan festival celebrating the end of the harvest in Pasroe, a town he knows well, he sets off to meet with his old friend Chloe and to spend a little time participating in the festivities. Pasroe long ago established a pact with a wolf god to give them fruitful harvests, a promise which was kept for hundreds of years. But now many of the townsfolk no longer believe the fable of the wolf god or in any gods but the one true God as established by the Church. Complicating matters further, even the need of a deity protecting and helping the harvest is largely unnecessary with the advances in technology over such a long period of time. This culmination of events is about to lead Lawrence into the chance encounter of a lifetime. The wolf god Horo has decided to end her reign as the harvest goddess and is looking to get out and see the world after being confined to one area for so many centuries. Who better than a traveling merchant for her to tag along with? 
 
Assuming her human form, which supposedly makes her look like a fifteen year old girl (she looks older than that to me, but that could just be her level of maturity shinning though) who happens to have wolf ears and a tail, she decides to slip into Lawrence’s cart for the night. Finding her asleep under his cargo of furs, naked, Lawrence is rather skeptical of her claim that she’s the wolf god Horo. Not even her ears and tail can convince him of that one! However, he can only stay dubious for so long, and after seeing her transform into a wolf the size of a two story building, he’s willing to entertain the idea. It takes some convincing on her part, but Lawrence finally, albeit apprehensively, agrees to take her along with him until they reach her home in the north. And thus their journey together begins. 
 
An oddly perilous journey for a merchant, filled with mischief, deception, romance, danger, economic lessons and witty jesting all rolled into one highly entertaining, if not a little repetitive, slice of anime heaven. Every now and again you hit an anime series that tickles your fancy, and that’s what Spice and Wolf has done for me. Over two major story arcs and a side episode in-between, we follow our unlikely duo as they continually get themselves into sticky situations. One begins to wonder just how Lawrence was able to survive for as long as he has with all the problems that crop up over the course of his dealings. Of course, if he had to run into problems, now’s the time with a wolf god at his side. And what a wolf god she is! Horo is just an absolutely adorable wolf in human’s clothing. She’s spunky, full of pride, narcissistic about her beautifully luscious tail (it is a grand tail ^.^), and a touch melancholy about the prospects of finding herself alone again with no one to talk to or be with. She and Lawrence are always bantering back and forth, making for some very enjoyable conversations. Especially when economics come into play, given that Lawrence is always underestimating her knowledge of the subject and she’s always surprising him with just how intelligent she is. He must not have gotten the memo about her being hundreds of years old compared to his twenty five. Though his silver/grey hair, coupled with his own air of maturity, often make him look much older than he’s supposed to be. He’s the typical nice guy; always sorry for anything he may have done to hurt Horo, much to her irritation. She’d like him to have more of a backbone, to stand his ground once in a while rather than caving in at the first sign he’s done something wrong. Their interactions together are one of the highlights of Spice and Wolf, as Horo constantly baits Lawrence and he tries to put up the pretense of being oblivious. 
 
The main thrust of Spice and Wolf’s two story arcs have to do with business deals that don’t quite turn out as planned. Lawrence has really gotten himself into some messy situations since meeting Horo, all of which seem to end up with them being hunted with unrelenting back stabbings. The fact that a thirteen episode series is basically devoted to two major story arcs is something I definitely can’t complain about. I went in thinking the series was going to have each episode take place in a new city with a new business deal going down. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when just about the exact opposite occurred. There is a problem though. With so many episodes directed towards establishing the intricacies and complexities of each individual story, they both come off remarkably similar in tone. They are fundamentally different in scale, but it doesn’t change the base level similarity between them. Other than the finales of each arc, most episodes are spent talking about trading, economics, future plans and various little discussions between Horo and Lawrence about how much she loves apples and what a wise wolf she is. This is not a series for action junkies, and having a fondness for the main characters is a must to truly enjoy the series and not be bored by its relatively slow pace.
 
I watched Spice and Wolf in both regular and high definition, both of which have their pluses and minuses. It’s not exactly the most animation intensive series, considering it’s mostly people talking to one another, so the animation is good but it never has to do much either. The more telling problem has to do with the characters, which, when far away, don’t look nearly as crisp or well done as they do up close. This creates a problem when viewing the HD version because it makes all those little imperfections more noticeable. It does detract a bit, but they’re infrequent enough to not make you go too crazy. All the beautifully done cityscapes and landscapes that grace the screen more than make up for it. And you always have the more prevalent close-up scenes to enjoy, which do look great in 1080p. The soundtrack has a sort of folksy medieval sound to it, which fits with the time period of the series quite well. It’s surprisingly solid, though I’m not the biggest fan of either the opening or ending theme. The opening Tabi no Tochū just isn’t really my style and the ending, The Wolf Whistling Song, is a tad insane sounding Engrish tune. No Engrish in the series though, and no English dub either since it has yet to be licensed. I do imagine it’ll get a dub when it is released over here, but there’s nothing to be sad about with the quality Japanese track we have here.    
 
Spice and Wolf is not a series chock full of action or laden with love triangles. Its focus is squarely on Horo and Lawreance, two unlikely companions who grow closer as they experience their journey and all the ups and downs that come with it, together. It’s a series that’s slow and deliberate with the steps it takes, and if that sounds like something that could tickle your fancy too, then my friend, time is-a wasting!
 
Miscellaneous:
There’s a second season and a standalone OVA for Spice and Wolf coming out this year.

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Spice and Wolf
Spice and Wolf
Spice and Wolf
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Review Title:
Spice and Wolf
Alternative Titles:
Ookami to Koushinryou
Type:
TV
Episodes:
13
Duration:
325 Minutes
General Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2008
Suitable For:
Teens
Genres:
Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
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