Dec 5, 2014
TL;DR - Great show. Refreshing medieval drama without corny magic (stunning historically accurate and fun depiction of medieval economics and commerce), immensely likeable main characters, awesome period-appropriate soundtrack, amazing dub, good art. Watch this show, despite the unfortunate cliffhanger ending of Season 2.
This is a great lesson on 'Never judge a book by the cover'. That said, I wish they had a better cover... Spice and Wolf was marketed with a half-naked furry wolf girl. Like most people, I was repulsed by it at first sight. Little did I know this seemingly shallow fanservice poster girl is one of the deepest characters in any anime ever, and the show is far better than the light novels it's based on.
Spice and Wolf doesn't have a grand story - but follows the motivations of its two main characters - Lawrence, a traveling merchant, and Holo, an outcast diety traveling with him. This gives the show freedom to deeply invest into its arcs, and use them as an excellent form of character-building. It also does something great - leaves a lot unsaid, but does it so tastefully that it creates mystery and intrigue rather than frustration.
Besides one of the characters being an outcast god, this is an incredibly low-fantasy, low-magic medieval drama, and I haven't seen anything quite like it in Anime - that I enjoyed.
The main characters are incredible. They're fun, intelligent, and never compromised to move the plot along. When something happens, it almost always makes sense given the characters' motivations and flaws. The character flaws are so well written, which lets the characters be defined by their shortcomings as much as their strengths. It's great to see them experience joy, fear, exhileration, jealousy, rage... All in complex, unique, believable ways.
The side characters aren't as great, but their screen time is so limited that I don't care, they serve their purpose and don't overstay their welcome. Bonus points because the English Dub is far better than the Japanese and brings out the characters way more.
The animation isn't groundbreaking or extravagant, but is thoughtful and gorgeous. It captures the setting of a medieval world before the advent of mass industry, blending undisturbed nature with primitive settlements and medieval cities, all without obnoxious fantasy outfits and outlandish weapons. They changed the studio in the second season, but honestly the different style works pretty well too.
The soundtrack is great - Yuuji Yoshino seems to have gone to great lengths to specifically use historically accurate instrumentation and techniques, and it shows. Everything hits home, from the festival music (there's a LOT of festival music) to the darker, suspenful tracks.
I can't talk about the sound without bringing this up. WATCH. THE. DUB. The Japanese voices can't hold a candle to the English. J. Michael Tatum is a genius, and Brina Palencia is the definitive Holo. The Japanese voices are full of Anime cliches - and once removed, this show has almost none, making it a truly refreshing watch.
Don't miss it.
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