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Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf
Episode 11

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf ?
Community score: 4.4

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This episode might be light on economics, but it's laden with good drama and great yapping. Seriously, this is the most pleased I've walked away from Merchant Meets the Wise Wolf since its inception. My fondness of the material has carried me through many of this anime's lulls, but I have little to complain about this week.

The episode's centerpiece is Holo's girl talk with Nora, which is a delightful dance of dialogue. Nora isn't much of a conversationalist, but you can tell it's due to a lack of opportunity, not a lack of trying. Sheep don't make for talkative company. Picking up on this, Holo engages and eases her into a lighthearted chat that opens our wise wolf to her favorite topic: dunking on Lawrence. While her ribald sense of humor flusters Nora, it breaks the ice, which is what it needs to do. And between her jokes, you can tell Holo enjoys the chance to shoot the breeze with another woman, even if she is a shepherd. It's funny to watch Lawrence's eyes widen every time Nora notices one of Holo's wolfish qualities while Holo plays it off coolly. By the end, Nora is comfortable enough to crack her quip about Enek "cheating" on her, so Holo's friendliness bears fruit.

Outside of that pocket of jocularity, though, this mission is a tense affair. With that in mind, I have to praise this adaptation for capturing that tension well. The campfire scene balances light and shadow well, using that contrast alongside the characters' actions and expressions to communicate the wolves' invisible threat. It's a big step up from the sewer sequence in the first arc. It accomplishes more with less, which is the smart move for a production being stretched thin. Likewise, the editing during the wolf chase is rhythmic and controlled. The cuts themselves have some jank, but the stitching of the scene as a whole balances the action between the wolves, the sheep, and the people. This maintains momentum until Holo uses The Voice to tell the pups to buzz off. I thought both of these scenes were great. For the first time since the premiere, I found this adaptation more confident than compromised. Hopefully, that's a sign of better things to come.

And while I'm being nice, I should also say that the soundtrack is standout this week. Kevin Penkin's compositions have been consistently good—no surprise there—but it's been difficult for me to get over my fondness for Yuuji Yoshino's work on the original series. Here, however, I could feel this adaptation cresting over that hump. It's possible it took me most of the season to work past my biases, but I'm inclined to say that this episode utilizes its music more effectively. The expressive vocals complement the drama of the chase scene, and the woodwinds layer an ethereal atmosphere over Holo's standoff against the guardian of the forest wolves.

I'm also a big fan of the narrative misdirection employed in this arc. The story builds up two main roadblocks to Holo and Lawrence's plan: the wolf pack and the discovery of their scheme. Nora and Holo deal with the wolves, and their Remerio representative handles the negotiations in Lamtra without issue, so things seem to be in control as we approach the end of the episode. Note, too, that both threats were largely invisible to Lawrence, so there was no way for him to deal with them outside of relying on his companions. As he's wallowing in self-pity, a third source of danger catches us off guard: Remerio Trading. In hindsight, it's stupidly obvious that their desperation would incite them to use what little power they've retained to screw over their even more desperate business partner. These are the cold-blooded calculations a company makes to save its skin.

In practice, however, their actions are nakedly revolting. Spice & Wolf depicts Lawrence's attackers not as mustache-twirling tycoons but as cowardly weenies constantly looking for the easiest way out. They sigh in relief at the assumption Holo is already dead, and they leave Lawrence tied up in the rain as wolf food since that saves them the trouble of bloodying their own hands further. They're hilariously despicable in their mundanity. However, they are also men, and they're working for merchants. Those are areas in which Lawrence has some expertise, so he may be able to use his talents to resolve this crisis.

It's tempting to lay into Lawrence's naivete because that's what entangled everybody into this mess in the first place. However, that's also what makes his character and these stories compelling. Spice & Wolf would be much less fun if he were a master merchant who could wheel and deal with his hands tied behind his back. I'd rather watch him wriggle out of jams, and I want to see Holo help him do so. Also, if anything, we should be praising Lawrence this week for spontaneously saying something that impressed Holo. He's not out of the game yet.

Rating:

Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. He still knows "The Wolf Whistling Song" by heart. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.



Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.


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