Wolves are beautiful creatures to look at. You see them prowling around the woods with their pack and rule the territory that they claim as their own. There is no doubt that they have been the focal point in some anime shows over the years, but when have you seem them being used as an intelligent focal point in a show’s narrative? Out comes Spice and Wolf, a tale that follows two of our heroes in their journey involving mercantilism, to convince us once and for all that you can pull off a simple concept and make something brilliant out of it.
Spice and Wolf sets up as your typical traveler’s type of story where we follow Kraft Lawrence, a traveling merchant who deals with trading anything that is profitable and makes a fortune out of it. He is then confronted with a Wolf goddess named Holo who wants to come with him in his travels and help him with his business for reasons that involve trying to establish a bond between Kraft and her. What is very fascinating about the relationship between our two main leads is how perfectly paced the bond is between Holo and Kraft. There is no awkward transition between the two automatically becoming lovers over the course of a day or two into the story, or in this case episodes if we’re being more formal here. The show takes it’s time to build it up slowly so that we can breathe into the scenes that involve them talking to one another and displays them increasing their relationship’s strength in a realistic fashion than relying on pointless melodrama. Not there is not any drama between the two but it doesn’t come across as being hammy or out-of-place, it fits well with the scene it portrays and succeeds quite nicely.
It also helps to the show’s credit that the way Kraft and Holo enhance their relationship isn’t just through romantic dialog or dialog that only involve positive responses, they get into arguments, they disagree a lot, and things don’t always work out between each others plans. Just like what a real relationship is like for most people. You see this a lot in anime and movies that tackle romance in a formulaic style that doesn’t seem very organic or pragmatic from how relationships are really like in a real world setting. Not that portraying relationships in that way is bad, but it’s refreshing to see something like Spice and Wolf pull it off and do it in a successful way.
Now let us talk about both characters individually. To my surprise, Kraft turned into a very memorable male lead by the simple fact that they build him up around an archetype that could have easily been bland or generic. I say this because when you deconstruct Kraft as a character, there really isn’t that much to go around other than that he’s just a simple merchant and nothing else but the way they write him as this strong individualistic character who can handle any given situation with ease comes at a shock considering how Kraft has to one up Holo in terms of character traits. Now Holo, the main star of the show, is one of, if not, the greatest female leads that has ever graced the screen. She’s witty, sly, and is an absolute joy to watch when she is front and center. Normally any character like Holo could be looked as a cheap way of shoving in nudity or a generic female character to spice things up, no pun intended. With Spice and Wolf the way it handles Holo’s development and personality is very mature and charming in the witty writing that she is given that definitely makes for an interesting character study of how Holo and Kraft come across as very believable characters in how they carry the story forward in a delightful aspect.
The story’s writing, while relying heavily on economic theory, is top-notch and lenient to where it isn’t necessarily hard to understand what is going on. Spice and Wolf’s economics is grounded upon Medieval lore, where the economy was a little simpler to understand than in today’s economic system. What really works well in this demeanor is how it doesn’t drag on the narrative too much. How the characters explain their economic motives is not only interesting in an intellectual standpoint but also makes for a strong gripping drama from the way it trickles down to Kraft’s eventually economic troubles. Even if you are not a scholar in an economic school, you can still feel the pressure that Kraft and Holo are going through when the eventual climax sets in when they have to find out a way to get out of their debt. How they portray the politics that involve heavily with the church is intellectually honest in how things were running in the era and they portray it with the narrative to good effect on how bribery and trading being done on a daily basis between the economic markets that existed in the past.
Artistically, Spice and Wolf doesn’t break any new ground in regards to animation but the backgrounds and the character designs are all done superfluously well. The lush colors in the backgrounds of the mountains and trees, the grimy walls that inhabit the cities and towns they go through, and the darkness that surrounds them really add to the atmosphere that make you feel like you’re really looking at a Medieval world. While the animation isn’t special, the scenes that involve Holo’s wolf transformation were done with good effect in its direction to make it mysterious and dark to let us know that she is a living breathing goddess.
Music and voice acting do their jobs well although the music itself wasn’t anything that stood up as highlights of the show. It features music that fits well to the setting that involves a nice orchestral score that adds to the overall feel of every scene. However the voice acting is exceptionally well done, the main contender for being the best one is Ami Koshimizu. Her sultry remarks with her sly voice for an entertaining listen. That and with Jun Fukuyama’s straight man personality make for the great chemistry between the two leads even better in that regard.
All things considered, Spice and Wolf is a glorious achievement to witness for anyone looking for great storytelling and a great world to experience. It is near perfect with its brilliant character development and astounding use of political themes to meet a well-balanced character story. It’s the type that once you finish you want to experience more of its world but not in a negative sense where they do a poor job of expanding it’s plot and world to full effect. Spice and Wolf does the exact opposite where you’re fulfilled with joy in being shown this contextual landscape to great effect and you hunger for more exploration. The only way to do that for the creators of shows consistent to Spice and Wolf is to look over the show’s horizon and embellish the story to new heights with the setting and characters. There’s no telling whether it will succeed or fail but it’s the effort that definitely counts.