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Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf
Episode 12

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf ?
Community score: 4.3

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You might recall I wasn't too hot on the first arc's conclusion. The combination of inconsistent animation, poor direction, and lackluster writing highlighted the worst of Spice & Wolf, which is otherwise a series I'm quite fond of. I'm happy to report, then, that this episode caps the second arc on a much more sonorous note.

As far as big action climaxes go, this is an appreciable improvement over the first arc. The anime handles Holo's wolf form more confidently this time around, and that's important considering how much more screen time she gets here. I'd still prefer this adaptation to storyboard more cleverly because the insistence on showing Holo in full and in action worsens the cracks in an already struggling production. In other words, there's jank aplenty. This week's best cuts focus on the part of the wise wolf, not the whole, e.g., her paws digging into the ground or her tail brushing against Lawrence. Her face is expressive, too, which helps her canine form feel like a more natural extension of the haughty Holo we've come to know and love.

Her humility, however, is what saves the day. While she vents to Lawrence about bending the knee to the forest youngsters, she does so because it is the right move to guarantee his and Nora's safety. Similarly, she stops herself short of attacking and killing the loathsome (in her eyes) shepherd and traitorous Liebert. Lawrence's premonition reminds us that Holo is bestial, but her actions confirm she is no mere beast. And considering that rash thinking is what got our protagonists into this hole, the calm and rational approach should lift them out of it.

Per usual, Spice & Wolf looks at this development through the eyes of an economist. Holo had some moral grounds to wolf down Liebert and his men, and Lawrence certainly had justification to irrevocably ruin Remerio. Lawrence, however, chooses to continue his business with them. He foregoes the short-term satisfaction of easy revenge and instead opts to use his newfound leverage to erase his debt and extract long-term value out of Remerio. It's a shrewd decision for the extra profit it nets Lawrence and because it's arguably crueler than outright killing or bankrupting them. He inflicts a more protracted wound. I find this incredibly satisfying because so many contemporary business leaders prioritize quick profits over long-term growth, which manages to be both dumb and evil. Lawrence reminds us of the beautiful dream of capitalism, which is unattainable in reality but nice to see on paper.

The romantic exchanges are also top-tier this week. Holo sublimates her concern for the badly wounded Lawrence by scolding him for keeping her cloak so pristine by comparison. Later, Lawrence teases Holo for her fixation on whose name he shouted in the heat of the moment. You might think they'd be close enough now to foster a straightforward swapping of feelings, but that closeness informs their banter's performativity. These circumlocutious conversations act as barriers and substances; they express distance and intimacy. Holo and Lawrence know they're in love with each other, but due to the circumstances of their lives, meeting, and eventual departure, neither of them knows how to navigate these waters. Lawrence doesn't know what to do with a centuries-old harvest goddess, and Holo doesn't know what to do with a frustratingly earnest traveling merchant. But they both enjoy trading witticisms with all the parries and ripostes of a good fencing match. That's a comfortable start. And there's plenty of road stretched before them to work on the rest.

And to speak on that road, I'm glad we've got another twelve episodes immediately ahead. While I still question the motivation to reset the clock, the increasingly rare luxury of a two-part season provides some cause for celebration. I feel like I'm settled in with this adaptation now, as if I'm lounging on some hay in the back of a horsedrawn cart, watching the countryside slowly roll by. The path is bumpy, but I'm not going to hop off anytime soon. I wouldn't want to miss the couple's bickering at the reins.

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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