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Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf
Episode 14

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 14 of
Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf ?
Community score: 4.1

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This week, we learn two essential things about Holo: she can't read, and her hangovers kick like a mule. That's why we love her, folks. No wonder Lawrence is so smitten.

First things first, we hear a new OP and ED ringing in the second half. I'm always happy to detect the unmistakable huskiness of Aimer's voice, but I wish the song itself were folksier. As is, the songwriting and arrangement don't stray far from the baroque and melodramatic pop rock she's wont to do. While that's not a bad thing, I think this would have been a perfect opportunity to be more adventurous. The opening animation, however, is quite strong. Compared to the first, I think it does more with less, and I really like the final transition from Lawrence walking through wheat to settling on top of Holo's furry back. There's a sense of intimacy here befitting of their deepening relationship.

The ED is a stranger affair, with the pop duo NeRiAme digging into bubbly electronic sounds with gentle hip-hop elements. I suppose this satisfies the "adventurous" quality I just asked for, but I don't know if it fits this series' tone right. ROCKY CHACK's catchy songwriting cemented their unapologetically jangly ending song in the annals of anime history. I don't think this one has enough juice to pull off an equivalent stunt. Maybe it'll grow on me, though. And unsurprisingly, Jū Ayakura comes through with another set of cute illustrations. Bonus points for the shot of a sleeping Lawrence pulling the sheets off a very vexed Holo. They're obviously already married.

Onto the show proper, I don't know if there's a better way to introduce a new Spice & Wolf arc than four uninterrupted minutes of Holo and Lawrence bantering. He successfully negotiates a tail blanket by complimenting the sheen of her fur. She effortlessly parries his "you're not my type" jab into a riposte of "Oh, so you only like me when I'm all cute and demure?" I chuckled throughout. Per usual, plenty of genuine care and affection is shared in these exchanges, but these feelings are delivered behind the talons of witticisms and flirtations. The writing of the dialogue has also grown more sophisticated with each passing arc, which is a cool thing to pick up on while I'm revisiting this series. It makes sense that Hasekura would have honed his talents with each new volume, but it's nice to perceive that and enjoy those fruits.

That increased authorial aptitude benefits other parts of the narrative as well. While this is a low-key episode on the surface, it does a great job setting up the events and themes to follow in this chapter of Holo and Lawrence's story. We meet Amati and sus his whole deal from a single conversation—Lawrence might frequently stumble around Holo, but Amati falls ass over teakettle for her. And while he can lord his seniority over Amati, when Lawrence meets up with his other merchant buddy, he hears the ticking of Father Time. This guy already has a stand, a wife, a kid, and an apprentice. It's no wonder, then, that Lawrence later accidentally blurts out his concern about Yoitsu's distance from the nearest town. Holo acknowledges as much. Her frame of reference works on a far different timescale than Lawrence's. Any development of their relationship will inevitably run into that wall.

Bubbling beneath the surface is another source of conflict: Yoitsu's fate. Based on what he's overheard, Lawrence believes it may already be gone, but he's scared to tell Holo and utterly dash her hopes. That's completely in character for Lawrence, whose kindness often gets ahead of his other qualities, for better and for worse. Holo, however, is too smart to have not entertained that idea already. Note that she tends to reminisce when drinking, which lowers the mental barriers she usually props up around Yoitsu. Booze is also a tried-and-true way to forget, and her killer hangover this week reminds us that she's not immune from overindulging. Neither of them wants to confront the possibility that this whole journey may be for nothing, and it's only a matter of time before that blows up in both of their faces.

A journey is more than its destination, though; there's no reason to get too ahead of ourselves. There's a festival on the horizon, and with it will surely arrive another opportunity for profit (that Lawrence can bungle in one way or another). On that note, I really like the bit with the belated letter warning him about the armor market. It's easy to take for granted how quickly we can send and receive information nowadays when those limited avenues of communication were literally life-or-death affairs in ye olde times. Then again, Holo and Lawrence don't have to deal with LLM-generated slop and hostile algorithms drowning out the entire corpus of human-composed text several times over, so I guess it's all relative. Now excuse me as I head to my nearest tavern for a tankard of grog.

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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