After all the trials, tribulations, arguments, panic and plotting of the last few episodes, Spice and Wolf II's seventh instalment brings us a welcome return to the more traditional format which revolves almost entirely around Lawrence and Horo (although I'm starting to think that their trusty horse deserves a spin-off series, he never gets any good lines - Spice and Horse anyone?).
That isn't to say that wider issues are neglected entirely here, as once again our duo manage to plant themselves in a town where strange goings-on are afoot, from a mass of what seem to be other merchants "parked up" outside the town through to a distinctly unwelcome tone towards travellers, complete with the dishing out of some kind of medieval ID card to anyone new in town - Some things never change, I guess... There's also one other traveller who seems to be taking an interest in Horo in particular, which looks likely to be extrapolated upon next episode.
As is so often the case with Spice and Wolf however, such items of interest pale into the wonderful dialogue between the new characters, and following the trauma of recent times between the pair we see a whole new angle to Lawrence and Horo's relationship springing forth. For starters, Lawrence is finally starting to find the confidence and peace of mind to engage in a few witty comebacks of his own (with one fantastic one sticking out in mind; I won't spoil it here), although he still can't quite match Horo on that front. He does however manage to get one-up on her in the flirting department, albeit only temporarily, which brings us to perhaps the biggest shift in character of the lot - These two are acting far more like a couple these days, to the point of goofing around like a couple of lovestruck teenagers. All the teasing and knowing comments would seem cheesy elsewhere, but somehow these two make it all seem rather adorable, probably because we've been rooting for them as a pairing for so long now.
So, despite what I would argue to be a dip in animation quality this time around, Spice and Wolf II is right back where we expected it to be - A few mysteries and economically-bound stories about a visiting town which prove to be eclipsed almost entirely by the dynamite that is allowing a wolf deity and her humble merchant travelling partner take centre stage. As per usual, it's beautiful stuff in its own unique way.