Spice and Wolf (S2) – Review

This review contains spoilers.


Anime Name: Spice and Wolf (Season 2)
Genre: slice-of-life, historical, “fantasy-spiced”
My score: 7.5/10 – good (the feeling has been kept alive)


Introduction

Let’s start with my closing feelings: I was a bit unconvinced by the nordic setting where the last Spice and Wolf episodes take place. I was also skeptical about the quality of the coming ending while watching the couple of last episodes.

I have my reasons, so, let’s see all this in depth.

Less Travel, Harder Problems

This time we have only two cities, one big problem for each one. This makes the “traveling feeling” a bit weaker.

The first problem revolves around a young merchant, Amarti, that tries to seduce Holo, and claim the right to marry her. You can easily feel the increasing strive lived by Lawrence, in his attempt to do his best to keep Holo by his side. Their relationship is usually kept side-by-side with problems that revolve around other things: this seasons brings the relationship in, while still keeping the challenge on a commercial level. Lawrence challenges Amarti to a market duel, with a total number of coin as an achievement to be met by his rival to pay Holo’s debt and claim her for himself.

amarti_vs_lawrence

Lawrence sets up his hand to win, but unfortunately is out of resources. He still plays until the end, while discovering the reason why one of his cards was taken: it was Holo that got what Lawrence needed, as she was fighting by his side, without saying anything, to make the win a sure gamble. While she complains about Lawrence not understanding that, she’s very pleased about the fact that he fought for her, and this makes their relationship closer.

Here, we can find a really nice side character: Diane, who is an alchemist and – as Holo reveals – actually a great bird, who was abandoned by his priest companion.

diane

This follows the church open critique (as in many other anime series or videogames), while focusing on a possibly much broader fantasy side of semi-human creatures, which has a Fire Emblem flavor, and would maybe deserve a good Spice & Wolf animated movie.

This part ends with Holo explaining Diane’s true identity and story, with Holo flirting and half-joking about sex, and with Lawrence proposing her to go down dancing in the city setting festival, with her agreement. This would have been a great ending. Sadly, though, this ends the first part (which is, in my opinion, far better than the second).

The second problem has a long setup in the nord, a setup which is a bit too much convoluted for my tastes, and revolves around making liquid money to purchase something to make a great investment.

To gain that liquid money, Lawrence “sells” Holo: while this seems a terrible thing to do, they both agree. It is the harder investment Lawrence makes, even if he is quite certain to have it back for the whole time.

hololawrenceagreement

When the investment fails, he has to give up of his dream to have a shop through selling the inn he obtained by an old inn-keeper and getting back Holo.

In the End, Overlapping Private and Professional Life Isn’t Good

As said before, in the first city, Lawrence fights for keeping Holo for himself. Which is – well, a bit off what I was used to get from the series, where their relation is as a wonderful frieze, that makes everything perfect – still, the challenge is good enough, and manages to keep your eyes attached to the screen (and plot). Also, Holo helps out Lawrence, and they achieve their victory together, which is perfectly in line with the series’ philosophy.

The second problem is different, and has a major weakness that cannot be ignored: Holo is used just as a tool to achieve a simple deal. There is no rational planning (which are usually brought in by Lawrence) and no surprises (which are usually carried by Holo).

HoloSold

Holo is rescued by Lawrence, who decides to give up of his dream as he realizes that Holo is what he really wants. He finally confesses his love to her, and they briefly kiss.

I liked this thing – and totally agree with the message (“money can’t buy happiness”). Also, Holo proposes him to get back what he lost, somehow, together, which is typical of her, and a needed addition.

Still, it is underwhelming overall, and I also find strange that Lawrence does Holo’s work, by saving the situation, while totally failing his part, which is, making deals go well. It doesn’t give me the feeling that he matured, as a character. Also, as already mentioned, Holo’s role is passive, which is a bad choice, especially for an ending.

Eve is also a weak side character, a desperate thief that still helps Lawrence in the end, by letting him get the certificate of ownership of the inn.

eve

Conclusions

So well, why do I say that this is a good series, after criticizing it that much?

Well, the reason is simple: the overall feeling was kept alive for the first part without making me doubt a bit – even if the problem faced was taking many episodes, and even if it was Holo the focus of the whole thing. Everything was fine, as it worked as the series made me feel in the first season.

The second part was really weaker – at least for me. The ending is also weak. If the two part were inverted, though, this would have been fixed, and I would have been left with a much different feeling. Also, Lawrence choosing love over business could be done better – without making it an absolute choice, and out of failure – but it was still a good choice, which I needed to feel along.

If the first part is an 8.5 and the second is a 5, we have a 7.

The +0.5 here is for a simple reason: just before writing this review, I said to myself “What about seeing another Spice and Wolf episode, now?”. I couldn’t, would, and, well, hope I will in the future.

Extra: a reason to explore Spice & Wolf world outside the anime

Take a look here!

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