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Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf
Episode 8

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf ?
Community score: 4.1

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There's an adage about a wolf in sheep's clothing, but not one about a wolf in girl's clothing who happens to be around sheep because a shepherd joined her party. While that may not exactly roll off the tongue, it's the next step of the current Spice & Wolf arc. Nora's temporary team-up with Holo and Lawrence instigates extra squabbling and pushes the horizon past the perspective of a merchant and a wise wolf. In other words, it builds another solid episode.

Nora is a fun character. There's a lot beneath her surface appearance as a demure shepherd in the employment of the Church. This turns into a strong demonstration of Lawrence's wiles since he quickly picks up on her dissatisfaction with the terms of her current work. She's hustling her wolf-repellant services. She has dreams of being a tailor. She wants more than what the Church would allow her. Lawrence sees some of himself in Nora, so he can't help but lend her a hand. This isn't dissimilar from what drew him and Holo together, so the Wise Wolf of Yoitsu perceives this as an encroachment into her territory. His timbre with Nora, though, is far more professional than the banter that Holo always goads him into.

The story plays up the "jealous woman" archetype for Holo more uncritically than I'd like. It's funnier and more novel when the wolf/shepherd dichotomy fuels her animosity towards Nora. That said, the best scene in the episode is probably Holo belly-laughing at Lawrence's attempt to be a smooth operator. The thing is, he is a smooth operator. He has the gift of gab, no doubt honed over his years as a traveling merchant who makes a living on the ability to strike up a rapport with a stranger. Holo, however, roasts him mercilessly and affectionately. If they weren't already so close, her laugh wouldn't pierce so violently through his defenses. In fact, she wouldn't be laughing in the first place if they didn't already share a bond that opened both of them to these playful jabs and japes.

Quietly, this episode emphasizes the role and importance of large organizations in this setting. First and foremost, the Church backs Nora as her employer, which adds another angle to the already inescapable influence they exhibited in the previous arc. We can probably assume they ran the poor shelter that Nora grew up in too, and Lawrence additionally references an order of holy knights. In the secular world, people also rely on guilds to do business. Nora is gathering funds to pay the tailors' association, and Lawrence stops in to visit the trading house he belongs to, which is itself a branch of a larger merchants' guild. The cumulative effect of these details is a setting that feels authentic and bigger than just Holo and Lawrence. Economics functions on both the micro and macro levels, so it behooves the writing to pay attention to both scales. I believe that quality has been paramount to the franchise's popularity and longevity. It's not just about Holo's cuteness (but that helps, too).

Nevertheless, those small bits of humor sprinkled throughout an episode of Spice & Wolf also add up to a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Holo pinches Lawrence's leg when he calls wolves troublesome. Enek and Holo exchange secret sideways glances across the pasture. Lawrence bribes Holo with bread. Holo snatches Lawrence's beef jerky out of his mouth with her fangs. Okay, that last example might be hotter than funny, but it's still a fun character beat. Even if they're not officially an item, their chemistry is the well that the narrative keeps returning to draw from, and that's smart.

Finally, this episode lays the groundwork for the conflict to come. While we can't pinpoint what's going on yet, Lawrence keeps picking up on weird responses when he mentions his imported armor, so we can expect something related to that. And to be honest, I totally forget what the economics lesson in this volume is (it's been 15 years, cut me some slack), so I'm eager to learn it all over again.

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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