After the last episode of Spice and Wolf II, one of the replies to my entry posited that said episode's closing scene would go down as an epic one in anime history - While I think that may have been over-egging the delicious pudding of this series, the scene in question did nonetheless light a fire under this normally sedate show.
So, at the start of this fourth instalment, we have Horo still sulking in her room while Lawrence paces the street in a state of abject misery - However, if there's one thing to be said for this particular merchant, it's that he's not one to wallow in his own self-pity. Thus, with his wits regained, the rest of the episode sees him racing around town as he looks into every possible way in which he can force Amati to break his contract with Lawrence.
Lawrence's plan turns out to be an "assault" on Amati from several directions - Looking to crash the market for pyrite upon which Amati is reliant in his deal with Lawrence, while also creating another contract with Amati to give Lawrence the credit he needs to enact some of the other phases of his plot. I'm not going to try and sound smart here, so I'll come straight out with it and admit that the vast majority of these medieval economic manoeuvres fly straight over my head like a giant, enraged wolf - Still, I love to see a bit of cunning and devious behaviour from my anime characters from time and time, so generally speaking I rather like the cut of Lawrence's jib.
While part of me feels a little disappointed at the lack of Horo in this episode, and of course that chemistry that we're so used to between herself and Lawrence, this change of pace to the dynamic of the series is arguably much-needed in some ways. For starters, it really shows the strength of Lawrence's character as both a man and a merchant; something that can easily be forgotten when set against the wiles of Horo. Even more importantly, it also allows us to reflect upon the importance of friendship in more general terms, with Lawrence turning to fellow merchant Mark as a source of help and advice, and indeed almost taking things too far as he ends up asking Mark to take risks which would jeopardise his standing in the town. In a way, this is almost a pastiche on Lawrence and Horo's relationship in microcosm, with the two both engaging in give and take as part of their daily life, but occasionally one party simply takes or assumes too much.
Even with Horo largely missing from this instalment, she still manages to make a huge impact for the small amount of time afforded to her - Her reactions when watching both Amati and Lawrence from the window seem to speak volumes (and her reaction to the latter in particular felt uncomfortably realistic; I've seen that kind of look a few times post-argument), while the letter and contract she leaves for Lawrence at their hostel speak volumes for the kind of mixed messages and teasing in which she loves to partake. Regardless, at the end of it all I'm left impatiently waiting once again for the next episode, which will hopefully treat us to more Horo and a happy ending to this heart-rending little tale - I keep having to remind myself not to get too wound up about it all, so easy is it to become over-invested emotionally in these characters.