Region: 2 - UK
Length: 325 minutes
Japanese Dolby Digital Stereo
Hunting for riches more precious than gold! Lawrence, a travelling merchant searching for profit, finds a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf asleep in his cart. Her name is Holo a harvest goddess with an untamed beast lurking inside who longs to return to her beloved northern home. Armed with his street smarts and her animal instincts, a simple peddler and a forgotten deity begin a journey through the wild countryside. Along their path, the riches of happiness shall be reaped, even as the bankruptcy which dwells in the human heart is exposed.
If for you, the draw was the notion of a naked wolf girl, you can forget the fanservice. Spice and Wolf is a far cry from other kemonomimi works like Kanokon or Omamori Himari. The nudity, while comely, is incidental. Holo’s femininity is bound to her nature. It is just a facet of her sublime being, an ethereal and earthly presence that intermingles on screen to make a character as exotic as she is feral.
Holo is a wanderer, her people have turned away from the folly of appeasing the harvest deity and she yearns to return to the wilds of her kind. Teaming up with Lawrence takes her from a life that fades with tradition, casting her vibrant soul into the turmoil of loneliness.
One of the most engaging elements of the show’s dynamics is the complexity of the relationship between the human merchant Lawrence and Holo. Ostensibly, they are travelling partners, but Lawrence is no simpleton. He is not a man who succumbs to the wolfish or abundant womanly wiles of Holo. In his heart he is a man made merchant, travelling to purvey goods and to turn a profit. Always he is both aware and wary of the wolf inside the girl and while he is not immune to her beauty and cunning he always maintains enough distance to save face and his own skin.
Holo meanwhile is deep and dark, swift currents of power and potency stir beneath her human disguise. Like any adorable creature, she plays the petulant pet to her advantage – when she can. Mocking and teasing Lawrence, provoking him with her wit and allure, she does what she can to amuse herself and to satisfy her hunger, which tends to be typically canine and mostly revolves around her culinary cravings.
They are companions who share an intimacy more complex than sex and more loyal than mere lovers. It is a very mature series, not least because it never resorts to an obvious treatment of these partners who are from completely different worlds.
The story unfolds at a pace that may be troubling for viewers who expect fast action and blockbuster excitement. The changing world Spice and Wolf revolves around commerce and many episodes involve lengthy discussion of business deals and sales strategies.
The influence of the established religion and the church encroaches upon the paganesque traditions of the townships. As the humans grasp for power, all players must play their hands with caution and calculation. As survivors struggling to succeed in this society Holo and Lawrence find themselves hunted whenever they take a step too far into the territory of others.
The animation is not astounding but consistently good and always enough to dress the characters in a style befitting the beautiful illustrations that featured in the original light novels. The music is particularly well written and accentuates the themes and character of the series to perfection.
Does Spice and Wolf warrant a repeat viewing? As this was my second time watching the adventures of wolf and man, I can say that the show has more than enough food for thought to make it a satisfying choice. I enjoyed the series even more on the return journey and will certainly be seeking out the second series when it is released in the UK.