For the past few days, I’ve been in the strange mood to compare animation-companies. Don’t ask me why, I’m not sure myself. In any case, Spice and Wolf (or Ookami to Koshinryou) has been produced by Imagin, whose only previous work basically consisted out of a bunch of notoriously bad fanservice-series (Hit wo Nerae, Cosprayers, Love Love?), so no, I can’t really say that I was anticipating this release. Turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Or in this case: an old wolf.
Even though it may not look like it, Spice and Wolf is what you’d call a smart and down-to-earth series. The two main characters are surprisingly deep for only thirteen episodes. Their motivations are well-motivated, much more than what you’d see in usual anime, and they have a lot of different and complex sides. They both start to travel together, in a setting reminiscent of medieval Europe, though this isn’t a story about knights at all, it’s about merchants.
And this series really makes use of this, by showing us the ins and outs of the life of a merchant, while both Lawrence and Horo (the two main characters) provide critical commentary and analysis to the things that they run into. The dialogue is of a really high-quality, and it’s no wonder that the light novel that this series was based on won an award. This becomes especially apparent when the major female side-character gets introduced: I was really convinced that the show would turn into a cheesy love-triangle at one point, but it’s the opposite! Her appearance and use in the story is carefully explained, as well the relation that she has between Lawrence and Horo.
As for the bad points for this series – if you plan to watch this, you really have to be interested in merchants. Otherwise it’ll just bore the heck out of you. Aside from the side-character mentioned above, the other characters in this series also pale in comparison to the main cast. Sure, their motivations are explained well enough, but it feels like they could have been used and fleshed out much better than this series did.
The highlight of this series is definitely the final three episodes, where everything comes together like a charm. In one word, these episodes are fascinating, and close off the series without leaving a bad taste whatsoever, and still leaving space open for a possible continuation. The first arc may feel a bit lacking, but this is still another great series from the past winter-season.