Kraft Lawrence is a traveling merchant who picks up an unexpected visitor one day—Holo, a harvest goddess who looks like a beautiful young woman with wolf ears and a tail. Lawrence agrees to help transport Holo to the northern region of the country and she, in turn, uses her cunning and intelligence to help Lawrence’s trades. But even as the two begin to form a deep friendship, their connection is threatened by the government, by the church, and by problems from their pasts.
Spice and Wolf is a mature anime in the best sense of the word, meaning that it will appeal to adults or to older teens who don’t mind a quieter, more thoughtful story where action often takes a backseat to watching two adults build a close friendship. Lawrence and Holo respect one another, which is the core of the tale. They see in each other something to admire, but they don’t need to pontificate about it. Instead they simple let their mutual admiration show through in how they speak to each other and how they begin to slowly build a life together. The possibility for romance exists, but it’s not necessarily where they are going to end up. It’s certainly not where they end up in this first season, which is brief enough to be enjoyable, but which doesn’t wrap up many loose ends.
Fans of the comic and the novel will notice that one important side character has been altered, but the change makes sense and helps tie together a few of the early story threads. But both those new to the anime and those who come bearing a knowledge of the tale’s previous incarnations will find themselves lost in a vividly imagined world. The warm color palette, the medieval-tinged music, and the mature voices of the actors (both Japanese and Western) breathe life into this anime, making the faux-historical setting seem a bit more realistic. I’m not always a fan of dubbed anime as I sometimes feel like it lacks the emotional punch or depth of character, but Brina Palencia was the perfect choice for Holo. Her mature voice kept Holo from being a joke or a child and J. Michael Tatum’s Lawrence responded perfectly as Lawrence.
There is nothing that keeps this from being inappropriate for teens, though Holo does have an animal’s lack of modesty and appears naked several times, but the tendency for the characters to lapse into long economic discussions does mean that this is more likely to appeal to adult anime fans looking for a quiet, but enjoyable show. Hopefully season two will be out soon!