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Spice and Wolf – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 14, 2011 by  



Smart, witty and enjoyable, “Spice and Wolf – The Complete First Season” is a unique fantasy/adventure anime series worth checking out on Blu-ray!

Image courtesy of © Isuna Hasekura/ASCII Media Works.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Spice and Wolf – The Complete Series

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (312 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD Japanese 2.0, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2011

Originally created by Isuna Hasekura and Ju Ayakura (character designs)

Directed by Takeo Takahashi

Screenplay by Naruhisa Arakawa

Music by Yuuji Yoshino

Character Design by Kazuya Kuroda

Art Director: Toshihiro Kohama

Chief Animation Director: Kazuya Kuroda

Sound Director: Hajime Takakuwa

Director of Photography: Shinya Matsui

Art Setting: Yoshinori Shiozawa

Animation Production by IMAGIN

Featuring the following voice talent:

Ami Koshimizu/Brina Palencia as Holo

Jun Fukuyama/J. Michael Tatum as Kraft Lawrence

Daisuke Namikawa/John Burgmeier as Zeren

Kaori Nazuka/Jamie Marchi as Chloe

Mai Nakahara/Leah Clark as Nora

Lawrence, a traveling merchant searching for profit, finds a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf asleep in his cart. Her name is Holo, a harvest goddess with an untamed beast lurking inside who longs to return to her beloved northern home. Armed with his street smarts and her animal instincts, the simple peddler and forgotten deity begin a journey through the wild countryside. Along their path, the riches of happiness shall be reaped even as the bankruptcy which dwells in the human heart is exposed.

Smart, witty and enjoyable, “Spice and Wolf – The Complete First Season” is an anime series that is well-animated, well-acted and definitely unique!  If you’re looking for a smart/fantasy-based anime series, “Spice and Wolf” is definitely worth catching!

“Spice and Wolf” (aka “Okami to Koshinryo”) is an anime series that is based on a popular light novel series by Isuna Hasekura and character design by Ju Ayakura.   A winner of the Silver Prize at the Twelfth Dengeki Novel Price, 13 volumes have been published by ASCII Media Works (via Dengeki Bunko) and have sold over 2.2 million copies.

Part of the allure of “Spice and Wolf” is that its a fantasy tale but its screenplay is quite smart as it incorporates economics and trade.  The light novel series has spawned a manga (rel. in 2007) and in 2008, the first season plus an OVA was created and a second season which followed in 2009 along with a light novel release for the Nintendo DS.

The anime series is directed by Takeo Takahashi (“Elle”, “Aki Sora”, “Wife Eater”, “Rozen Maiden”) and features  a screenplay by Naruhisa Arakawa (“D.N. Angel”, “Jinki: Extend” and “Blue Seed”), music by Yuuji Yoshino (“.Hack/Legend of the Twilight”, “Brigadoon”, “Marie & Gali”), character designs by Kazuya Kuroda (“Sakura Wars”, “Sora no Iro, Mizu no Iro”, “Vandread”, “Aki Sora”) and art direction by Toshihiro Kohama (“Solty Rei”, “SaiKano”, “Heroic Age”).

FUNimation Entertainment released the anime series on Blu-ray back in December 2009 but now the series gets its Blu-ray release in August 2011.

“Spice and Wolf” revolves around a traveling merchant named Kraft Lawrence.  Going from village to village peddling wolf fur and wheat, his goal is to make enough money, so he can open his own shop.  While stopping at the village of Pasroe, he sees the villagers having a celebration for Holo the wolf who blesses a village with an abundance of wheat.  Of course, the tale is so old that the celebration is more for having fun and someone in the village sports a wolf’s mask and gets the last cut of wheat.

While Lawrence goes to get some rest, he hears some rustling in his wagon.  When he looks inside, he sees a girl who he thinks is a stowaway but discovers that this girl is much more than she seems.  Not only does she have wolf’s ears and a tail, she claims that she’s the 600-year-old Holo.  Of course, Lawrence doesn’t believe any of this until he asks her to prove it by turning to a wolf, in which she does.

As a businessman, Lawrences sees this as an opportunity to make some money utilizing Holo’s talents and in return, he agrees to fulfill her wish by promising to return her to the North where she is originally from.

So, the two form an alliance and in the process, Lawrence begins to make good money but at the same time, because of his alliance with the wolf, many villages now want her as well and will do whatever they can to get her.

The main characters of “Spice and Wolf” are:

Kraft Lawrence – A traveling merchant who is a bit naive when it comes to women but when it comes to business, he’s good at peddling.  He naturally cares for the people close to him, especially Nora.  His goal is to make enough money to start up his own shop.

Holo – A wolf harvest deity who is short in temper, flirtatious and loves apples.  She enjoys traveling with Lawrence and learning from him but also disciplining him.  Very formal in the way she speaks, she learns about the business from him and is willing to help him make money if he takes her to the North where she is originally from.  In wolf form, Holo is very dangerous and will kill humans if she has to.

Chloe – A villager of Pasroe and grew up with Lawrence.  She is attracted to him but due to circumstances, she ends up as his enemy.

Nora – A shepherdess who joins Lawerence and Holo with her sheep dog Enekk.  She is attracted to Lawrence.

“Spice and Wolf – The Complete Series” comes with episodes 1-13 on two DVD discs.  Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Wolf and Best Clothes – How Kraft Lawrence and Holo met.
  • EPISODE 2 – Wolf and Distant Past – Lawrence does business with a man named Zeelen and learns of how Holo is able to tell if people are lying.
  • EPISODE 3 – Wolf and Business Talent – Holo learns from Lawrence on how to increase the price in negotiations.
  • EPISODE 4 – Wolf and Her Helpless Partner – Lawrence realizes that Zeelen’s business practice, goes to the Milone company for help.
  • EPISODE 5 – Wolf and Lovers’ Quarrel – Companies are after Holo knowing she’s a wolf and they can benefit if they have her.
  • EPISODE 6 – Wolf and Silent Farewell – With people after Holo, Lawrence knows he can’t protect her against all the people after them. Holo has one choice…to turn to a wolf.
  • EPISODE 7 – Wolf and a Tail of Happiness – Holo learns from Lawrence of a technique to buy clothing.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 8 – Wolf and Virtuous Scales – Lawrence decides to make money by selling armor.
  • EPISODE 9 – Wolf and the Shepherd’s Lamb – Lawrence and Holo encounter a shepherd named Nora who wants to accompany them on their trip.
  • EPISODE 10 – Wolf and the Swirling Plot – Lawrence hears that the market for armor has crashed and now his products are worthless and he is now deep in debt.
  • EPISODE 11 – Wolf and the Biggest Secret Scheme – In order to pay back his debt to the Remerio Company, Lawrence decides that he must try to smuggle gold.
  • EPISODE 12 – Wolf and a Group of Youngsters – Lawrence is successful in getting gold but unknown to him, the Remerio Company plans to steal it from him.
  • EPISODE 13 – Wolf and a New Beginning – After what happened to Lawrence, Holo now wants to unleash her wrath against those who betrayed them.

VIDEO:

“Spice and Wolf” is presented in 1080p High Definition with animation by Imagin Co, Ltd. (known for working on animation for “Hit wo Nerae!”, “Eyeshield 21″, “The Cosmopolitan Prayers”).  One thing that will catch your eye is how beautiful the artist backgrounds are.  There is plenty amount of detail put into the art.  From the walls of a building, the trees in the background, lush green or yellow lands, the wood, the ground, you name it…the artist definitely did a wonderful job on this television series.  As for character designs, the designs by Kazuya Kuroda are quite faithful to Ju Ayakura’s illustrations.

With that being said, the series is pretty much an upconvert and for those who are quite picky when it comes to anime on Blu-ray, this TV series looks good versus its DVD counterpart but not fantastic compared to other HD native anime series.  So, if you are not into upconverts, this is not for you.  But if you can get over the upconvert, just know that the series looks a bit soft on Blu, good just not great.

Many television series tend to not have much time to add detail to an anime series but with Imagin Co., Ltd. being a smaller anime production house, they definitely put in a lot of work in bringing this world of where “Spice and Wolf” takes place to life.

AUDIO:

Audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0.   Voice acting for both the English and Japanese dub are done very well but one thing that I liked about the English dub was Brina Palencia’s take on the character Holo.  She gives Holo this mature, serious but also flirtatious style that is really well done.  For the most part, the series is front and center channel driven as the series is primarily dialogue driven.  “Spice and Wolf” does have its share of action but action sequences happen once in a while, the anime series is definitely more plot driven.  There is use of music that plays in the background but its more subtle than anything.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Spice and Wolf – The Complete First Season” comes with the clean opening and ending themes and FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

I have to admit that I was surprised by “Spice and Wolf”.  I was expecting your somewhat usual, fantasy/comedy anime series but the anime series turned out to be quite an intriguing anime series that is quite enjoyable to see.  Primarily because the series is smart and witty but rarely do you find an anime series that really gets into the heart of economics, business, money-making, peddling, bankruptcy and needless to say, “Spice and Wolf” definitely distinguishes itself from other anime series out there.

Because of its business-driven plot, “Spice and Wolf” may not be a series for everyone wanting a more simpler fantasy/adventure series.  The anime series focuses on the business aspect of moneymaking of that time period dealing with bartering and trying to make cash through the items one gets from town to town, the life of Lawrence the traveling merchant with a wolf deity at his side.

But this is what makes this fantasy adventure so unique is that it deals with the business side that anime doesn’t typically cover and I have no doubt that is why the light novel by Isuna Hasekura won an award in Japan.  It’s definitely a fresh and unique storyline that I have never seen in my many years of watching anime.

For school advisers wanting to show this at an anime club at their school or club, although a TV 14 rated anime, there are scenes with Holo undressed.  Although, her tail covers her rear most of the time and her hair covering her front side the opening episode and other episode features her undressed.  They are not major nude scenes nor is there anything sex related in this series but for those who are showing this at a school setting, it’s important to let you know that there are semi-nude scenes in the series.  As for violence, there are some scenes near the latter half of the series that has action and does include violence but nothing that is bloody or limbs getting cut off or anything like that.

For those wondering if “Spice and Wolf” is all about business, well the storylines do focus around the business dealings of Lawrence and various companies.   But there are comedy elements and as mentioned, some action sequences which are typically used when needed but it’s not going to be found on every episode, it just happens once in awhile.

As for romance, well there is flirtation between Holo and Lawrence but with one being a wolf transformed to a human (although yet keeping her wolf ears and tail) and one being a human, I don’t really know if these two can even be together or if its even possible.

But you sense a sort of sadness with Holo and not that she wants to be human but there is a sense of comfort when she is around Lawrence.  She seems to want him to say that he cares for her but yet jokes around with him that she was just kidding.  Also, you get a sense of a jealousy from Holo when Lawrence shows attention towards other women.   So, it does make you wonder where the series will take these two characters in the end.

If you are looking for an anime series that is definitely different from what you’ve seen before, enjoyable, witty and smart, definitely give “Spice and Wolf – The Complete First Season” on Blu-ray a try.






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