Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spice and Wolf Season 1 DVD Impression

FUNimation serves up an anime about commerce and wolf spirits

Can an anime that sounds more like a backwoods cooking recipe really be that engaging? Spice and Wolf Season 1 on DVD from FUNimation is an interesting bird as it gets into some interesting merchant politics then tosses in … well let’s take a look shall we.

Lawrence comes and goes, taking his goods to the proper location for the most profit. He’s a merchant and must be shrewd in his dealings utilizing a keen business sense to stay in the black and he gets a bit of assistance. During an annual seasonal festival Lawrence stumbles across a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf and before he knows it he has a new partner, the harvest goddess Holo. The two strike an agreement that will see Holo travel with Lawrence to her northern home. Their journey sees the two encounter shady business dealings, the devaluing of certain materials along with a mob out for Holo’s head. Being setup to fail by corrupt business partners Lawrence and Holo must take desperate measures to avoid imprisonment. The journey is just beginning for this unlikely pair nicknamed Spice and Wolf.

First thing that may put viewers off about this series is the setting. A travelling merchant is not the most engaging pitch angle for an anime. Thing is in a very odd way it works. The strong animation, detail and character design helps as does solid voice acting but it’s the story that is both curious and engaging. Lawrence gets into pretty vivid detail on trading, the life of a merchant, what to beware of; how gold can be devalued … it’s a grand lesson that does not always feel entertaining. Think of this as the episode of a sports anime where they explain the rules. Just like a sports anime the action picks up which is the other half of the quirkiness. The shady business dealings are the fuel but Holo’s transformations are the fire. She is a wolf deity and can take on a pretty savage form, which she does to great effect. So viewers get a dose of trading teaching mixed in with some more super natural adventuring. Wrap this up with a budding relationship, a friendly bond, and you get one unique anime.

I don’t really know how to categorize Spice and Wolf. I love the animation quality and voice work but the odd pacing keeps throwing me off. Is it going to go all super natural with cool action or become a merchant simulation, or a relationship cross specials? I’d recommended checking out 1-2 episodes online before purchasing. It’s not a bad anime by any stretch but rather it’s unique.

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