Today I will be reviewing the first season of Spice & Wolf, a highly popular and well-received romance-fantasy-adventure anime that was aired back in 2008.
The peddler Kraft Lawrence travels through the world selling all kinds of things. After visiting a village, he discovers a sleeping girl under the pelts in his cart. She has wolf ears and a tail. The wolf girl explains that she has been called a "god", but now her name is Holo and nothing more. Lawrence teases the girl a little, but after hearing more of her story, he decides to accompany her further north. On their travels the pair of companions have many adventures, often getting into trouble, and the bond between them grows stronger. (MyAnimeList)
Do not be deceived by the cover. S&W is not another generic ecchi fox girl anime. It is an unique and intelligent show that focuses on the interaction between our leads, Holo and Lawrence, and revolves around the subject of economics.
The story can be best described as slow-paced, nonetheless very well-written and well-timed. Audiences are treated to myriad of dialogues revolving around bartering goods, negotiating contracts, exchanging favors, etc. Being an Economics major in college myself, I recognize a lot of valid cases that are smarted adapted into this medieval, church-dominated scenario. As I warned earlier, however, while this is nicely done, this drags down the pacing of the story. Fortunately, a few more dramatic incidents do happen during the couple climaxes of the show, and characters are placed in mortal danger, giving main characters a chance to experience life-and-death situation together and surviving only with their wits.
If you haven't realized at this point, you must know that the strongest aspect of this anime is characters. For someone as mystical as a "wolf god", Holo is a very realistic individual who shows a wide spectrum of emotions, the same with Lawrence, the male lead. Both main characters are very mature in that they behave and act like adults. The development of relationship between the two characters are amazing. Through their daily interactions, they flirt, exchange witty words, act as partners, and comfort each other if the other gets hurt.
The sound and animation are just as subtle as the show, in a good way. The opening, Tabi no Tochuu, is something that I would put on my top OP countdown. Although I didn't like the ending at first, it actually fits nicely into the story as I hear it more. The soundtracks consist of mainly classical string pieces, though the kinds that are fast-paced and not so melodic. However, there are points where I feel that there is a lack of background music. The animation is just what you would expect of an peaceful adventure anime. What must be mentioned here is the subtle expressions of the characters, for they are extremely well-done. This aspect further illustrated the MC's maturity in the tiny details of their actions. If you have to pick some bones, the backgrounds could be more detailed at times and the characters look sometimes distorted from a distance. These are only small problems though.So far, I've listed nothing but good points of this show. However, at least to me, there is a major flaw in this show: the lack of plot twists. For me, the only thing that can make up for a lack of plot twist is witty dialogues exchanged between charming characters. While the dialogues should be praised for their realism in S&W, they are far from being witty. Then, the lack of plot twist where climaxes don't happen (half of the show) can sometimes be boring, especially if you gradually get tired of watching them scheming their next way of making a profit. I was only pumped up again when I entered the next climax in the story. Of course, for other people, this may not be a problem at all.
Overall, Spice & Wolf is an intelligent show that tells a wonderful tale of a pair of merchant travelers in the medieval era. It features some nicely done script on how merchants cleverly make profits and also the blossoming romantic relationship between our MCs. I award this Spice & Wolf with an rating of 8.1/10.
Recommended if you are into business (economics, marketing, finance, etc), or if you want to watch a good (non school setting) romance show.
Not recommended if you can't survive an anime without action and/or fan-service.
For ultimate recommendation watch MAOYUU MAOU YUUSHA, also a anime series heavily focused on economics and romance between leads.