Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 312 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Sugar and spice and all things nice.
Every once and awhile an anime series like Spice and Wolf comes along and reminds me why I love my job as a reviewer so much or why anime is loved all over the world. Having heard good things about it in Japan a long while back, I was glad when FUNimation brought it over to our shore and, this being The Complete First Season that offers the first 13 episodes of the series, I can safely say that by the end of the last episode you will be wishing FUNimation will bring us the next season as well.
Spice and Wolf tells the tale of Craft Lawrence, a traveling merchant, who returns to a familiar village that has – for years – worshipped a wolf deity that has become a harvest goddess in the eyes of the farmers. After having met up with a fellow merchant named Chloe who is interested in him, Lawrence decides to move on to his next route when he discovers he has a stowaway in the back of his wagon. What he discovers is a beautiful naked girl resting amongst the pelts he plans on selling.
As it turns out, this beautiful naked girl has a fluffy tail and wolf ears and she goes by the name of Holo … the same name of the wolf deity that has become the village’s harvest goddess. Holo is aware that times have changed and belief in her is now replaced by a church that believes in only one true God. As a result, she thinks its better off if she just went back home somewhere in the northern woods. So, seeing no other choice but to find herself a noble companion, she asks Lawrence is she could travel with him.
Convinced that he is traveling with Holo the Wise Wolf, Lawrence tells all he meets that he is traveling with his wife. He discovers that not only can this girl transform into her real wolf form but she can also sniff out lies. As it turns out, Holo is even good at business as she convinces a merchant to buy the pelts at double the buying price. She also warns Lawrence of a shady business proposal a young man named Zheren brings to Lawrence’s attention involving minted coins. Smelling a swindle as well, Lawrence decides to take a chance on Zheren’s proposal and this is where the trouble begins for both of them.
As it turns out, the deal was too good to be true and it also involves Medio Trading Company that has targeted Holo and sets out to capture her. It seems somebody knows Holo’s true identity and as the pair try to escape the cute wolf girl gets captured. Lawrence turns to a rival trading company for help to stage a rescue mission to save Holo and it is during the rescue that Lawrence discovers the identity of the person behind Medio Trading. Believe me, it’s a surprising revelation.
Oh but Holo’s true form is an impressive one and the two manage to escape thanks to Holo’s true strength in her original form. Back on the road again thanks to the rival trading company that helped them, Lawrence and Holo set off to the north only to meet a young female shepherd named Nora Arendt who is skilled at fighting off wolves. Nora asks to be hired by Lawrence – to Holo’s surprising disapproval – and they travel to Lawrence’s home kingdom.
Once again, things go bad for the pair as Lawrence discovers that the deal he was planning on making back in his home turn has turned soar. It seems the company he was dealing with never told him the value of the armor he planned on selling went down dramatically in value. As a result, Lawrence is in severe debt with said company and has only two days to pay it off. With nobody in the kingdom wanting to give him a loan, Holo comes up with a gold smuggling scheme. With the aid of Nora, they secure the gold only to find betrayal again but this time Holo decides to do everything in her power to keep Lawrence from coming to harm.
Despite one being human and the other being a God-like entity, half the fun of this series is the growing affection Holo and Lawrence have for each another. Sure, she often calls him an idiot and loves to endlessly teasing him and requesting lots of food and drink but in her own way she comes to seek his approval and his affection. Lawrence learns a lot about himself through Holo and later enjoys to tease he in return. Their relationship is never forced or contrived and that’s what makes them so endearing and so much fun to watch. Director Takeo Takahashi does a brilliant job making the interaction between the two a central part of the series.
Never short on all the things we love about good anime, The Complete First Season of Spice and Wolf is not only a remarkable entertaining story but it’s also a meaningful one that makes it feel like one of those grand fables told at bedtime. It’s a fantastical tale that is inviting and oftentimes endearing and if you miss this one you will kick yourself for it. Trust me when I say that you will hope and pray that FUNimation brings us the rest of this series. It’s just that good.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
A traveling peddler named Craft Lawrence discovers that he has the reincarnation of a harvest goddess by the name of Holo that stowed away in his cart. Both Lawrence and Holo travel together and learn that both the merchant life and making sense of human feelings are hard enough without backstabbing trading companies and an angry church after them.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation is actually quite stunning and even more so on DVD. This is one of those series that definitely needs to be on Blu-ray as well.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
A very strong voice acting cast makes the Japanese and English dub equally stellar so if you prefer one of the other you will not be disappointed in the very least. If you absolutely love the lovely original score just as much as we do you have Yuji Yoshino to blame for that. I also love “Tabi no tochuu” sung by Natsumi Kiyoura but think the closing theme song, “Ringo biyori” weird yet somehow cute.
There’s no real extras on this two-disc set although the box art is gorgeous. There are trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs but we would have love some audio commentary.
The Complete First Season of Spice and Wolf is, without a doubt, a genuinely enchanting and fulfilling series that is a refreshing breath of fresh air for those looking for a story that speaks from the heart even though one of the characters isn’t even human. If this is what the First Season looks like we definitely want the next season as well.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment