Friday, August 23, 2013

Manga Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #08

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series hasa unique bent to it. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.



Yen Press has recently released the eighth volume of the Spice and Wolf manga, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases, .)




BACK COVER BLURB



A new chapter unfolds in the travels of Lawrence and Holo! The pair arrives at the church in the village of Tereo to glean information about Holo's homeland of Yoitsu. But Elsa, the deaconess, turns them away flat! What has happened to make her so suspicious? Could it have something to do with the neighboring town of Enberch?



THE REVIEW



Volume 8 begins with the conclusion of the Tereo arc. While the dilemma is complicated, involving faith, finance, and fraud, Hasekura-sensei works out a solution that showcases Holo's powers, Lawrence's negotiation skills, and Elsa and Evan's mettle. The ultimate resolution between Tereo and Enberch isn't exactly win-win, but it is fair to all parties involved. As for the village's religious differences, Elsa reconciles her beliefs with her encounter with Holo, and that results in a new level of understanding between Tereo's church and local pagans.



The manga then heads into territory that deviates from both the light novel and anime. Both and the final episodes of the anime deal with Lawrence's fur scheme gone bad in Lenos. In Chapter 43 of the manga, Holo and Lawrence do reach Lenos, but they do not tarry there and leave unaffected. The town's fur dispute merely causes them to detour down the Roam River. Still, the creators seem to want to convey the weight of Lenos' crisis, and there's a strange juxtaposition of Lawrence and Holo chatting leisurely with their ferryman while buildings burn and people riot in the background.



Once on the river, our traveling pair meets Col, a boy swindled by a con artist. He's the epitome of big puppy dog eyes, and Lawrence helps him out of his pinch. But though the child's innocent to the ways the world, he's not stupid, and he's also quite earnest, which makes for an interesting dynamic when combined with our crafty wisewolf and scheming merchant.



Col also introduces what may lead to the story's next economics challenge: a discrepancy in financial statements regarding copper coin. For now, our travelers' main concern is gathering more leads on Holo's homeland, but several other elements are swirling around: rumors of an ancient text about copper mining, cutthroat merchants blocking riverways, refusal of money orders, a port town's marketplace disagreement, and a mysterious female merchant. It's unclear how all these parts will fit together, but I hope it forms some sort of picture soon because it's a lot of pieces to keep track of.



IN SUMMARY



The Tereo arc concludes with a dramatic showdown. While the "miracle" that arises is only possible because of Holo's power, Lawrence, Elsa, and Evan also play their part in creating an agreement amenable to all parties involved. The journey then continues with a detour that takes merchant and wisewolf downriver, where they encounter the penniless waif Col. While our travelers' next moneymaking scheme is as yet unclear, the innocent but bright Col looks like he'll be their companion for a while.



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