A pinch of Spice and Wolf…that’s good enough for me

“Seven apples on a witch’s tree, with seven seeds to plant inside of me”
(And yes, I know that these lyrics and the image don’t match – so sue me)

Kraft Lawrence is a traveling merchant whose dream is to own his own shop, for which he often needs to risk hard earned profits to obtain the larger amounts needed for this endeavour. One day, however, a strange wolf who takes the appearance of a young girl, appears before him. What changes will this one encounter bring to their lives?

Having finally sat down to see Spice and Wolf (and its sequel), I have to admit a fair amount of puzzlement. Why is this series as popular as it is, to the extent that it even had its own series sub-forum on AS, and comes highly regarded by many of its advocates? The most commonly cited reason seems to be the banter between the two leads: exchanges that delve not only into the mechanisms of trade, but also into philosophies of life and love, not to mention generous helpings of flirting. It is also quite popular with Japanese fans, as evidenced by the continued popularity of the award-winning novels on which the series is based.

A fateful meeting…

Well…that banter was quite fun and interesting, and I quite liked watching the relationship between Lawrence and Holo develop. The fears and joys that stemmed from the very different lives they had led until they’d met were also quite thought-provoking. For instance, Holo not wanting to stay with Lawrence because she does not want their relationship to reach a pinnacle of enjoyment that it will never be able to live up to again – which is perhaps an extension of her fear that his eventual death will leave her feeling more alone than before. Furthermore, some of the life lessons gained during their journey are also incredibly relevant to everyone. The one that stays with me is the one revealed in a conversation between Lawrence and his merchant friend: we all know the value of something that we have slaved to get, but sometimes, when something valuable comes our way easily, we only realise its value when we have lost it. Spice and Wolf‘s strengths really lie in its characters and the relationship between them, and it seems like many of its fans really enjoyed the more mature tones that it was painted in.

…and the development of a comfortable comraderie…

However, this is not a series that I would personally call a must-see – I simply have no idea how I would recommend it to anyone. I’m not entirely sure why I don’t enjoy the maturity of the relationship all that much, especially since I despise most high-school romances these days. Perhaps it’s because I want them set in the real world, much like Kimi wa Pet? Or because anime romances simply don’t ring that true for me anyway? (The currently airing Natsuyuki Rendezvous, which will end in two weeks, will be another interesting case study.) And beyond its characters and how they relate to each other, Spice and Wolf really doesn’t have that much to offer – the animation is average for something of its vintage (2008 for the first series, 2009 for the second), and the various story arcs were somewhat uneven in terms of narrative quality. Whilst I quite enjoyed watching the one where Lawrence and Holo seemed about to part ways, none of them really grabbed me and never let go. To be frank, to me, the best thing about this series would have been the job did by the seiyuu. Which isn’t exactly the most exciting thing to say about it…

Where will they go from here? Are you interested enough to find out?

In sum, Spice and Wolf is probably not everyone’s cup of tea – some will love it, others not so much. That said, it’s a series that viewers should try out for themselves. That’s probably the only way to find out where you sit.

p.s. Is this one of the major reasons the pairing of Lelouch and Karen in Code Geass is so popular? They’re kinda cute here…but seriously, Lawrence and Holo are about as far as you can get from the former two, really.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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