Reviewby Michelle Yu, Jan 19th 2012
Spice and Wolf Season 1 - Complete Collection
Lawrence, a travelling merchant searching for profit, finds a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf asleep in his cart. Her name is Holo - a harvest goddess with an untamed beast lurking inside, who longs to return to her beloved northern home. Armed with his street smarts and her animal instincts, a simple peddler and a forgotten deity begin a journey through the wild countryside. Along their path, the riches of happiness shall be reaped, even as the bankruptcy in the human heart is exposed.
When the softly spoken merchant Lawrence found a naked girl named Holo in the back of his wagon, little did he realise the kind of adventure he had unwittingly become a part of. She was no girl, but rather a pagan goddess whose true form was that of a fox. Together they would go on to journey across the land with the goal of finding the goddess' hometown.
The series Spice and Wolf is based around the pair's journey, which largely consists of Lawrence's dealings as a merchant with Holo's animal instincts and sixth sense serving as his guide. The integration of underlying themes such as morality and human nature enrich the plot and are themes which viewers can easily relate to. It was also interesting to see that the writers integrated and addressed the ongoing universal struggle between conflicting religious beliefs and the potentially dire impact that it can have on humans. The introduction of economic principles also makes for an interesting concept in anime. Although the plot explores some deep and dark issues, the story as a whole appears to consist of equal parts drama and comedy with a hint of romance. The languid pace of the story seems to reflect the speed of physical travel, which is slow, but appropriate for the plot. However it is unlikely that the series will appeal to fans of fast-paced action genres.
The series appears to be set in an alternate universe inspired by Medieval Europe with horse-and-cart transportation, and buildings built in stone, wood and straw. This is first established by the opening theme- a ballad with progressions reminiscent of music played on a lute. This first struck me as unusual as it is fairly uncommon to hear a ballad used as an opening theme song, but it reflects the pace and the nature of the story.
The artistic style is aesthetically appealing without being overly pretty or detailed which should appeal to a fairly wide audience, although my personal taste leans toward more detailed styles. Any little details in the artwork would have also benefited from the high-definition capabilities of the Blu-Ray release. Despite this, I actually enjoyed the whimsical and childish artwork in the closing credits and felt that it was fun and suited the playful accompanying music. The Blu-Ray release also showcases the smooth animation throughout the feature.
The Blu-Ray release itself only includes textless songs and trailers as extras, which may prove useful to AMV enthusiasts or the like. But there are no “behind-the-scenes”, or “making of” features as typically seen on many releases. I would have personally liked to see some storyboards or concept art as extras since these are not things which are normally available or easily procured.
On the whole, Spice and Wolf is a series worth watching, but requires some patience in order to fully appreciate the pacing and complexities in the plot and in order to engage with the characters. The soundtrack also has great potential and is a nice break from the J-pop and J-rock fare which has been common in many anime series of late. Finally, the Blu-Ray release is a great option if not for the extras, then for the visual experience of engaging in an entertaining and cathartic experience in high definition.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Engaging plot and characters
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