This review contains spoilers.
If you’re looking for a slice-of-life title and something different from the ordinary slice-of-life themes, then “Spice and Wolf” is your best guess.
It is splendid anime, with very good characters and detailed historical environment.
The Magic of Not Being Magic-Driven
One of the things I really appreciated from this series is that it uses the “magic” card just a few times, with the sole purpose of characterizing a character – which is Holo, the Wise Wolf.
There is no magic coming in when Lawrence and his companion need to solve their problems, however hard they can be, unless the only solution is fighting – which is where Holo comes in.
Each issue is around something related to the medieval market-driven background: Lawrence travels from town to town, tries to get his job done, and we learn something new about his smooth strategies – with some pepper added when Holo does her part.
Each time they have something to accomplish, their relation deepens a bit – there is another merit here, which needs to be mentioned and honored.
A Love In Cheap Clothes
The relation between Lawrence and Holo is not meant to be love since the beginning. Without doubt, there’s attraction between the two, and, approaching to the end, they are also rather jealous of each other. There is, though, no intention of building a relation climax, leading the two to something like kissing, or declaring their love to each other. There are hugs, from time to time, meant to comfort one another, to make their bond stronger, and there is pleanty of teasing, especially from Holo. Hugs and teasing are, though, something that feels a natural core of their relation, like, something extraordinary out of the ordinary. Which is how I’d describe the entire series.
Thinkings and Feelings
Lawrence usually things over things, while Holo burns them in an instant: this line separates and joins at the same time the two, making of them a great couple to overcome obstacles. When Holo does something stupid, a calm and rational Lawrence comes in. When Lawrence is dealt bad cards, Holo comes in and gets a new one for them.
Their approach is kept solid throughout the anime, with good and welcome exception: when Lawrence is under pressure, he acts impulsively, but that’s just natural, as we may switch strategies and do something different when our natural one fails. It is also common to find an overthinking Holo, when she doesn’t like what’s happening.
That’s how things work in our world, and make their psychological profile coherent.
That is also a great anti-cliché tool: when Holo asks Lawrence why he’s being kind (to her), he says “Personality? Maybe?”, and she gets upset, as she wanted him to be romantic. He plays the part and she laughs, even if she asked him. I feel this kind of situation as something I personally experienced (from time to time, with someone), and a great way to avoid the cliché of making a rational character just act emotional as the situation claims.
Let’s Whistle ‘Round The World
The overall feeling of following the journey of a travelling merchant was novel to me, and much welcome.
The anime is quite relaxing, hard situations are, well, situational, and this approach suits this anime.
I liked the simple, yet thrilling lives of “Spice and Wolf”, as some merchant calls them, and would like to live something similar myself, too.