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Spice and Wolf, Season Two PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Thursday, 16 August 2012 00:00
Time for the second season of Spice and Wolf. The first season was, well, okay - a little too much trading, and probably not enough Holo. Colour me pleasantly surprised, then, when the second season gets the balance just about right...

The first episode on the disc is an OVA episode, tying this season in with the first (Nora features heavily) and setting the groundwork for one of the major themes of this one: Holo's growing attachment to Lawrence. From there, we move on into the season proper, where like last time we get two main story arcs - which both deal with the thorny subject of Holo as an item to be traded. It's not that Lawrence is getting into the rather dodgy territory of thinking of women as property - can't really see Holo falling for that one - but when business opportunities arise that would involve trading her as part of shady schemes, then with her informed consent the game is on. There's also a running thread of romance, when a cocky young trading associate of Lawrence's takes a particular shine to Holo - in the process sparking Lawrence's jealousy and leading to a growing awareness that the pair are really more than just travelling partners.

That cocky young associate is Amarty who, after believing a brush-off line from Holo (she'd told him that she was only travelling with Lawrence due to a debt she owed him) burns with righteous indignation that Lawrence could be keeping her in such a way. And so, a deal is made: if Amarty can raise the amount of the alleged debt (not small), he would be able to buy Holo's freedom (and, he's hoping, her hand in marriage, because she couldn't help but love him after that). To raise the money, he has to make some risky investments in pyrite - Fool's Gold, which thanks to the marketing skills of a local swindler is in great demand at the moment. Lawrence, meanwhile, has his own plan to make sure Amarty doesn't win, by manipulating the pyrite market in the hope that it'll crash. What could possibly go wrong?

As usual with Lawrence's schemes, pretty much everything - which can also be said for the second scheme he gets involved in, hooking up with reclusive trader Eve in a scheme that relies on using Holo as collateral to help break a local trade embargo. The problem with Lawrence is that he's far too trusting: in the first arc, he's relying on the help of a reclusive alchemist; in the second, he's making deals with Eve after little more than an evening's conversation. He jumps right in where anyone else would stop and think, and then wonders why it all goes wrong. In the first season, large doses of Coincidence and a little help from Holo combined to make sure it all worked out okay - this time around, it's mostly Holo, which removes one of my main complaints about the show. So far, so good.

Holo is, as ever, a joy to watch and (particularly) listen to - and in this season the wordplay and flirting between her and Lawrence is kicked up a gear to become something that's special to watch. That Lawrence is so able to say the wrong things at the wrong time with her is a talent you wouldn't wish on anyone, but those mis-steps are what gives them the excuse to go back, talk a lot, and through the course of the series begin to articulate what they've come to feel for each other during their travels. The small detail of Holo being non-human isn't glossed over either - she knows what it means to get attached to humans, with their frailties and short lives, and she has to reconcile that with what she's feeling. Yes, it's mushy territory, which could so easily have been frankly dull or embarrassing to watch - but the way it's presented, the way the pair talk things through, is quite masterfully done and really the highlight of the season. It's also a great improvement on the first season's conversations between the two, which mostly revolved around trading.

Amarty and Eve liven things up, as well. Amarty isn't so much a villain as a figure of fun - young, gullible, and thinking with his hormones rather than his head, it's hard not to feel some sympathy for him, especially when he comes agonisingly close to pulling off his plan. Eve is at the other end of the scale - an ominous presence from the first time you see her, it's fairly clear that Lawrence is being an idiot by trusting her, and so it proves to be. But she's interesting, there's depth to her personality that takes a while to be explained, and that neatly balances out the desire to thwack Lawrence for being so gullible. Again.

All told, then, this was a great improvement on the first season, and a joy to watch. You could still take issue with the pacing and with the rather predictable ways that Lawrence gets out of his trading problems with, but those are small issues compared to the enjoyment of watching Holo in action, and the seasons is worth seeing for that alone.

Rating - ****