Spice and Wolf Review

15 04 2008

Studio: IMAGIN
Genre: Drama, Wolves, Medieval Economics Thing
Episodes: 12

While you may well immediately dismess this show as furry bait, and yes there is a chances that furries would probably be drawn to it, but there is nothing furry about it beyond there being a girl with ears and a tail in it. There is no ‘yiffing’ whatever the hell that is, and there is definitely no bestiality, implied or otherwise. As a prospective watcher of the show, you’ll have to put your totally understandable prejudice aside and just try it. I thought it best to get that out of the way early.

Anyway, “Spice and Wolf” AKA “Spicy Wolf” AKA “The Wolf and The Spice” is a story of medieval cart travel with the occasional wolf-god. Craft Lawrence AKA Lawrence Craft is a merchant trader in a vague medieval Europe type place, which isn’t as far as I understand, meant to be anywhere in particular. Craft’s unusual travelling companion is a 600 year old Harvest God called Horo who takes the form of either a giant wolf or a wolf-esque girl with ears and whatnot. Horo was bored looking after the harvest in her local pagan village, as the march of technology has lessened the villagers dependence on her. She escapes the village as Lawrence makes a trading visit, and he agrees to take her back to ‘The North’ where she apparently came from.

Horo and Craft Lawrence Craft Crarence Lawft

While you might expect a series in which one of the main characters is a god would be rather wacky, but it’s surprisingly down to earth. In the medieval world in which they live, there is a church organisation that runs most towns, and will declare people to be heretics if they show the slightest sign of being a bit fey or pagany. Having ears and a tail would certainly sentence Horo to the burning pole, so she has to keep a cloak on for most of the time people are around, and she can’t do anything remotely divine. Not that it would be a problem for her, she can turn into a 100 foot long wolf after all, but it would be quite a hassle.

Rather than all that, the focus of the show is Lawrence’s aspiring merchanting business. Most episodes involve Horo and Lawrence tricking a merchant, forcing a company representative to make a bad deal, talking about devaluing currencies, and other general sitting around on a cart discussing commodity prices. You would normally expect a show set in an ostensible fantastical universe to have lots of magic, swords, pantaloons, ronald weasleys, etc. in it, so this main focus on the economics side of things is definitely the more original and probably much harder route to take. Of course, it isn’t entirely ignored, as the climaxes to both of the story arcs make use of the fact that this show is about a God, to great effect I must add.

Beautifully rendered cart travel, and complex economics. So, Spice and Wolf basically.

There is also a reasonably restrained romantic plot between Horo and Craft, in which they pretend to not like each other, but really actually do. There’s potential for this to be really creepy, but they manage to avoid anything remotely like that for the duration of what has been adapted so far. Oh yeah, this was originally a series of light novels, I think the anime adapts the first two of them or something. This means that the plot isn’t really complete, and just the introduction to a much larger plot. I’ve read a few negative comments that neither the plot nor the characters get advanced particularly far in what has been adapted so far. I personally think it’s one of those ‘journey rather than the destination’ type situations, as the lack of development didn’t bother me much.

Going back to the whole economics thing. One of the earlier plots concerns how various dealings are effecting the value of the local currencies, and there might be a conspiracy to get a type of coin recalled and reissued with a lower silver purity percentage…or something. This is something that they rattle on about at length, and I have to admit that quite a lot of it went over my head. I guess I must conclude that either my limited understanding of economics failed me, or it was too poorly translated to make sense. Actually I guess it might just not make sense, you can never really rule that out. There’s also part of the story where Lawrence ends up heavily in debt somehow, and for the life of me I can’t quite work out what happened. If you figure it out, please send me an email!

Uh huh… huh.

“Hang on, i’ll fetch my slide-rule.”

One interesting thing I noticed about this show is that it really only has two characters. I don’t believe I’ve seen anything with such a limited cast before. After getting my head round the enormous casts of Tengen and Baccano, it’s odd to watch such a comparatively focussed show. This does of course mean that if you end up not liking either of the main characters then you probably won’t like the show as whole. I can’t really see that happening though. Craft, has seemingly white hair, but he’s supposed to be only twenty-five, nonetheless he comes off as a very mature character. Horo is also reasonably mature, and while they occasionally fall out, it’s usually for an actually good reason rather than idiotic misunderstanding.

Overall, if you can get over the slow pace, few characters, and furry connotations this is an excellent show. It’s certainly got a free run of whatever genre you would describe it. It’s also highly un-Japanese, which means there is NO DAMN ONSEN EPISODE! No-one even mentions an onsen at any point! If that isn’t a glowing recommendation, then I don’t know what is.

Arbitrary Rating: 8 – Nice!