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Spice and Wolf Season One PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Friday, 10 August 2012 00:00
Wolves. Nasty creatures - large, powerful, dangerous, likely smelly, and not something you'd want to spend too much time travelling with. Unless the wolf concerned is Holo, who has the appearance of a teenage girl, a suitably playful personality - and an innate talent for negotiation and economics, which is proving rather useful to travelling trader Lawrence...

Craft Lawrence, a 25-year-old traveling merchant, arrives at the town of Pasloie during its harvest festival. In the fields surrounding the village, Lawrence meets a girl claiming to be the legendary wolf deity, Holo. Lawrence, in disbelief, asks her to prove it so the girl returns to her wolf form before disappearing. Back in town, Lawrence meets with a younger girl named Chloe, a former student of his. She asks if she can become Lawrence's business partner, but he declines, telling her that she is too young to make such a risky move. After leaving the town, Lawrence meets Holo again and learns that she escaped the town so that she can visit her homeland in the north. Lawrence agrees to let her accompany him on his travels...

Spurning Chloe turns out to be a rather bad move for Lawrence, as the first of the two story arc in this set eventually reveals - a one point she warns Lawrence, "Take me lightly and you'll regret it", and she certainly makes that warning come true. But first: Holo. She truly is a deity, god of the harvest in the area around Pasloie - but the growing influence of the Christian church in the lands around the town have led to a corresponding decline in peoples' belief in her - to the point where she's almost a thing of fable and tradition now, and little more. As a result, she's feeling pangs of homesickness for the northern lands she came from many years before, and wants to go home - and travelling with Lawrence would seem to be an enjoyable way of doing that. And so the travelling pair is borne.

Holo is a joy to watch. From the way she gets on, to her vocal patterns (I could listen to her - or more accurately, I suppose, her Japanese VA Ami Koshimizu - all day), to the way she bamboozles with words every poor sod who dares negotiate with her, she's the highlight of the show, and probably the one case where I would genuinely watch purely for the character. That's a huge plus for the series right there.

It's one the series needs, too, as to be frank, travels through a medieval world and talking extensively about trading isn't exactly the most exciting of subjects - but it's what we have to work with here. Lawrence has been travelling and trading for years - he's not exactly new to this - but he does seem to have a knack for getting himself into trouble. In the first of the two arcs here (spearated by an OVA episode), he gets caught up in a shady plan to make money off the back of a currency devaluation, while also having to deal with the anger of a woman scorned (that'll be Chloe, in case you hadn't guessed); in the second, he finds himself on the verge of bankruptcy when the bottom falls out of the heavy armour market. And the world that the series is set in doesn't treat bankrupts kindly. Holo, fortunately, is on hand to help him get out of trouble again, with a combination of her aforementioned negotiation skills and, when that doesn't work, her lupine true form, which you really don't want to argue with.

The economics discussions I could do without, frankly. At least when [C] dealt with such things, it did it by creating flashy battles out of them; Spice and Wolf just talks. A lot. If you pay attention, that does mean you'll never feel lost in the story, it's all thoroughly explained as it goes, but even with Holo's voice to liven things up it does still get a tad dull in places. It also suffers from an over-reliance on convenience in sorting out Lawrence's problems, which is unfortunate. As each arc gets towards its climax, though, things do pick up pace, there are some decent action and chase scenes, and I did find myself getting increasingly drawn into the tales. Just a shame they couldn't work at that pace for more of the time.

After watching this season, I'll admit I'm a little split on Spice and Wolf. It does have appeal in certain areas, but the main focus - trading and talk of it - is handled at such a leisurely pace that losing interest is a risk. Holo's there to brighten things up and does a damned good job if it (this wouldn't work nearly so well with a human companion for Lawrence, I suspect), but she's almost propping the series up on her own. Could definitely be better - one for the rental list, I'd say.

Rating - ***