Thursday, 9 July 2009

Spice and Wolf II - Episode 1

After having some initital misgivings about the change in production company for this second series of Spice and Wolf, my mind was well and truly put at ease thanks to the "episode 0" OVA released a few months ago, which suggested that Brains Base knew exactly what made the original series so great and how to continue in a similar vein.

Thankfully, that preliminary episode was an almost perfect representation of the Spice and Wolf we get here, acting as an excellent precursor to the series proper - Horo is still preoccupied with dreams that leave her torn between the companionship of Lawrence and her own kind, together with the knowledge that her lifespan is far, far greater than that of a mere human. Meanwhile, as she talks of her home town so Lawrence starts to consider the fact that their journey together might be coming to an end, giving him worries of his own.

While this episode does introduce us to a young, new trader named Fermi Amati, and deal with some of the usual trading and bartering that has become a staple of the series, it's hard to care too much about how much you can sell nails for in this medieval world when you have vast quantities of sparkling conversation between the two stars of the series to enjoy. Yes, once again the dynamic between Horo and Lawrence is absolutely gorgeous, with the former teasing and flirting while reacting in a beautifully animated and revealing way to the retorts and comments of the latter. These two play off one another fantastically, and I have to say that I don't think I've ever watched a series that is so entirely drive by a pair of characters, which speaks volumes of the qualities injected into these two individuals. Indeed, in a scene where Horo discusses how Lawrence's attitude has changed since they first met, it really did strike me as to how much the pair's relationship dynamic is constantly changing, shifting and switching, and how much it has evolved since that tender opening episode of the first series - We've been able to watch them grow both alone and as a couple (in whatever way you want to use that word), and perhaps it's that which makes this such a wonderful show to watch.

All in all then, this opening episode of Spice and Wolf II proper has left me with a huge smile on my face, a true grin from ear to ear. I honestly don't care if nothing else of note happens for the remainder of the series, eleven more episodes of Horo and Lawrence sat in a room chatting and drinking is quite alright with me. As character driven anime goes, this was simply magnificent.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more, the second season is already better then the first season.

camarilla said...

Easily one of my favorite shows ever. The medieval economics really is for me a great addition, I love economic theory. The characters are just so alive. I know that the rest of the episodes will be just as great. I'm sure this will be a series that will make me cry in the end.

kadian1364 said...

If the first season were only made of the OP, ED, and Horo and Lawrence's back and forth, I'd have loved it. It was the focus on LOLeconomics that turned me off.

S&PII starts the same way, with a great OP, ED, and character interactions, so I'm hoping the trading stays simple and the focus remains on the relationships.

Purple library guy said...

The character interaction is grand. There is one other series I'd argue is driven as much by the character interaction as this one--Lovely Complex, while much more typical in its plot, gets most of its energy from the amazing dynamic between the main characters.

Purple library guy said...

As a fan of western Fantasy literature, I have to say this is actually the first anime I've ever seen with a fantasy theme that holds up fairly well against a decent western Fantasy book for things like coherent and realized setting, grounded plot and general internal consistency. Fantasy themed anime normally tend to have intense imagery and plenty of drama, but fall down at the "making sense" end. Even the greats like Hayao Miyazaki, if you stop to try to figure out what on earth is supposed to be going on, the experience can be seriously spoiled.

This one is different; maybe it's the mercantile element that helps ground it in realism. Maybe it's that it's originally derived from novels rather than manga. Maybe it's just that the author has an impressive commitment to research. One way or another, Spice and Wolf operates at a realism level I've never seen before in fantasy themed manga or anime.