Title: Spice and Wolf
Air Dates: 9 Jan 2008 – 26 Mar 2008
Synopsis: As autumn rolls around, Lawrence Craft, a traveling merchant, begins making his rounds buying, selling, and bartering. Upon reaching the village of Pasroe, he finds the townsfolk getting ready to celebrate the wheat harvest. After meeting up with an old apprentice of his named Chloe, he goes back to the wagon only to find a woman with the ears and tail of a wolf sleeping there. When Lawrence wakes her up, the wolf-woman introduces herself as Horo, the wolf goddess of the harvest. She explains to him that her time is long past as people turn to Christianity and forsake the pagan ways. Although she has served the people of Pasroe for a long time, she now yearns to return home to the cold lands of the north. With that, she strikes a deal with a reluctant Lawrence and accompanies him on his travels.
- Premise is extremely intriguing and engaging
- Horo and Lawrence display an amazing amount of onscreen chemistry
- Underrated soundtrack with an excellent intro theme to boot
- Animation quality is inconsistent due to budget constraints
- Begs for a second season because the journey remains unfinished
Review: It isn’t often that a series with such an unusual premise like Spice and Wolf’s rolls around. After all, this series follows two unlikely travelers: a merchant (Lawrence) and a supernatural being (Horo) who engage in economic transactions such as bartering and haggling as they travel back to Horo’s home in the north. While such a plot combination could potentially be boring, Spice and Wolf does an excellent job of blending the premises together to create a show with a solid, interesting plot and excellently-portrayed characters, making it an enjoyable series overall.
Spice and Wolf succeeds at making its plot fresh and engaging without delving too much into the tedium that generally characterizes economics. Simply put, the plots that the scriptwriter throws out there are so outlandish that it piques one’s curiosity to see where they will go with such an idea. For example, the subplot revolving around currency devaluation scams is able to keep the viewer enthralled over how Lawrence will be able to capitalize on such a phenomenon and profit off of it. Such economics-based plots are just plain fun to watch, partly because of the novelty factor and partly because the conversation is intelligently done, especially when it comes to watching the characters reasoning and speculation with regard to the economic hurdle that they are up against, be it currency devaluation, bargaining, or smuggling.
Although the plot is extremely good, the series just wouldn’t have had the appeal that it does without the main characters Horo and Craft Lawrence. It’s almost unbelievable how well those two mesh together. Lawrence is a bit more of the serious, earnest type who slowly begins to loosen up after having to deal with Horo’s coquettish and playful behavior. The interaction between the two is absolutely seamless and Jun Fukuyama (Lawrence’s voice actor) and Ami Koshimizu (Horo’s voice actress) deserve praise for bringing the characters to life.
By focusing so much on Horo and Lawrence, other side characters don’t get too much character development. Chloe definitely suffers from this since she did have a lot of potential to serve as a good rival to Horo, but gets the shaft when it comes to screen time. Only the shepherdess Nora gets any substantial amount of screen time, and at least there, the viewer got to know her character a bit better. The rest of the characters are just flat and the viewer never really gets a deeper feel for the motivation behind the characters’ actions aside from the profit motive.
Furthermore, by compressing a show of this scope into 13 episodes, the producers were forced to speed the plot up along the way, especially during the last few episodes in which the story moves from one event to the next a hurried pace that felt at odds with the slow and steady pace it had exhibited up to this point. While the story does resolve the last story arc rather well, the overarching plot remains unfinished, which leaves the option open for another season.
Spice and Wolf is a delightful little journey that has shown that economics can be made to be an interesting topic of study, especially when it’s combined with such great protagonists who interact so well together. Although the series does stop far short of the final destination, the leisurely pace at which it goes makes it wonderful and relaxing. Hopefully, Spice and Wolf is successful enough that we can see a continuation of this enjoyable story and see what new economic conundrums pass their way as they head back to Horo’s homeland.
Score: Very Good