Merchant meats Spicy Wolf: a story of two traveling companions and economic adventures

Spices: precious cooking material that enhances their flavor into the food we eat. Only a few centuries ago they were a very good reason to go to war or to travel to the end of the world, as Christopher Columbus would tell you.

Wolf: One of the most mysterious creatures in mythology of all peoples. Independent, yet societal, lonely but caring, a killer yet not a beast. When a werewolf –half man, half animal-, it is depicted mostly as an aggressive, blood-thirsty murderer or a split personality to fight off his savage part.

 

In economics, when two powerful elements combine and create successive booms, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves in a huge bust. In the case of Spice & Wolf however, we seem to have discovered a system of excessive growth, stability and productivity without any hard depressions- only a few recessions. Are you ready to read about one of these bloggers’ favorite anime?

 

Why is S & W special?

A. The story

 

Spice and Wolf’s story revolves around Kraft Lawrence, a 25-year-old traveling merchant who peddles various goods from town to town to make a living in a stylized historical setting with European influences. His main goal in life is to gather enough money to start his own shop, and he already has been traveling for seven years while gaining experience in the trade. One night when stopped at the town of Pasloe, he finds in his wagon a pagan wolf-deity girl named Holo who is over 600 years old. She appears to be a 15-year-old girl, except for a wolf’s tail and ears. She introduces herself as the town’s goddess of harvest, who has kept it blessed with good harvests of wheat for many years. Despite her responsibility to watch over the town, she wants to go back to her homeland in the north called Yoitsu; she believes the people have already forsaken her and that she has kept her promise to maintain the good harvests. Holo wants also to travel to see how the world has changed while she has remained in one place for years. She manages to bargain her way out of the village by making a deal with Lawrence to take her with him. As they travel, her wisdom helps increase his profits, but at the same time, her true nature draws unwanted attention from the Church. ~ Wikipedia

It is very rare to see a combination of the elements S & W tries to pull together. Medieval history, except of that of Japan or China, is usually depicted as a comical or tragic period in the anime market. S & W tries a great deal to present this period in a more realistic way. Its people are not saints but they are not monsters either. Merchants are greedy but this fact does not erase their morality or conscience. They pursue the best possible deals yet still seek human care, attention and friendship, as Mark proves. Human beings are not obsolete.

 

Neither are economics, an element of S & W I remember having found in no other anime. I am not acquainted with medieval economics, since they refer to a world I do not know of and whose main concerns were the –mostly hideous- actions of the Church, the value of metals such as gold and silver, and trade through carriages. It is obvious though that Hasekura Isuna has done his research and is able to create extremely interesting plots.

 

B. The characters

i.Horo

 

From her amazing introduction to Lawrence, one can understand that Horo –or Great Sage Wolf Horo- is truly a memorable character. Her appearance is what first attracts the audience into the series, for she is unique in her original design and works perfectly as a mascot. However, good looks are not the only thing Horo has to show. Her character is one we rarely see in anime- a strong, independent yet sensitive woman. Horo is much more open than any other character and smarter, too. She proves that in many cases, but I think her most remarkable moment was in episode 8 of season 1.

 

Let us recall that one scene, where she cleverly finds out about the merchant’s fraud, thus giving Lawrence the opportunity to take advantage of him. All that thanks to her sharpness. What was even sharper though was her way of communicating her thoughts to Lawrence. I do not think a goddess can be any more elegant and graceful than she was at that scene.The fact that we do not see her character develop much is, in my opinion, justifiable. She is, after all, some thousands years old. She has met too many creatures to change her attitude in such a short time. Her honest ways more than make up for the lack of development. Even gods have weaknesses in the end.

 

What I love about Horo is that, spectacular as she may be, she is never over the top. In reality, I see in her the personification of the ideal female anime character: she goes after what she wants, yet longs to feel her lover’s care. That does not mean she is going to take advantage of that care. Her encouragement of Lawrence to go after his life’s dream is one that only a true lover and honest person would show.
 
ii.Lawrence

The second member of the main couple does not have the shine and star-like appeal of his companion. Even so, Lawrence is the perfect hero for this story and the best possible mate for Horo. Shy when it comes to women and thoughtful, Lawrence makes a slow entry into the show but updates his status and character regularly, without any inconsistencies. For that reason, one could say he is the most complex character of the story and also the most developed (in deep contrast to Horo): from a greedy, wandering merchant to a sensitive lover and fellow traveler.

 

This is not the only way he is different from Horo. He is not so good when it comes to judging people for much besides profit. He has known no place to call home, while she stayed in the same village for centuries and longs to return to her birthplace. Remember how many short-term risks Lawrence took through the first sagas? Now, do you also remember how in the end he turned his back on his dream for Horo – as if there were two different people each time? In many ways Lawrence is defined by Horo, because her actions reveal new aspects of his character. Recall the case of Amati saga, where because of her attitude, Lawrence was forced to change his behavior?

 

All of this means that Lawrence is a bit of a passive character (when it comes to romance at least). He is just a man whose life changed radically thanks to the strongest magic of them all: a woman’s magic. The beautiful world loves him for being kind, slightly clueless and passionate. Oh, and his improved verbal skills in season 2.

 

C. Many pluses and one minus

 

On its other aspects, Spice & Wolf remains a strong and unique anime. There we can find some high level animation, attractive character design and great music. The music creates succesfully a medieval feeling, be it more festive, dramatic or melancholic. The openings and endings of both season 1 and 2 are very very good – with the openings bringing a nostalgic feeling and the endings closing off each episode with jolliness.
 

There is hardly anything to add for the pluses, since almost all aspects of both seasons are stunning. The script is really something and it’s to be expected since we talk about a novel adaption. Here are some quotes and dialogues.

Horo: All men are jealous and stupid, and all women are stupid to be happy about it, idiots are everywhere you look… 

Horo: A bunny that gets eaten by the wolf every night, surely knows the wolf well… 

Lawrence: You’ll be killed if you’re caught! How does that balance out?

Horo: Loneliness is a fatal disease. It’s balanced enough 

Lawrence: You…There are things you can and cannot do!

Horo: Didn’t you tell me to act cute when asking for something?

Lawrence: I told you to be honest about it! I didn’t tell you to resort to feminine wiles! 

Horo:If I wore rabbit’s fur, I’m sure you’d fall into my trap instantly.

Lawrence:In that case I’ll carry around some apples so that I’ll get caught in the trap 

 
The only minus I can mention is the design of Horo in the second season, that took away many of the things that made her one of my favourite female anime characters. We all know sexy ladies are a big trademark for every series. But that does not mean that turning a mature, smart goddess like Horo into a loli/moe looking female makes her sexier. Rather, it turns her into something more common and less interesting.
 

D. Conclusion
 

full cast of S & W (novels)

Spice & Wolf is one of the few anime out there that has no competitor, because it belongs to its own category. It is a “must watch” for everyone that is looking for a combination of slice of life and fantasy, along with lots of intelligent stories and a sweet, romantic couple. I know I did not regret watching it, the same way I do not regret putting a generous investment of spices to make my every meal more tasteful. Without such delicacies, life would worth very little indeed.

P.S.: 1.We’ll certainly buy the novels when they’re all out.

2. More image goodies on our tumblrs: sketchy fanarts of miscellaneous characters by minisoft fanarts of the couple official illustrations/screenshots of the couple- novel anime NSFW- impressive cosplay official illustrations of Horo fanart of Horo 12

3. The ‘meats’ in the title is in purpose mispelled. That was the tagline for the novels.

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4 thoughts on “Merchant meats Spicy Wolf: a story of two traveling companions and economic adventures

  1. Thanks for commenting and for your nice words 🙂

    Hm, anticlimatic, yet so slice-of-life and surely rises expectations. We do hope there'll be season 3.

    In a different setting, huh? I've seen some modern-day illustrations with the both of them, but although I like them, they take away the charm of Horo's status as a goddess :/

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  2. Quite a unique show isn't it. Of the shows I've watched recently it happens to be one of my favorites. I even named my cat Holo. I can't wait until they finally create another season because the ending of the second season was rather anticlimactic. Eventually I'll need to pick up the novels too.

    I feel that the show is carried entirely by the two lead characters interactions with each other. Every event seems like an excuse to have Holo and Lawrence fight and become friends again. A friendship that is even stronger than the one preceded it. This in turn makes me wonder would this duo make for an interesting show if they were dropped into a drastically different setting. For example Harlock(from Captain Harlock) was dropped into an unfamiliar western setting during the show Gun Frontier which ended up being pretty entertaining. Would it be as entertaining if Holo and Lawrence were dropped into some futuristic society?

    Anyway, interesting post.

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  3. 😀 It's our pleasure to write about it. I hope you liked all the pics we've collected for this post.

    But I think you are wrong about how there are only few people enjoying Spice and Wolf in the ani-sphere. If you are on Twitter you can join SCCSAV. They have a watching session of S & W each Sunday. I'll join them this one for the fun, although I've watched it already twice. It appears that a lot of people are excited with the 'little girl inside a wolf'.

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  4. THANKKKKKKK YOUUUUUUUUUUU.
    (randomly saw this through AB Antenna but..)

    Oh my god, someone who actually likes Spice and Wolf. This is by far on my top 5 animes list. It's utterly unique and yes, I agree with a minus being how they changed Horo's design in the second season. It just shows how animes are just starting to revolve around becoming more moe (as if it's the one thing that keeps the industry afloat at the moment). The music from Spice and Wolf and the storyline are two of my favorite parts of this series. Always loved the OP and the Ending. And I was about to play the VN of Spice and Wolf as well.

    Thank you for a review on this anime, made my day to see someone who appreciates S&W as well.

    Like

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