Spice and Wolf
For hundreds of years, the crops of a village were blessed by wolf goddess Holo. As times changed, people began to forsake the old ways, believing her unnecessary. While Holo honored her part of the bargain, she no longer feels obligated to stay and longs to return to her home in the north. Then opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling merchant named Lawrence.
While Laurence has a good grasp of economics, he's often caught up in schemes. Holo offers to become his partner. In exchange for taking her north, she'll help him with her unusual abilities. She can for instance tell if someone is lying. Spotting scams easily would certainly be useful, and that's only one of her talents. Utilized correctly, Holo could make a merchant very rich. It's risky though, as the church seeks to burn deities like her at the stake. Laurence agrees, as he could use the company if nothing else.
Laurence shows Holo much the world has changed as they travel north. The never ending merchant financial struggles provide interesting experiences. The longer they travel, the closer they grow together. Holo no longer feels lonely, and maybe money isn't everything.
Oh mah freaking god, adorable wolf girl! It's a good thing she's here too, because she carries much of the title due to the other aspects of this anime falling short. Holo and Lawrence draw closer together as the story progresses, but he's one of those super dense male characters. In many anime titles, the girl would be bashful and the story would get drawn out. In others she'd throw herself at the guy at every opportunity. Holo doesn't really do either. This creates an interesting chemistry between the two, mainly driven by Holo's outspoken demands for actions that happen naturally in most relationships, and the affectionate teasing between the two. This still works well for this anime, but the other parts struggle.
There are two big stories in Spice and Wolf. The first has to do with currency depreciation.. I guess that's the best way to describe it. Did you just hear that right? Yes, you see the thing Spice and Wolf is known for (aside from wolf girl) is its focus on economics. Lawrence being a merchant isn't just a throw away plot device, it's a core aspect of this series. The first story starts around financial intrigues of currency, but ends up too convoluted for its own good. The end turns out well enough, but it felt like there were some key details missing, or perhaps it just moved too quickly across them in a way that's easy to get lost.
The second story deals with Lawrence stuck in a speculative deal gone bad. It's hard to relate to the merchant ways of Lawrence when he's always screwing up so badly. This story drags until the last two episodes. It's not bad, but seems like it's missing something.
The animation is okay, but nothing spectacular. There much action in Spice and Wolf, which is good because things don't move very fluidly when there is. I don't suppose I need to talk about the nice character designs aside from OMG adorable wolf girl, although everyone who isn't a main character looks pretty generic. The music attempts to replicate either a lively medieval feel, or soothing classical composition. It sounds a little too synthetic to fully pull that off. The intro sequence was nice and the ending sung in English by a Japanese girl is unintentionally amusing.
Spice and Wolf is deficient when considering it's potential. Even so, it's a refreshing concept making it worth watching. Thinking back to the manga, I have the feeling this series can improve if better capturing the elements which make the manga so popular. Thus I have high hopes for the second season. Of course I'm also looking forward to seeing more of the adorable wolf girl.. er, I mean learning more about economics! If the premise of this anime doesn't sound interesting to you, I doubt Spice and Wolf will win you over and you'll probably want to skip this one. I think it's worth checking into because it's different and done reasonably well.
Lawrence: Everything doesn't have to be a game all the time.
Holo: You were the one who told me to ask you in a cute way.
Lawrence: No, I just wanted you to ask me. Not play games.
Holo: But I was cute. Was I not?
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