Friday, April 27, 2012

Spice and Wolf Season One Anime Review

Spice and Wolf Season One
Okami to Koshinryo
Funimation
Complete Collection - 2 discs
325 mins. - 13 episodes
$59.98 (2009)
$49.98 (2010) Viridian
$49.98 (2011) Blu-Ray
$64.98 (2012) Blu-Ray Seasons 1-2
ISBN 704400011801
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Takeo Takahashi
Studio - Imagin

Synopsis: Kraft Lawrence is a travelling merchant passing through a familiar town during an annual harvest festival for the pagan wolf-spirit responsible for granting good crops of wheat.  He discovers a naked girl in his wagon with ears and a tail - she declares herself the wolf-goddess Holo and secures a deal with Lawrence for passage to her original homeland in the north.
Lawrence and Holo on the road
Skeptical at first, Lawrence's doubts at Holo's true nature are startlingly banished as she transforms before his eyes into a monstrous wolf-form.  The two develop a peculiar alliance as Holo proves to be a wise travelling companion and aids Lawrence in his merchant dealings.  The life of a merchant is not simple and fraught with dangers both financial and physical.
Spicey wolf
Over the course of their journey, Holo and Lawrence build a strong friendship based on both mutual respect and budding attraction.  Holo proves to be wise one moment and impetuous the next to humorous extents.  Various financial dealings pose both opportunity and misfortune for Lawrence and Holo is there to drink up any profits!
Holo drinks to your good fortune.  Now buy another round!
Several love interests appear to the frustration of Holo - a girl having a history with Lawrence from the village Holo blessed with good harvests and an attractive sheep herder with her trusty sheepdog.  Matters become complicated as Holo runs afoul of the Church who see her as a demon to be destroyed.  Can Lawrence manage to turn a profit with an untamed wolf-goddess at his side?
Lawrence and Holo argue about Norah the sheep herder
Pros: Great animation style with lush/detailed backgrounds, superb character interaction and development, cool story setup and cerebral plot, simple supply/demand economics of the merchant trade were a treat, Holo is great - a knowledgeable sage one minute and impatient thrill-seeker the next, great opening and ending theme songs, good dub
'Awwwwoooooooo!!' 
Cons: Too short (fortunately there is a Season Two available), very little action and slow-paced, high episode count per disc (6+) may affect picture quality on some players
Holo shows off her new outfit
Mike Tells It Straight: I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and depth of Spice and Wolf.  The plot and interactions between Lawrence and Holo were playful yet thought-provoking.  Any time you can add economics to an anime I'm thoroughly impressed (sorry, I'm an accountant).  The character development and romantic stirrings of the main characters was the real gem to the show.
Now that's one big and scary wolf [goddess]
Visuals were top notch from a studio I'm unfamiliar with (Imagin).  The backgrounds were incredible while the character designs were simple, but appropriate.  There's some nudity as Holo flaunts her human body a bit to make Lawrence uncomfortable - it's entirely brief with no details (i.e. nipples).  Blu-ray offers even better picture in HD and no complaints over artifacting due to high episode count per disc (I didn't experience this personally, but have seen some complaints).
'You wouldn't like me...with whiskers'
Only gripe is the lack of action, but when Holo got going she really tore things up.  Her wolf-form rampages reminded me of Princess Mononoke.  This first season was a great watch and I'm looking forward to checking out the second season.  Highly recommended if you're looking for something playfully mature and charming.

TO BUY and Recommendations: