Years after the craze for wolf girls and pepper first began, I’ve finally gotten around to watching this. Right off the bat I’ll say that it’s pretty good, but I’m not sure why it was such an incredibly popular series or why the cast is so beloved by the fans, however I do see why so many people are capable of enjoying it on some level at least.
Spice and Wolf provides a lot of fairly well handled unique things right in the setup. A traveling trader in the medieval times with a wolf god in human form and a story focus on trade and some extreme situations it brings about. Sadly the economics, which are often said to be such a big thing by fans, are really lacking in the actual show. Economics not only barely ever come up, but when they do it’s extremely simple stuff – things you’d understand even as a kid like supply and demand or a coin having more value if there’s more of a mineral in it. It rarely ever delves into anything deeper than that, which keeps it from being interesting in that way as well as clashes with Lawrence’s supposed skill as a merchant. Several times in the story he makes terrible business decisions, falls for obvious scams, and even other times he doesn’t understand some of the stupidest shit imaginable. For example, when he can’t grasp why the furs that had a bunch of apples on them happen to smell like apples immediately after. Yes, that really happens. It’d be like wondering why your bathroom smells like shit after you drop a steaming log.
That doesn’t really get in the way of things too much though, it just makes it feel kind of hard to believe his character is supposedly so good at his job when he’s constantly shown as being incredibly inept. He’s also pretty inconsistent in some other ways, like his reactions to his companion in wolf form, or when it comes to the possibility of sex.
Since we’re on the topic of Lawrence, let’s hop over to Holo. Yes, Holo. They clearly say her name as Holo in the Japanese audio, there is no way this L was meant as an R. If you’ve listened to Japanese enough you’ll recognize they have a tough time saying R and do tend to pronounce it as L (oddly enough, as that’s the opposite of the stereotype), but there’s a clear difference in the sound when they do. This is very much an L and the only people who can’t accept that are ones who have an obsession with their fansubs.
Anyway, Holo is someone I felt was both good AND bad, it just really depended on the scene. My favorite parts were honestly when she was just ‘in’ a scene rather than ‘part’ of it and had no real lines or anything. Not in a ‘because she shut the fuck up’ way, but because they made sure she always has her doing something on her own off to the side or in the background, and she often had really great expressions during these times as well. Her personality is very run of the mill and she doesn’t do anything particularly spectacular with it either. Her character design bothered me as well, she just seems so “designed this way because this type of character sells well”. I get she was drawn this way for the light novels as well, but those need sales too so that doesn’t mean much. I just like characters – unoriginal or not – to feel like they happen to look the way they do. Holo feels designed to me rather than naturally looking this way, which in-universe actually kind of makes sense thanks to it being her self-designed human form.
Aside from them there are a lot of on and off characters that appear for story arcs, the best of which is the shepherd, Nora. Was it hard to guess she’d be my favorite thing in the show, along with her cute little dog? Probably not, and actually she’s the reason I was interested in the series all these years after seeing her while my brother watched this years ago. Luckily she’s as good as I was hoping and actually added some of the only surprises and legitimate character development in the show. She may not be a primary character, but she definitely is main within that arc which lasts awhile, and she’ll hopefully show up in season 2 which I’ve yet to watch.One big complaint I have is about the voice acting in both the Japanese audio and the English dub. In the dub, well, the name says it all: Brina Palencia. This ‘woman’ is known for being both an awful fucking voice actress as well as the worst ADR director the industry has ever seen, ruining even skilled VAs by forcing them to sound and act like shit – just like herself! In this case, luckily, she’s just an actress and not the ADR director, however her skills are as shitty as ever and being the lead character makes it pretty fucking hard to listen to. Lawrence was fine, but not good enough to make up for…that.
Now the other side, the Japanese. In this case both Holo AND Lawrence have some problems. The acting for Lawrence is great, but Holo sounds to be phoning it in half the time. My bigger problem though was in Lawrence’s seiyuu who, while he did a good job playing the role, did not fit the character at all. He sounds like a 15 year old high school harem protagonist, and this never stops being the case. Having tried both, I ultimately ended up watching in Japanese. You get used to Holo’s 75% effort and Lawrence’s uncharacteristic voice, and it ends up being totally fine.
The actual biggest complaint I have though is the way events and time are handled – or rather, the lack of handling it at all in situations it clearly was necessary. Now, if this is simply an adaptation error and makes more sense in the novels, fine, but I haven’t read them and this is a review for the anime, so yeah.
The problem is that multiple times in the show, the time that’s passed is relevant (and HUGELY relevant if you consider the massive plothole that creates the story in the second story arc). Without spoiling things, so not speaking of said massive plothole, the stuff that isn’t very spoily would be that the characters seem to grow far too close far too quickly. I understand the distances and how long it could take to cross them back then, but we’re hinted at or even straight up told how long it’s been on several occasions, yet the characters (and their funds) seem to have progressed months or years rather than the week or days we’re lead to believe it’s been. Some of that could be explained by Holo being a wolf (which actually aren’t like dogs at all in this manner, but it’s a fucking anime so I’ll assume they didn’t know) and thus growing attached very quickly, but not nearly all of it and not Lawrence becoming so close with her (and even trying to have sex with her) yet keeping such distance from Chloe (a character I didn’t much care for who is in the first portion of the show, yet who he has been close with for years and wants to further a relationship with) when she was even begging him to fuck her. Oh, and the money, nothing explains the MASSIVE money fluctuation that happens between the first and second arc.
The show usually is very enjoyable during serious arcs, albeit still has plenty of bumps within them. However, it falls in quality during any of the episodic/slice-of-life styled episodes which, luckily, are most prevalent at the very beginning and not much later on. If you start it out and don’t really get hooked, try keeping with it until the real story starts and see if that does something more for you but don’t expect too much either. The story arcs are pretty exciting and at times very tense or interesting, and very different from the way the show starts out.
Overall, the characters grow on you pretty well, the setting and type of story are both very fresh and handled in an entertaining and often exciting way, and even the music and art are nice too. It’s not some must-see, nor does it live up to all the massive popularity it had, but it’s enjoyable and unique enough that you should take the time out to watch it some day.
Spice and Wolf gets 7 apples out of 10.
I’d go with 7 seeds to plant inside of me but anyone who hasn’t heard that engrish as shit ending would assume some things.
Interesting read. I really need to watch this, it’s been sitting on my backlog for far too long.
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Great review. You hit the main points and made it fun to read. :)
Thanks! I was worried I may have dragged out a few of the problems a little too much but I’m glad it turned out enjoyable to read.
No problem. Keep up the good work! ;)
>It’d be like wondering why your bathroom smells like shit after you drop a steaming log.
You know I really do love your analogies.