Spice & Wolf Review: A Journey to the North
Spice & Wolf – 狼と香辛料
Ami Koshimizu as Holo
Jun Fukuyama as Kraft Lawrence
Theme: Medieval Trade, Religion and Economics, Romance, Fantasy, Adventure
Opening Sequence – Tabi no Tochū by Natsumi Kiyoura
Ending Sequence – Ringo Biyori ~ The Wolf Whistling Song by Rocky Chack
Opening Sequence – Mitsu no Yoake by Akino Arai
Ending Sequence – Perfect World by Rocky Chack
Number of Episodes: Season 1 – 13 Episodes, Season 2 – 12 Episodes + 1 OVA
A rather unique anime in which I found myself entangled in the deep and well thought out plots of each arc. This is a fantasy anime/manga/light novel but not focused on swords, magic and battle as one would come to expect. This is a fantasy focused on economics, trade and negotiation. Really the only fantasy part is that one of the main characters is a girl who can transform into a wolf and is a wolf deity. Nothing from either season’s studio stuck out especially when I watched it all those years ago, apart from Brain’s Base having made Baccano. Nothing really struck me from the cast either, I remember Ami from School Rumble’s Tenma. Jun had some big roles as Bleach’s Yumichika and Lelouch from Code Geass. I didn’t have high expectations but was rather impressed with how well Holo’s teasing, sarcastic and uppity nature was depicted in her speech manners.
The story is a simple one; a travelling merchant named Kraft Lawrence meets a wolf deity named Holo who can take the shape of a beautiful young girl. After an agreement they travel together hoping to reach Holo’s hometown of Yoitsu in the far north and along the way Lawrence continues his merchant ways and their adventures. A simple story, that sets a clear goal to reach at the start and obstacles appear that gives the story enjoyment, sadness, fun and a clever plot.
Animation was decent, although the fact that both series were short probably had something to do with it. Plus there were only small amounts of action here and there so no difficult fast paced fight scenes to animate. The character designs aren’t anything special in my opinion. But I guess for a show based on trade and talk, I didn’t mind how good or bad the animation was.
So yeah, the entire show is pretty much all talk. I’ll say it loud and clear now, this show is NOT action. If you only like an anime for the quality of fights and action over plot development then this is not for you. However I would still say give it a try, it might surprise you. I sometimes find myself relating this anime to Romance of the Three Kingdoms drama series, the old 1994 one if anyone knows it. Both series focus on the strategy and pretty much 90%+ of the shows are talking.
The opening and ending themes for both seasons are good and similar. The openings for both are rather mellow and a little sad whilst the endings for both are the opposite and chirpy and energetic.
If you’re still reading then you must be interested and the word economics relating to an anime hasn’t scared you off. So let me assure you that there really isn’t anything difficult in the economics of this anime. If you have even a bit of common sense everything will be clearly set out, explained and understandable so please don’t be scared off by thinking it’s going to be complex because it isn’t. At least I didn’t think so.
I find that people will say they find the story is boring or the pacing is too slow and whilst that is true in some places, isn’t that the case with many of today’s best anime? I don’t find that a particular downfall however I do understand many people want an anime to take off running, but I did say this anime is pretty much talk and sometimes that feels slow, but I find that their discussions interesting. The relationship between Lawrence and Holo is one I find especially intriguing, their constant teasing and back and forth relationship, I have to say, is very well panned out. However late into the series and light novels it gets to a point where you start to wonder, will they, or won’t they? But even then the suspense keeps you watching.
Each season of this series goes through different arcs and with each arc the temporary cast members change as Lawrence travels from town to town. Hence why there’s only Lawrence and Holo as the main cast. There are important figures for each arc but they never stay. Each plot is interesting in its own right, none of the separate plots are connected that much, maybe the odd mention of names here and there but that’s it. And each arc is similar in that they all start with an opportunity to make a huge sum of money but Lawrence will run into trouble and at the end he’ll come out safe but never makes as much as he hopes. The strategy to make the profit and the tactics to get out of trouble are all entertaining to listen and watch, especially the improvisation needed when nothing goes the way its suppose to.
I’ll give some quick comments to the BGM. I have the soundtrack and after a quick listen to everything you’ll notice that it’s all very country and folk like music. Of course that suits it perfectly, the entire thing seems like some sort of folk tale and the old tranquil medieval setting feels perfect for country. Especially when Holo and Lawrence travel across large amounts of beautiful countryside. Though I feel like I haven’t explained myself that well here but I invite you to have a listen to my favourite BGM tune called Hikaru Wadachi and see if you can imagine Lawrence and Holo dancing next to a burning log fire. I know I can and that violin solo is beautifully played.
I think that’s about everything covered. So to summarise, Spice and Wolf is a unique story about an interesting fantasy medieval companionship in a world that focuses on economics, trade, negotiation and strategy and of course that would be the crucial factor that will turn you to this anime or turn you away. If you’re the type to only want to watch action and battles, don’t bother with this, it’ll bore you. I’d recommend [C]: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control for an anime of action and economics. But if you’re looking for a break from all the battle fantasy heavy animes, give this a shot, you might be pleasantly surprised.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Hehe I heard someone make a joke about how they say “coins” a lot in this show…. well mention the value things… xD Is that true?
Would you say there is a certain number of episodes someone should watch before they should decide if they like it?
They do say coins a lot, though I don’t know why that’s a joke. Valuing is quite important, especially in finance. Won’t go into that, bringing up my university days haha.
And as to your second question, I just think when you like it is when you like it, could like it from the beginning, or may have to wait for it to build up to like it, or liked the start, hated the ending etc. So yeah, I think opinions will change from time to time and there’s really no set time to liking or disliking anything. That’s my take on it, who knows, I may dislike Spice & Wolf in the future, but unlikely.
Thanks for responding. 🙂 I will take a look at it at some point!
I recently saw this… 2 years later LOL.
I really liked Lawrence but Holo’s posh, over confident attitude annoyed me. The only thing I thought was really awful with this anime was the artwork. Just really generic. Holo is drawn very nicely but Lawrence has very square/rectangular features.
Thank you for this recommendation! I tend to favor anime that focus more on story than action sequence.
This one might take your fancy then, a lot on story and development for you to get here. Hope you don’t mind the slower parts though.
Sounds like my cup of cake!
Wonderful, always love people taking an interest in less typical anime.
Remembered watching this years ago and enjoyed it. Sadly, I haven’t had the fortitude to continue on with the second season or OVA. Might watch this winter break, since my backlog is nearly clear.
I was on the fence of starting this series but I might watch it now, thanks for your review.
I just wanted to say that this is my favorite anime of all time, and not because of any normal reason, it simply is so unique that I immediately fell in love with the travels of Lawrence Craft and Holo the Wise Wolf, all in all your recomendation really does it justice. The whole thing is just so lighthearted and cheery it is hard not to feel something for the characters, after watching both seasons and reading all of the light novels I just can’t help but feeling dissapointed that they did not continue the show past novel 5 it is really a shame, there was so much material they could of used, and it would be really grand to see the whole series flash before my eyes on the screen of a Television set… Well I just wanted to say that you pretty much hit the nail on the head with your review! It is just something so out of the ordinary that you have to appreciate it in some way wheather it is a show for you or not! (:
Careful, lots of talk and deliberation is a feature of Star Wars Ep. 1.