Sometimes I don’t need to have knowledge about a topic to enjoy some entertainment that uses said topic to further its story. I realized this in part when I talked about Saki, where I don’t know much about mahjong but I enjoyed the anime anyways. In these instances, either there should be simple explanations about the subject matter, or the characters should be interesting enough for me to continue watching. Spice and Wolf somehow fits both solutions quite well. Its main theme is classic European cross-border trade business, which I don’t know anything about, and would even care less to learn about. Thankfully, all complexities of its economics are explained in simple terms, as we follow the trade adventures and romantic comedies of a travelling merchant and a mystical wolf in the form of a young girl.
As described, this is a historical setting with a little fantasy touch. Horo, our female lead, is a centuries-old wolf who can transform into a young girl. She used to take care of a certain town as a deity of harvest, but as time passes its people had forsaken her in favor of modern economics. Actually, the fantasy takes a backseat in favor of all this trade business stuff. Kraft Lawrence, our male lead, is a young wandering merchant who is quite smart in his line of work. With these two characters crossing paths, they set out on a continuing journey with Horo wanting to go back to her homeland up north. Lawrence’s goal is to be rich enough to not travel anymore and settle down somewhere owning a shop. Of course, their goals may change when you add romance in the equation. I wonder where their business and love would take them.
The way the anime presented the economics part is sometimes too fast-paced for my liking. Maybe they didn’t explain enough, or I myself didn’t care much about how trade works in their world to understand it. They have this confusing number of currencies, silver and gold coins with different levels of actual gold/silver content depending on the town producing it. Of course, each town and system fluctuates based on certain trends similar to our stock market today. To compound my confusion, Lawrence and the people he trades with talks too much econo-babble. Much is spent in the anime just talking-economics, really. Well thankfully, the conversations often end with quite understandable conclusions and a clear goal on who profits or got debt. Yup, they explain things in simple terms. At least I have that, because up until now I don’t understand those finer details. As a whole, the stories are still interesting considering the many aspects of their economic world, including even the Church being a rich overall player. Trade seems quite dangerous in this world too, with backhand deals, bankruptcy or trickery which may even lead to life-threatening moments.
The romantic comedy part is quite interesting as well, because the two characters are so witty and smart in their cross-talk. We have here an experienced economist guy with all the smarts to survive and has his way with words. We also have a hundreds-of-years old girl with more than enough knowledge of human behavior plus her animal instincts of sharp senses. It’s just so fun to see them outsmart each other, both in the middle of business deals and in their everyday wandering lives. They go to pubs and drink a lot, talking and arguing about everything from economics to food to “love games”. It seems that they really like each other, only that they don’t want to be caught red-handed on accepting the fact. Horo tries to make him squeal all the time, but Lawrence is a tough nut to crack. A third-party character introduction in the form of a shepherd girl named Nora complicates things more. Horo and Lawrence is an awesome double-tsundere pairing, and so even if your mind is bogged trying to understand economics, the romance of these two characters is where it’s at. It doesn’t even bow down to typical ecchi tropes, no fanservice stuff even when Horo is naked so many times. Impressive.
Spice and Wolf as an anime production is technically fine, but nothing special to report. The historical settings are visually nice enough, and the characters are adequately animated. I don’t notice much of the background music at all, they have odd melodies placing it at odd scenes too. I didn’t care about the OP/ED at all, and even the seiyuu. I had to check who voices who, but the number of characters are quite low here overall. Horo has a nice and enticing accent by the way.
The way the story goes seems to be structured like a travelling anime with a set goal but not reaching it by the end. Surely I was quite disappointed in that, but that fact was overshadowed by these two wonderful characters that I don’t want their journey to end. Well indeed there’s a second season and possibly more to come featuring more of them two, with the original format of Spice and Wolf being a light novel series. Nice introductory show I guess. All in all, this anime is short and sweet, with of course a lot of spice along the way.