Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spice and Wolf II: Futures Trading, Medieval Politics, and Inter-Species Courtship

Huh. I just realized that I never made a post on the first season of Spice and Wolf- and here I am jumping into a review of its second season. Ah well. Speed review of season one, people? Here goes:

Craft Lawrence, white-haired but no geezer, is a travelling merchant whose dream is to make it big and have a shop of his own. One day, while camping somewhere between towns, he wakes up to find a naked girl in the back of his cart. Her nudity doesn’t hold his attention for long, though- she has a tail and animal ears. So begins Lawrence’s journey with Horo the wolf-goddess... Bah. That felt like something an underpaid bit-column newspaper writer would mash out. That was how I meant it to be though, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining, haha.
I don’t remember enough of season one to write about it- it’s been so long, after all. There was quite a bit of talk about economics- supply and demand and all that. Business seemed to be the main business of the show (that was lame, I know)- it seems that some people found it rather boring because of this- probably because they were too stoned to understand a thing. Another thing that killed some people’s interest in the show was the constant chatter- too much talk, not enough attention, they say.
"You're a hundred years too young to see my bare skin;)"
They probably shouldn't have watched it, then. What’s more, they shouldn't bother with season two either. Season one did have a fair bit of adventure along the way, along with some fairly- how should I put it- physically energetic scenes. Yep- quite a bit of snarling and pawing. That’s as much as I’m willing to give you in terms of spoilers for season one, but I suppose you could put one and one together- come on, wolf-goddess, snarling, pawing… she’s not gonna be sleeping all day like a cat, after all.

Season two has a lot more talk in it. Lawrence and Horo are drawing closer to Horo’s lost hometown of Yoitsu, but they still have no idea where it lies. Every town they visit, they make sure to ask around for old legends that might give them some clue as to its exact location…

Then again, Spice and Wolf isn't an Indiana Jones spin-off. For one thing Lawrence looks a lot better than Harrison Ford. Hmm. I suppose that doesn't count for much, though. What is it about, then? It’s all about the business, and how it affects the two companions. Forget about epic sword fights and damsels in distress being rescued by Prince Charming (or rather, a hapless Prince Charming being rescued by the damsel, in season one)- much of the action here comes in the form of verbal exchanges, decisions made, and the relationship between Horo and Lawrence. Will they mess up the gene pool, or will they split ways?

Season two doesn't waste any time- a new town, a new challenge. There are two arcs to the story. In the first, Horo and Lawrence’s relationship threatens to go sour, and they just end up going separate ways… the jaded veteran of many an anime (movie, soap opera, etc) would most likely react as such: ‘what the heck? There’s still, what, some nine, ten, episodes to go? They can’t possibly part ways so soon! They might as well strike Wolf out of the title if they do!

I have a confession. That’s exactly what I thought (duh is what you’re probably thinking now). That being said, the story was just so tense that that cynical but true thought was banished to the back of my mind, marked ‘harmful to enjoyment’ and thrown into the bin which contains spoilers for all the other shows I’ve watched so far (E.g.: Lelouch becomes Emperor; School Rumble’s inconclusive ending, etc.).

In the first arc, a third party interferes in the form of a charming young Casanova, hell-bent in getting what he wants, believing in his own righteousness, blinded by love. The brigand challenges Lawrence to a duel- not with swords, silly, by trade. Amidst all this, the director still finds time to explain trade in futures and the basics of supply and demand. In the second arc, trouble appears when a mysterious trader comes to Lawrence with a tempting deal, which, if successful, would have Lawrence within a sight of achieving his dream, but with Horo left in the lurch.

Well, that’s it for the story, which I've somehow managed to keep as spoiler-free as possible, I hope. Now for the characters. Craft Lawrence. Some of you might have noticed something about him- he sounds almost like Lelouch from Code Geass. You’re absolutely right! Cheers for you! No prize though. Ahem. He’s voiced by the same voice actor, but that’s beside the point, really. Ah well. This crafty businessman used to think of everything in terms of profits and losses, even of relationships with others, but a certain wolf seems to have had a positive influence over him- humanizing him, in a sense- but how will that affect his business acumen?

Horo, on the other hand, seems content to continue her carefree existence, travelling with Lawrence from town to town, mooching off him- well, to be fair, she is a big help now and then, but that itself seems to have a negative effect on Lawrence, as she herself notes at one point. Closing in on her hometown, she’s constantly worried about her coming parting of ways with Lawrence- and what of her own feelings for him? The daft fool doesn't seem to realize a thing.
"Missed chance: Just dye her hair green."
Well, that’s pretty much it. Those of you who like more gunpowder in your entertainment, and can’t stand such ‘endless yapping’, stay clear of this one. Ah, of course. If you’re in heat after reading what I mentioned earlier- about Horo appearing naked in Lawrence’s cart- go watch Queen’s Blade or something like it with more fanservice. Fanservice is virtually non-present in this season, something quite rare in Japanese anime these days.

All in all, Spice and Wolf is a charming show, high on human drama- which is amusing as Horo isn’t really human, heh. Animation quality hasn’t changed- it’s just as good as in the previous season. It runs for twelve episodes, along with a pilot chapter (making it 13), which serves as a sort of bridge between both seasons- so if you’re the type that doesn’t like too much dialogue, just try and bear with it. The music is good too, although I still prefer season one’s music.The dialogue is excellent, especially the exchanges between Horo and Lawrence, reminiscent of the brief scenes shared by Lelouch (R.I.P) and C.C. in Code Geass. In a sense, Spice and Wolf is like a second chance for the two- watching Lawrence and Horo share a tender moment together, I can’t help but imagine Lelouch and C.C. doing the same…

I see that I’m running off-track again. I should probably end here. Sometime ago, I mentioned on Facebook, jokingly, that I’d like a Zeppelin for my birthday. I’ve changed my mind- I’ll settle for Horo’s coat, as you can see in the image below.
"A kiss for your coat, milady"
Eh? What’s that I heard there? You thought that I wanted her wolf-pelt? -slap- shame on you. Wait there while I ring up the PETA riot squad.


  1. Ah, I haven't gotten around to watching the second season yet. I need to, because I adored the first. It actually got licensed here in America, believe it or not. I hope it sells well so they'll license the second season too.
    The light novel was decent, by the way. They tried to effect a certain speech...which was odd. You'd think it would just make the book feel more realistic, but it really didn't quite work. If people think the show is boring, those same folks would totally hate the book. It was a decent read, but I missed the vibrant colors of the series, and Holo's energy, which didn't really translate in the text.

  2. @Kris: Heh, so they tried to copy Horo's archaic-yet-kawaii way of speaking? I don't see how 'wacchi' and 'de-arinsu', etc. could possibly translate to English. The translators must have had it pretty hard. I hope that they at least kept the intense verbal sparring between the two intact, since that's where most of the action takes place.

  3. Ornate language doesn't tend to sound cute in English, so they have their work cut out for them.

    You know, it's interesting that you mention business as so integral to the show. Every econ major that I'm aware of who likes anime has loved Spice and Wolf.

  4. @Mori: Yeah, that's tru... come to think of it, not once have I heard English and thought, 'oh, that sounds cute'. The translators must really have had a hard time with SnW...

    Heh, I can already imagine Econs lecturers showing SnW episodes in class. SnW without the business? I wonder what else could replace it... competitive fishing? -choke-

  5. I'm an Engineering major and i just adore Spice and Wolf for me it is the truest form of anime heck. sorry for the crappy comment its just that the author of the site and i have the same view and that left me with the feeling of making an awesome comment to back it in. but i cant express it as much as i would end up posting the same review S&W FTW!! i cant wait for season 3 and i just wish Horo would find her homeland at last.